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David Koff

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Subject: Jomo Kenyatta, Crescent Dragonwagon, Clea Koff, People of the Wind
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David Koff

David Richard Koff (born 1939 in

Early Years: from the U.S. to Africa

Koff grew up in Van Nuys, California. After graduating from Stanford with an honors degree in political science in 1961, Koff traveled to West Africa, teaching in Sierra Leone and participating in a voluntary work-camp project in Ghana. As a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley in 1964, he returned, this time to East Africa, where he did academic research as well as writing and editing at the Nairobi-based East African Publishing House (EAPH). He was the uncredited ghostwriter of Field Marshal John Okello's memoir, Revolution in Zanzibar (EAPH, 1967), and, under the pseudonym Richard Wakohozi worked closely with Waruhiu Itote (General China) on his memoir, Mau Mau General (EAPH, 1967). He also traveled to Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Madagascar. Based in England from late 1969 to mid-1974, Koff returned to East Africa to film a series of documentary films for four months in 1970, then moved back to Nairobi in late 1974 to work as an editor for Transafrica Publishers.

The Black Man's Land Trilogy

Main article: The Black Man's Land Trilogy

Koff's early films reflect this period. In addition to many short projects, he produced and directed (with partner Anthony Howarth) and wrote The Black Man's Land Trilogy, released in 1972-73, narrated by Tanzanian broadcaster Msindo Mwinyipembe and with music by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater.

People of the Wind

In 1976, Koff joined again with Howarth to make a documentary of a different kind, People of the Wind. The film follows the Bakhtiari, nomadic pastoralists,of Iran, as they make their way from winter to summer pastures. People of the Wind [2] was nominated in 1976 for an Academy Award as Best Feature Documentary. It was narrated by actor James Mason.[3]

Blacks Britannica

In 1978, Koff returned to England for six months to make the film at the station due to its perceived overtly political content. The ensuing legal battle over censorship, the right to make final cuts, and airing and distribution, was widely debated in the media at the time.

Occupied Palestine

Koff next turned his attention to the Middle East, where he made the even more controversial

Labor Movement Activity and Films

After returning to the U.S. in the 1980s, Koff worked as a strategic research analyst, filmmaker, and tactician with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. He served as founder and executive producer of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Documentary Project.

Other projects included The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride,[10] Koff's film, Windows, a film with the families and colleagues of immigrant workers killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, which premiered at the 2002 Latino International Film Festival and was an official selection of the 2013 Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival (DocuFest).[11] Another recent film, The New Haven Raids / Les Redadas de New Haven,with music by Ry Cooder,[12] has been described as "from the frontlines of a human and civil rights crisis that is worldwide",[13] and was selected by Cineculture [14] as part of the spring 2008 series.

Later life

In 2006 Koff returned full-time to documentary filmmaking and, with independent producer and director OVP works primarily with unions to make short films that organizers and rank and file leaders can use as tools to build their movement.

Koff's daughter, Freezing, was published in 2011.


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