Associate Professor and Former Director of the MFA in Documentary Media program
Debra Tolchinsky, director of the MFA program in documentary media and associate professor of Radio-TV-Film, is a documentary filmmaker and curator. Her work has been seen at such venues as the Sundance Film Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center, the Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Supreme Court Institute. As a curator, Debra co-curated The Horror Show at Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, Shimon Attie: The Neighbor Next Door at the Block Museum, and The Presence of Absence sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Council. As a documentarian, she directed and produced the feature Fast Talk concerning college competitive debate. Fast Talk won Best Documentary at the LA Femme International Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival, and has been spotlighted in the Chicago Tribune, the National Law Journal, the Onion A.V. Club, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2017, Debra received a year long Alice B. Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Fellowship for her (in process) documentary True Memories and Other Falsehoods and she ranked No. 7 on New City’s Film 50: Chicago Screen Gems. Her documentary concerns contaminated memory and features Penny Beerntsen who mistakenly identified Steven Avery (Making a Murderer) as her assailant, resulting in Avery serving 18 years in prison. Debra joined the Northwestern University faculty in 2006 and won a Clarence Simon Award for Teaching Excellence in 2010. She received an AB from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and a BFA and MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.