Cynthia Lowen is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker and award-winning writer whose work uses the power of story to catalyze meaningful change, confronting timely social issues from bullying to online harassment to nuclear proliferation. Most recently, she is the director and producer of ‘Battleground,’ an urgently timely window into the intersection of abortion and politics in America, premiering at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
Cynthia is also the director and producer of ‘Netizens,’ a feature documentary distributed by HBO Max (2020) about women and online harassment. “Bristling with rightful fury,” says Teen Vogue of the film, ‘Netizens’ follows three women – Carrie Goldberg, Tina Reine and Anita Sarkeesian – as they confront digital abuse and strive for justice online. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and has screened at top film festivals around the world, including the Bergen International Film Festival, the Cork Film Festival, the Denver Film Festival, Hot Docs, the Milwaukee Film Festival and the Zurich Film Festival among many other festivals and exhibitions. ‘Netizens’ was part of the prestigious U.S. State Department‘s Film Diplomacy Program, where it has screened at U.S. Embassies in Albania, Lebanon, Moscow and Turkey with associated cultural programming and lectures.
Cynthia also spearheaded the ‘Netizens’ Impact Campaign, working with tech companies, organizations and advocacy partners including the Anti-Defamation League, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Facebook, Microsoft, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Oculus and others, to develop tools and responses to reduce online harassment and foster constructive digital citizenship. The campaign was launched with a stakeholders screening at Microsoft’s headquarters hosted by Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer. In the fall of 2019, the film was screened in movie theaters in Chicago, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC, accompanied by panels with the filmmaker, subjects and experts, as part of the impact initiative.
Cynthia is the producer and writer of the acclaimed documentary ‘Bully’ (2012) following five kids and families through a year in the life of America’s bullying crisis, which was released theatrically. The film also appeared on Independent Lens, Netflix and numerous other television and video-on-demand outlets. Lauded by critics, ‘Bully’ was nominated for two Emmys for Best Documentary Film and Outstanding Information Programming. The film was also shortlisted for the Oscars and received an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism, as well as the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America, the True Life Fund Award, the Cinema Eye Audience Choice Award, the Emery Award, the Bergen Film Festival Audience Award and more.
Drawing on the powerful responses to the film, Cynthia co-created The Bully Project Social Action Campaign, a collaborative effort in partnership with organizations, foundations, brands and corporate sponsors, sharing a commitment to ending bullying and transforming society. Partners included Adobe, the American Federation of Teachers, Autism Speaks, BBYO, the Cartoon Network, DoSomething.org, Facing History and Ourselves, GLSEN, JPMorgan Chase, Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Sears, the United Federation of Teachers and many more. The campaign engaged over five million students in a free community screening program and was screened at The White House where President Obama announced his support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The immense cultural influence of ‘Bully’ and the associated impact campaign was featured in a 1-hour CNN special hosted by Anderson Cooper called ‘The Bully Effect.’
Cynthia is also an award-winning poet and winner of the National Poetry Series for her collection ‘The Cloud That Contained the Lightning,’ selected by Nikky Finney and published by University of Georgia Press (2013). Using the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” as a jumping-off point, the collection explores the enduring legacy of nuclear weapons. Of these poems, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes writes, “No biographer in 600 pages has come closer to understanding him [Oppenheimer]–and the bomb–than does Cynthia Lowen in these subtle, resonant poems.” On behalf of her poetry, Cynthia was awarded the distinguished Discovery Prize accompanied by a reading at New York’s 92nd Street Y.
Cynthia’s work has received support from major cultural institutions and organizations the BeCause Foundation, Cinereach, the Dobkin Family Foundation, the Fledgling Fund, Fork Films, the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, the Harnisch Foundation, the International Documentary Association Enterprise Fund, New York State Council on the Arts, Sundance Documentary Film Fund, the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention and the Wallace Global Fund, among others. Cynthia has also held residencies at MacDowell, the Banff Center, Yaddo, Hedgebook, the Berlinale Talent Campus, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown among others, and she received the Hedgebrook Women Authoring Change Fellowship from William Morris Entertainment.
Cynthia is a sought-after speaker both in the U.S. and internationally, represented by American Program Bureau, delivering keynotes on impact filmmaking, online harassment and bullying. Recent speaking engagements include an evening with the Anti-Defamation League on digital hate (2020), a keynote on ‘Netizens’ and impact filmmaking at Docs by the Sea, Indonesia (2020), participation in Facebook’s United Nations sidebar round-table on women and online harassment (2019), a presentation on the making of ‘Netizens’ and digital abuse at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the NGO Center in St. Petersburg (2018) and Q&A’s at New York Law School (2019), UC Irvine School of Law (2019), the Women’s Media Center (2018), The Wing (2018), George Washington University (2018), among many others. Cynthia has also spoken at TEDx (2017), SXSW (2016), IdeaFestival (2012), Open Society Foundations (2012) and the Producers Guild (2012).
Since 2014, Cynthia has served as Visiting Assistant Professor in Colorado College’s esteemed Film and Media Studies program, where she teaches core film production classes that focus on narrative and non-fiction film production, as well as upper-level screenwriting and documentary film production courses. Cynthia received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and her BA from Colorado College and has been a member of the Producers Guild of America since 2014.