Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody award winning social-issue documentary filmmaker. She has been producing and directing documentary films for network television, public broadcasting, cable TV and the Internet for more than 25 years. Her body of work has been honored by every major broadcast award granted to documentary films. Ms. Finitzo’s films demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise, tackling a wide variety of subjects including the controversial science of stem cell research, the command and control of nuclear weapons on an international level, and the complex psychology of adolescent girls.
In 1994, she won her first George Foster Peabody Award as a Producer for The New Explorers, a PBS series profiling ground breaking scientific exploration. The series, produced by Kurtis Productions, was nominated for a national Emmy and went on to win numerous broadcast awards, including The Ohio State Award, The Chicago International Film Festival Gold Plaque and the CINE Golden Eagle Award.
In 1995, Ms. Finitzo became an associate of Kartemquin Films. As an associate of Kartemquin, she received her first production grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1995 to produce 5 Girls. The film was a special presentation of the PBS non- fiction series P.O.V and premiered on national public television in the fall of 2001. 5 Girls was awarded the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence from The Council on Foundations, The Silver Award from The Chicago Film & Television Competition and an award for Outstanding Achievement from the Parent's Guide to Children's Media.
In 2002, she began work on her second documentary produced in collaboration with Kartemquin Films. Production began on Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita with a significant production grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Completed in 2007, Terra Incognita was screened in competition at many festivals including: The International Documentary Film Festival – Amsterdam (IDFA), The Chicago International Film Festival, The New Zealand International Film Festival, The Council on Foundations Film Festival, The 3rd Intl. Science Film Festival – Greece, The Kos International Film Festival, and the Coruna Science Festival and Mostra de Ciencia e Cinema – Spain. Terra Incognita was awarded, the Chicago Hugo Award by The Chicago International Film Festival, an Honorable Mention at DOCNZ, New Zealand’s International Documentary Film Festival, two 2nd place jury awards at Mostra de Ciencia e Cinema in Spain, Best Feature Documentary from the Kos International Film Festival and the 2008 George Foster Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence. The film was broadcast nationally in January of 2008 as part of the Independent Lens series on PBS. Chosen by the Independent Television Service to be a part of their Community Cinema Program, the film was shown theatrically in more than 70 different markets. Terra Incognita has also been broadcast in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Spain and Sweden.
In 2007, she was selected by Sundance Institute to be a 2007 Sundance Documentary Fellow for the 2007 Independent Sundance Producer’s Conference.
Most recently, she received an Illinois Humanities Council grant and an Illinois Arts Council grant to begin work on her next documentary film, In the Game, a film that examines the impact of Title IX on women’s sports and the broader questions of inclusion and exclusion, fairness and tradition, principle and compromise, and level playing fields in all walks of life. She also has received a Development Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for Encounters with the Other, a film that will examine the lives of the Tsimané people who live in the lowlands of Bolivia as they struggle to transition to the modern world.
As an Associate of Kartemquin Films, Maria has mentored emerging filmmakers, supported student learning through our robust internship program and engaged the public in the range of issues her films address through the national outreach campaigns that accompany them. Each of her films produced in collaboration with Kartemquin Films has been the centerpiece for major symposiums. They are used by universities across the country as teaching tools and have been the focus of targeted community screenings both nationally and internationally. As a board member of Kartemquin Films, she provides institutional leadership, ensuring the longevity of the organization and the fulfillment of its mission to develop documentary film as a vehicle to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama.
Three years ago, she returned to graduate school to further her education as a filmmaker, and educator. In June of 2008, she was awarded an MFA from Northwestern University in Writing for the Stage and Screen. Life Lessons will be her first fiction film from her original screenplay.