Sundance Institute’s Cara Mertes to join JustFilms

The Ford Foundation has tapped Cara Mertes (pictured) to become the director of its JustFilms initiative, succeeding Orlando Bagwell.
May 30, 2013

The Ford Foundation has tapped Cara Mertes (pictured) to become the director of its JustFilms initiative, succeeding Orlando Bagwell.

Bagwell, the founding director of JustFilms, announced he was stepping down from his position earlier this year to return to filmmaking.

Mertes will take up her new position in September, after wrapping up her work as the director of the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program (DFP) and Fund throughout the summer.

She recently spoke to realscreen about her accomplishments at the DFP, including growing and expanding the partnerships of the program. Prior to her work at the Sundance Institute, Mertes was executive producer of the ‘POV’ doc series at PBS; executive director of American Documentary; and executive produced a number of Academy Award-nominated films.

JustFilms, a social justice filmmaking program, was set up in 2011 to invest US$50 million over five years into socially conscious documentaries from new and emerging filmmakers. In its first three years it has supported more than 80 films, and last August partnered with the Tribeca Film Institute on a New Media Fund.

“Orlando has rapidly made JustFilms a leading voice in social justice filmmaking and Cara will certainly continue to find innovative ways to draw attention to our grantees’ efforts around the world,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation.

“Through her experience working on all elements of storytelling, and being a pioneer at finding and cultivating unique voices to have their stories told, Cara is well positioned to build on the legacy of JustFilms and to support filmmakers at every turn, from creation to distribution and impact,” added Darren Walker, vice president of Ford’s Education, Creativity and Free Expression program.

UPDATE MAY 31 statement from Sundance Institute: : 
“We congratulate Cara Mertes as she transitions to director of the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms program and look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of Sundance Institute. “Sundance Institute will be hiring a new director, of the Documentary Film Program and Fund and we are excited to build on Cara’s tremendous accomplishments to the field of documentary filmmaking.”

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.