Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald
Born (1943-08-28) August 28, 1943
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Film director
Spouse(s) Heidi Frey
Nancy Greenwald (divorced)
Children Rachel Greenwald
Leah Greenwald
Noah Greenwald
Maya Greenwald

Robert Greenwald (born August 28, 1943) is an American television, feature film and documentary filmmaker, and political activist. Greenwald is founder and president of Brave New Films (BNF)[1] He has produced and/or directed more than 65 TV movies, miniseries and films as well as major theatrical releases.[2] His early body of work includes Steal This Movie! (2000),[3] starring Vincent D'Onofrio as 60s radical Abbie Hoffman; Breaking Up (1997), starring Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek; A Woman of Independent Means (1995) with Sally Field; The Burning Bed (1984)[3] with Farah Fawcett; and Xanadu (1980).

With BNF, he has made investigative documentaries such as Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004), Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004), Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005), Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006), Rethink Afghanistan (2009), Koch Brothers Exposed (2012), and War on Whistleblowers (2013), as well as many short investigative films and internet campaigns. His eighth feature-length documentary, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, was released in October 2013.[4]

His work has earned him 25 Emmy Award nominations,[5] two Golden Globe nominations,[5] the Peabody Award[5] and the Robert Wood Johnson Award.[5] He was awarded the 2002 Producer of the Year Award by the American Film Institute.[3] He has been honored for his investigative film work by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California;[6] the Liberty Hill Foundation;[7] the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild;[8] Physicians for Social Responsibility;[8] Consumer Attorney's Association of Los Angeles;[5] Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy[8] and the Office of the Americas.[1]

Early life

Greenwald was born and raised in New York City. He is son of the prominent psychotherapist Harold Greenwald,[9][10] and the nephew of choreographer Michael Kidd. He attended the city's High School of Performing Arts. Greenwald started his directing career in the theater, with The People Vs. Ranchman (1968),[11] A Long Time Coming and A Long Time Gone (1971),[12] Me and Bessie (1975) and I Have a Dream (1976), a play based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., with Billy Dee Williams playing King.[10][13]

Television and feature film career

Greenwald moved to Los Angeles in 1972, where he continued working as a theater director at the Mark Taper Forum.[14] He later launched a career as a director for television, establishing first Moonlight Productions[14] and then Robert Greenwald Productions (RGP), and began creating theatrical films, television movies, miniseries and documentaries with a distinct social and political sensibility. Moonlight Productions was responsible for 34 films, and RGP has brought more than 45 films to audiences worldwide. In 1977, Greenwald received his first of three Emmy Award nominations for producing the television movie 21 Hours at Munich[15] about the massacre at the 1972 Olympics. His next Emmy nomination came in 1984 for directing The Burning Bed,[16] one of the most-watched television movies of all time.[17] Based on a true story, The Burning Bed has been credited as "a turning point in the fight against domestic violence."[18] Greenwald also directed theatrical films such as Breaking Up (1997), Steal This Movie! (2000) and Xanadu (1980).[19]

Xanadu received mostly negative reviews. The film barely broke even at the box office in its initial release.[20] A double feature of Xanadu and another musical released at about the same time, Can't Stop the Music, inspired John J. B. Wilson to create the Golden Raspberry Awards (or "Razzies"), an annual event "dishonoring" what is considered the worst in cinema for a given year.[21] Xanadu won the first Razzie for Worst Director and was nominated for six other awards.

Documentary work

Main article: Brave New Films

Greenwald turned to documentary filmmaking in 2002.[22] He executive-produced three political documentaries known as "The Un Trilogy": Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002);[23] Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War (2003),[24] which Greenwald also directed; and Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties.

At BNF, Greenwald has produced and directed eight feature-length documentaries, along with many short pieces and campaigns.[1] Greenwald released War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State (2013) and a documentary about the U.S. government’s drone program, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, which premiered in October 2013.[25]

Distribution and impact

Typically Greenwald's approach has been to adapt the principles of guerrilla filmmaking to political documentaries, using small budgets and short shooting schedules to produce films[26] and then distributing them on DVDs or the Internet in affiliation with politically sympathetic groups such as[26] BNF's methods are "rewriting the book on how movies are made and distributed."[27] Greenwald's innovative model is said to be "working magnificently":[28] "Millions of viewers have seen BNF films via grassroots 'house parties' and independent online DVD sales",[29] as well as in more traditional theater screenings and online.

As a pioneer in alternative methods for effective progressive political campaigns,[30][31][32][33][34] Greenwald has eschewed traditional distribution models of studio and network releases.[31][32] He was among the first to post political online shorts and viral videos on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, as well as releasing full-length documentaries online in a series of “real time” chapters.[32][33][35] Greenwald’s group takes full advantage of a variety of media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, and harnesses new distribution channels as soon as they emerge.[34][36]

This approach has "inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take action and forced pressing issues into the mainstream media."[37] He has been called "one of the most prominent and influential voices in new media."[38] According to a Brave New Films website, as of 2013 its documentaries "have been streamed across all 7 continents and have been viewed over 70 million times."[39]


Various sources have described Greenwald's political activism as left-wing.[40][41][42][43][44]

Greenwald has lectured at Harvard University for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and speaks frequently across the country about his work.[45] He addressed the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense regarding war profiteering on May 10, 2007.[46] In 2013, Greenwald went to Capitol Hill once again, to discuss weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles with lawmakers. At a Congressional briefing, Greenwald testified with the Rafiq Rehman family, the first Pakistani drone strike survivors to appear before Congress.[47] Since May 2005, Greenwald has been a contributing blogger to The Huffington Post.[48]

Selected filmography

Feature-length documentaries

Features and television movies

Documentary shorts

Awards and honors

Greenwald's films have garnered the following nominations and awards:

