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Filmmakers biographies

Executive producers and directors

Juanamaría Cordones-Cook

Professor of Spanish, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Missouri

A professor and a filmmaker, Juanamaria Cordones-Cook is a member of the Academy of Letters of Uruguay. She works on projects related to issues of identity, race and gender as they relate to the Afro-Latin American Diaspora.

Cordones-Cook has collaborated on numerous projects with authors and artists, such as Luisa Valenzuela, Nancy Morejón, Manuel Mendive, Rogelio Martínez Furé, Eugenio Hernández Espinosa, Georgina Herrera, Alberto Lescay, Eduardo Rivero Walker, Soleida Ríos, Roberto Diago, Eduardo “Choco” Roca Salazar, Gloria Rolando, Rosa María Crespo de Britton, Ruth Behar and Adriana Genta, among others. Her books include Poética de transgresión en la novelística de Luisa Valenzuela (Peter Lang, New York, 1991); ¿Teatro negro uruguayo? Texto y contexto del teatro afro-uruguayo de Andrés Castillo (Grafitti, Montevideo, 1996); Looking within: Selected Poems / Mirar adentro: Poemas escogidos, 1954 / 2000 (Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 2003), a bilingual critical anthology of Nancy Morejón's poetry (press bestseller); Soltando amarras y memorias (Cuarto Propio, Santiago de Chile, 2010); La Habana expuesta / Havana on display, designed by Rolando Estévez (Ediciones Vigía, Matanzas, 2012), a bilingual anthology of poetry on Havana by Nancy Morejón; She has also co-edited Mujeres en las tablas: Antología crítica de teatro biográfico hispanoamericano (Nueva Generación, Buenos Aires, 2005), First Place for the “Theater of the World Award” from the Universidad de Buenos Aires; Más allá del héroe: Antología crítica de teatro biográfico hispanoamericano (Universidad de Antioquia Press, Medellín, 2008), and more recently a critical anthology of Afro-Latin American theater, Del palenque a las tablas (Universidad Nacional de Colombia Press, Bogotá, 2012).

Cordones-Cook has been guest-editor for the leading professional journals: Letras Femeninas (2001), Callaloo (2005) and Revista Iberoamericana (2011). She is presently working on a book-length study of a generation of Afro-Cuban writers and artists who came of age with the Cuban Revolution, Havana’s Black Renaissance, as well as on a bilingual anthology of poetry on Georgina Herrera, and a bilingual anthology of poetry on the Diasporas.

In 2006, Cordones-Cook founded and has continued to develop the “Nancy Morejón Special Collection of Afro-Romance Literature and Culture,” which is housed at the University of Missouri’s Museum of Anthropology. This collection makes an invaluable array of published and unpublished material, books, manuscripts, journals, including rare editions and films from the Afro-Romance cultures and traditions, available to scholars. Cordones-Cook found and developed a special collection of Cuban Ediciones Vigía art-object books at the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archeology. Building upon her research, professor Cordones-Cook has been working as a filmmaker. She has filmed more than 100 hours of events, such as conferences, interviews, ritual dances and theatrical performances, in Cuba, the U.S. and Canada on topics related to the Afro-Romance Diaspora and literature. She has also been filming a series of living histories of Afro-Hispanic intellectuals and is directing and producing documentaries in Cuba and the U.S. She has completed  nine documentaries and has four more forthcoming in Cuba.

In addition to this broad spectrum of research, Cordones-Cook has a well-recognized national and international professional reputation. She has been covered by the press and participated in interviews on several radio and television programs in Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba and the U.S. Additionally, she is frequently a featured speaker at major events at highly respected academic and cultural institutions, including Washington University, Barnard College, Smith College, New York University, Wayne State University, as well as overseas including the "Fundación Internacional Jorge Luis Borges" (Argentina), M.A.L.B.A. Museum (Argentina), U.N.E.S.C.O. / Casa de las Américas (Cuba), U.N.E.A.C. (Cuba), “Feria Internacional del Libro” (Cuba); “Ediciones Vigía” (Cuba), the University of Birmingham (England), and "Cabildo de Montevideo" (Uruguay).

Julie Middleton

Former director of organizational development and extension professional, MU Extension, University of Missouri

Julie Middleton has three degrees from the University of Missouri, including a doctorate in Educational Administration. She has worked in a variety of educational settings from elementary to higher education, serving in the public schools as a teacher, an administrator and as a coordinator of multicultural education. At the university level, Middleton has been a project consultant in the Office of the Vice Provost, and assistant to the dean in the College of Education.

