Robert Clift

  • Associate Professor

Robert Clift, Ph.D. is a documentary filmmaker and media studies scholar with work exhibited nationally on public television, in film festivals, on new media platforms and in academic publications. His first film, Stealing Home: The Case of Contemporary Cuban Baseball (PBS, 2001), produced and directed with Salomé Skvirsky, explored questions of national and cultural identity through the geopolitical strains of Cuban baseball. Set during a period of economic challenges, when an increasing number of players were ‘defecting’ Cuba to play in the United States, Stealing Home addressed the tension between the individual Cuban player seeking the benefits of playing in the U.S. Major Leagues and a Cuban government struggling to maintain baseball as a symbol of national pride and economic autonomy. His second film, Blacking Up: Hip-Hop’s Remix of Race and Identity, was funded by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), premiered on PBS in January 2010, and was named by the American Library Association (ALA) as one of the most notable nonfictional films of the year. Blacking Up grew out of and informed his written research on the performance and representation of authenticity in documentary film and video. His writing on Sacha Baron Cohen’s theatrical feature Borat (2006) was published by Routledge as part of the anthology Cine-Ethics: Ethical Dimensions of Film Theory, Practice and Spectatorship (2013). Clift’s third film, Road Comics: Big Work on Small Stages, directed with filmmaker Hillary Demmon and produced by Susan Seizer, a cultural anthropologist at Indiana University, focuses on the unique insights and stand-up routines of three comedians who travel the comedy circuit in the “flyover zones” of Middle America. Road Comics has played at more than a dozen festivals and conferences, including the Cincinnati Film Festival, the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, the Central States Anthropological Society Annual Meeting, and the Landlocked Film Festival.