Robert Greenwald has been the recipient of the following awards for his activism:


  1. 1 2 3 About Robert Greenwald
  2. Roberts, Jerry (5 June 2009). The Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810861381.
  3. 1 2 3 4 de Vila, Liza (12 November 2002). "Robert Greenwald Receives Chuck Fries Producer of the Year Award" (PDF). American Film Institute.
  4. Denise Chow (October 31, 2013). "'Unmanned: America's Drone Wars' Documentary Premieres in NYC". Live Science. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "58th Annual Installation & Awards Dinner". Consumer Attorney Association of Los Angeles. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  6. 1 2 "Wine and Dine with Whistleblowers". ACLU of Southern California. 29 September 2013.
  7. 1 2 Robert Greenwald To Be Honored by Liberty Hill
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Arena Profile: Robert Greenwald". Politico. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  9. Ravo, Nick (2 April 1999). "Harold Greenwald, 88, Expert On Psychology of Prostitutes". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  10. 1 2 "Robert Greenwald Biography (1943-)". Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  11. Broadway World. The People Vs. Ranchman. Retrieved August 20, 2013
  12. The Village Voice. "Richard Farina: A Long Time Coming and A Long Time Gone." Published November 11th, 1971. Retrieved August 20th 2013.
  13. "The Theater: A King in Darkness", Time, 1976-10-04, archived from the original on 2011-02-20, retrieved 2013-08-23
  14. 1 2 Bruguiere, Ron (2011). Collision: When Reality and Illusion Collide. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1456725259.
  15. "21 Hours at Munich The ABC Sunday Night Movie". Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  16. "The Burning Bed". Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  17. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 805. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  18. Ahern, Louise Knott (October 21, 2009). "'The Burning Bed': A turning point in fight against domestic violence". Lansing State Journal.
  19. "Xanadu". Retrieved 2007-07-23.
  20. Maslin, Janet (August 9, 1980). "Xanadu (1980) MISS NEWTON-JOHN IN 'XANADU'". The New York Times.
  21. Germain, David (Associated Press) (February 26, 2005). "25 Years of Razzing Hollywood's Stinkers". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel Company. p. 7D.
  22. "Robert Greenwald Biography" Retrieved Oct 3, 2013.
  23. NED MARTEL. "Attempts to Sort Out and Make Sense of History." New York Times. Published October 1, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  24. John Anderson. Damning Portrait On War In Iraq. Newsday. Published, September 24, 2004. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  25. Sign up to stream Unmanned: America's Drone War
  26. 1 2 Robert S. Boynton (2004-07-11). "How to Make a Guerrilla Documentary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  27. Barkin, Joel. "Filmmaker Robert Greenwald". Progressive States Network.
  28. "Robert Greenwald Tackles Wal-Mart: Just How Have Americans Paid for Those Low Prices?". Buzzflash. October 27, 2005.
  29. "Arena Profile: Robert Greenwald". Politico.
  30. Yerman, Marcia G. (27 June 2012). "The Koch Brothers Exposed' -- A Conversation With Robert Greenwald". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  31. 1 2 Thompson, Rustin (23 September 2004). "Robert Greenwald". Moviemaker. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  32. 1 2 3 Hazen, Don (12 September 2010). "50 Million Videos Viewed: A Huge Marker for Brave New Films and Robert Greenwald". Alternet. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  33. 1 2 Tryon, Chuck. "Digital distribution, participatory culture, and the transmedia documentary". Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  34. 1 2 "The ACLU and Robert Greenwald to Tell the Stories Behind the Headlines in New 10-Part Series: The ACLU Freedom Files". 16 August 2005. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  35. Owens, Simon (16 September 2008). "How Greenwald's Brave New Films Spreads Its Political Message Online". PBS. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  36. "Doc U Seminar: An Evening With Robert Greenwald (at his place!)". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  37. "Filmmaker, Activist Robert Greenwald '66 to Receive Horace Mann Award". Antioch College.
  38. "Robert Greenwald to GMDers: Hold Welch to Pledge on War Funding". Green Mountain Daily. June 15, 2009.
  39. "Robert Greenwald". Brave New Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 Sep 2013. Retrieved 31 Aug 2015.
  40. "Robert Greenwald". Charlie Rose.
  41. Harris, Paul (2011-05-15). "Koch brothers under attack by leftwing film-maker". The Guardian. London.
  42. "Robert Greenwald". Yahoo movies.
  43. Waxman, Sharon. "Robert Greenwald Challenges JFK Actors Kinnear, Holmes to Vet Script". Brave New Films.
  44. Flanders, Laura. "GRITtv with Laura Flanders is proud to feature Brave New Films content.". GRITtv.
  45. "Robert Greenwald Bio" Accessed Oct 4, 2013
  46. "Robert Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill Testifying to Congress Now". Daily Kos. 10 May 2007.
  47. McCauley, Lauren (29 October 2013). "Congressional No-Show at 'Heart-Breaking' Drone Survivor Hearing". Common Dreams.
  48. "Robert Greenwald". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  49. "Peabody/Robert Wood Johnson Award Winner Now Available; 'Behind Sharing the Secret' Distributed Throughout the United States".
  50. "Sharing the Secret". GEORGE FOSTER PEABODY AWARDS. University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
  51. "Awards". Archived from the original on March 10, 2012.
  52. 30th Annual Telly Awards
  53. The Winners of the 20th Annual Media for a Just Society Awards
  54. Activist in the Trenches
  55. "Speakers: Robert Greenwald". The Common Good. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  56. "Rage for Justics Awards". Consumer Watchdog. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  57. "Past Death Penalty Focus Honorees". Death Penalty Focus. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  58. Block, Wendy (29 July 2010). "Courage Awards: What You Missed". LA Progressive.
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