Middleton served as director of organizational development and extension professional, providing statewide leadership in the area of workforce equity, civil rights and diversity. She also provided leadership to special projects. Middleton also served as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in the College of Education. She has written a number of articles, received numerous grants and made countless scholarly professional presentations. She is the co-director and co-producer of the film, “Battle:  Change from Within,” which has been selected to be shown in libraries, schools and community groups across the state. This poignant film was recently selected to be screened at the Arkansas Offshoot Film Festival and the San Diego Black Film Festival.

Middleton serves on numerous academic and community boards including the Girl Scout Board, Boys and Girls Club Board, Columbia Public School Foundation, Columbia Values Diversity Board, and the Women in Philanthropy Board. She is the advisor to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Dream Outside the Box student groups. She is currently president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Columbia Alumnae Chapter, Epsilon Sigma Phi Professional Association and the National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals.

She has received the College of Education Alumni Organization Citation of Merit Award, the Chancellor’s Tribute to Women Award, NAACP Outstanding Community Servant Award, the University of Missouri Inclusive Excellence Award, and the Governor’s Martin Luther King, Jr Award. 

Barbara Williamson

Associate teaching professor, Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology (ESCP), University of Missouri

Barbara Williamson is associate teaching professor at the University of Missouri in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology (ESCP), where her seminal course is theories and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. In addition, she is associate director of the Center for Cultural Competence (CCC). At California State University-Sacramento, Williamson taught organizational behavior in the College of Business Administration and later formed Insight Associates, which focused on organizational development consultation. Consultees included corporate, government and not-for profit agencies. In 2001, Insight Associates received the prestigious Partnership Award given by the General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Technology Service, Small Business Solutions Development Center.

Williamson has directed several counseling programs and has worked with students from secondary school through college levels. In addition, her leadership role in a Department of Labor (DOL) funded service helped prepare and empower targeted groups through counseling, job-readiness skills and placement into the workforce, which DOL designated a National Demonstration Model.

She holds a bachelor of science degree in Business Education, a master of science degree in Counseling and Guidance, and a PhD in Human Resource and Organizational Development.

In addition to memberships in state and national professional associations, Williamson has a history of civic engagement at the community level.

She shares a particularly close relationship with Dr. Eliot Battle, which began more than 40 years ago, first in a mentor-protégée relationship, then a lifelong friendship. Her husband of 44 years is Handy Williamson, and their close-knit family includes a daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren.

Written, edited and directed by

Michael Hicks

Film and television producer, MU Extension, University of Missouri

While being interviewed by the University of Missouri dean of education to justify his request for a custom bachelor of science degree in Educational Video and Film Production, Michael Hicks outlined why he believed media would play an ever-increasing role in how we learned and the way educational institutions themselves operated. Following that successful meeting in 1983, Hicks spent his early career creating medical, industrial and educational videos. His creative spark was apparent early on: The first of his many awards was from the International Television Association for his Mizzou student film, “Hard Days,” a lighthearted look at a young man developing his self-confidence and self-worth. After working at a few other colleges, Hicks landed back at Mizzou in 1991 where he has helped to guide his office through many technological changes and advancements. Hicks states: “Through every change I worked to maintain our high standard and to effectively keep our office distributing the key messages. The way we do business has transformed many times, but our goal has remained the same; to help people understand the value of extension and the university.” Hicks’ efforts to combine curriculum design and educational needs with the latest advancements in media have paid off. Through his career, Hicks has won many national awards including Crystal Communicators, Bronze Apples, Videographer’s Awards, ITVA Awards and 20 Tellys.

Working on the Battle film was especially meaningful to Hicks. “Getting to know Eliot allows you to gain a new perspective on how to set goals for your life and achieve them in a positive matter,” Hicks recounts. “In the documentary, I wanted to take the viewer beyond the history of the conflicts and give them a glimpse into his character. I hope that viewers can watch this portrait of a man and walk away with new thoughts on how to achieving positive things not only in their lives but the lives of the people around them.”

Hicks also oversaw the restoration and HD conversion of “Tom Benton’s Missouri” and performed some minor audio editing and other tasks for the original release of “Tom Benton’s Missouri.” “I’ve always felt the film gave great insight into Benton, allowed deeper understanding of the mural and that the soundtrack always inspired children and adults. I’m proud to have a chance to give it new life and allow it to introduce another generation to the rich history and hard work it took to build our state,” Hicks says. Throughout his work, Hicks has strived to find a way to visually enhance each story. Hicks explains his philosophy of shooting: “I feel that you have to focus on what the pictures are saying about the story as much as the story itself.” This vision is also evident in the refinements and clarity Hicks brings to every project he edits. “My goal is that after all the editing is done, the viewer will forget they are watching a synthetic image representing the story and just enjoy the moment as if it was real.”

Part of a blue-collar family from southeast Missouri, Hicks is a first generation college graduate, but not the last Tiger. He has two daughters currently attending Mizzou, both studying Art Education.