Alumni Feature

Angelica Macklin: Archivista Storytender

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Portrait of Angelica Macklin by Amen GibreabAngelica Macklin (’10) was already the director, cinematographer, and editor of a feature-length documentary when she applied to the Master of Arts in Cultural Studies (MACS) at UW Bothell. She wanted to pursue documentary production in a space where she could work out the practical and theoretical implications of making media with others instead of about them.

Co-directed with her husband, Scott Macklin, her first film, Masizakhe: Building Each Other , features a new generation of activists shaping post-apartheid South African society through cultural resistance. “Masizakhe is a Xhosa word which means building each other and lifting each other up,” Macklin explains. “It’s the opposite of apartheid, which tore people apart and separated them.

“Neither Scott nor I are South African; we were very much visitors there. We were invited by spoken word artist Thabang Queench to make the film Masizakhe: Building Each Other. The result is not just a documentary about cultural activists in South Africa, but a story made with cultural activists that highlights the importance of emancipatory creative agency.  The process of making of the film was itself an act of Masizakhe.”

Activist Thabang Queench and artist Abantu featured in "Masizakhe: Building Each Other". Photo by Angelica Macklin 2007.
Activist Thabang Queench and artist Abantu featured in Masizakhe: Building Each Other. Photo by Angelica Macklin 2007.

Masizakhe: Building Each Other found a fan in IAS faculty member Ron Krabill, who worked with Angelica in the context of MACS’s first cohort.  The curriculum provided her the opportunity to pursue filmmaking as part of an academic program. “Filmmaking is one of my modes of writing. I also write with words. But the process of using media to activate scenes and build community is what I’m most interested in,” she says. Angelica’s MACS capstone project, Scholarly Activism Through the Documentary Process, was the pilot for what became Angelica’s second feature documentary, De Baixo Para Cima (From the Bottom Up), a film co-directed with Jonathan Warren on culture and revolutionary change in the Jequitinhonha Valley of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Angelica with her MACS advisors and thesis committee:  Dr. Ron Krabill (MACS), Dr. Greg Mullins (Evergreen College), Dr. Susan Harewood (MACS), and Dr. Jonathan Warren (LACS).
Angelica with her MACS advisors and thesis committee:  Ron Krabill (IAS), Greg Mullins (Evergreen College), Susan Harewood (IAS), and Jonathan Warren (UW Seattle).

Since graduating from the Cultural Studies program, Angelica has been working in film, academics, and community-building in a variety of venues. Immediately after graduation, Angelica was hired by IAS as the founding coordinator for the Digital Media Lab 121, building it into a strong media production support space for teaching and learning. As the digital media coordinator, Angelica taught production courses for the Media and Communication Studies major and mentored student staff. She then took a position running the media department for The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL), a program to support best practices in Head Start programs. Angelica continues to work on this project as part of EarlyEdU, developing media for online courses that are available for use by a consortium of colleges and universities across the nation. She also produces media content for Childcare Quality & Early Learning Center for Research and Professional Development (CQEL), which trains coaches and Washington state teachers on early childhood education practices.

In addition to her work for these programs, Angelica is pursuing a PhD in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. Her dissertation will focus on feminist film practices, centered on Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities. Working with her dissertation chair, Dr. Michelle Habell-Pallan, and Dr. Sonnet Retman, Angelica is heavily involved with a number projects in the Women Who Rock Collective: organizing the annual Women Who Rock unConference, curating the annual Women Who Rock Film Festival, documenting local music scenes, and teaching students video production, photography, and oral history archiving. Her major project is helping build the Women Who Rock Oral History Archive, hosted by the UW Libraries, documenting the stories of social justice activists involved in cultural production. The archive now holds a large number of photos plus 13 oral histories, many of them filmed by Angelica, who also works to get media and supporting materials processed and uploaded to the library.

Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Community Oral History Archive
Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Community Oral History Archive

Angelica’s work brings to light a challenge in the teaching and practice of feminist filmmaking. Most examples of media production – and nearly all the media tutorials online and in books – represent film market practices. “When I’m trying to teach media production processes that are transformative, where do I go to find examples for my students?  I can’t base my teaching on an industry that’s already destructive – an industry that’s created on stereotypes and feeds violence against women and people of color. That is why I draw heavily from media activists, film programs like UW’s Native Voices, and women of color feminist theory.”  Angelica’s work making media with the Women Who Rock Collective is another way to generate resources and examples for emerging filmmakers. The goal is to produce feminist digital media and teaching materials in a way that is transformative of the media ecology, rather than reproducing dominant narratives and methods.

Mamelani and Bulelani - waiting for love at the bus stop
   Mamelani and Bulelani
   Photo by Angelica Macklin 2007.

Angelica characterizes her own work as centering on the concept of archivista storytending. This approach is a combination of the concept of “artivista” (artist activist) used by Dr. Martha Gonzalez and other founding members of the Women Who Rock Collective, and the idea of creating a life-nurturing space for archival and creative production emphasized by filmmakers like Loretta Todd (1996). 1  Angelica explains that the archivista storytending aspects of this work are similar to cultivating a garden. “Stories within the archive are seeds that grow and turn into lived ecologies. The processes of making stories, as well as how they circulate in society, determine the health and well-being of the fruit they might bear.”

Angelica maintains an active connection to IAS as an alumna.  She has mentored a number of students, primarily in MACS and Media and Communication Studies (MCS), and has hired several former students and alumni to work with her at NCQTL, including Rebecca Simms (MCS), Amen Gibreab (MCS), Nils Finholt (MCS), Alaia D'Alessandro (CHID), and David Ryder (MACS). Angelica also involves students in film opportunities related to community-building and social justice through her own film productions, with the Women Who Rock Oral History Project, and through her professional and volunteer networks.

Doctoral Committee
Angelica's doctoral committee (L to R): Sonnet Retman, Shirley Yee, Luana Ross, Angelica Macklin, Michelle Habell-Pallán, Ron Krabill


1Todd, Loretta. Aboriginal Narratives in Cyberspace in Immersed in Technology. 1996. Pgs. 179 – 194. MIT Press Cambridge, MA, USA.

The portrait of Angelica Macklin at the top of this article is by Amen Gibreab ('13 Media & Communication Studies).