Robert Greenwald

Last updated
Robert Greenwald
Born (1945-08-28) August 28, 1945 (age 77)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation Film director
Spouse(s)Heidi Frey
Nancy Greenwald (divorced)
ChildrenRachel Greenwald
Leah Greenwald
Noah Greenwald
Maya Greenwald

Robert Greenwald (born August 28, 1945) is an American filmmaker, and the founder of Brave New Films, a nonprofit film and advocacy organization whose work is distributed for free in concert with nonprofit partners and movements in order to educate and mobilize for progressive causes. With Brave New Films, Greenwald has made investigative documentaries such as Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2004), Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004), Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005), Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers (2006), Rethink Afghanistan (2009), Koch Brothers Exposed (2012), and War on Whistleblowers (2013), Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote (2020), Suppressed and Sabotaged: The Fight to Vote (2022), Beyond Bars: A Son's Fight for Justice (2022) as well as many short investigative films and internet videos.


Before launching Brave Films in 2000, Greenwald produced and/or directed more than 65 TV movies, miniseries and films as well as major theatrical releases. [1] His early body of work includes Steal This Movie! (2000), [2] starring Vincent D'Onofrio as 60s radical Abbie Hoffman; Breaking Up (1997), starring Russell Crowe and Salma Hayek; A Woman of Independent Means (1995) with Sally Field; The Burning Bed (1984) [2] with Farrah Fawcett; and Xanadu (1980), for which he won the inaugural Golden Raspberry award for Worst Director.

Greenwald has earned 25 Emmy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, the Peabody Award and the Robert Wood Johnson Award. He was awarded the 2002 Producer of the Year Award by the American Film Institute.

Early life

Greenwald was born and raised in New York City. He is son of the prominent psychotherapist Harold Greenwald, [3] [4] and the nephew of choreographer Michael Kidd. He attended the city's High School of Performing Arts. Greenwald started his directing career in the theater, with The People Vs. Ranchman (1968), [5] A Long Time Coming and A Long Time Gone (1971), [6] Me and Bessie (1975) and I Have a Dream (1976), a play based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., with Billy Dee Williams playing King. [4] [7]

Television and feature film career

Greenwald moved to Los Angeles in 1972, where he continued working as a theater director at the Mark Taper Forum. [8] He later launched a career as a director for television, establishing first Moonlight Productions [8] and then Robert Greenwald Productions (RGP), and began creating theatrical films, television movies, miniseries and documentaries with a distinct social and political sensibility. Moonlight Productions was responsible for 34 films, and RGP has brought more than 45 films to audiences worldwide. In 1977, Greenwald received his first of three Emmy Award nominations for producing the television movie 21 Hours at Munich [9] about the massacre at the 1972 Olympics. His next Emmy nomination came in 1984 for directing The Burning Bed, [10] one of the most-watched television movies of all time. [11] Based on a true story, The Burning Bed has been credited as "a turning point in the fight against domestic violence." [12] Greenwald also directed theatrical films such as Xanadu (1980), Sweet Hearts Dance (1988), Breaking Up (1997), and Steal This Movie! (2000). [13]

Xanadu received mostly negative reviews. The film barely broke even at the box office in its initial release. [14] A double feature of Xanadu and another musical released at about the same time, Can't Stop the Music directed by Nancy Walker, inspired John J. B. Wilson to create the Golden Raspberry Awards (or "Razzies"), an annual event "dishonoring" what is considered the worst in cinema for a given year. [15] Xanadu won the first Razzie for Worst Director and was nominated for six other awards.

Documentary work

Greenwald turned to documentary filmmaking in 2002, [16] executive-producing three political documentaries known as "The Un Trilogy": Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002); [17] Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War (2003), [18] which Greenwald also directed; and Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties .

At Brave New Films, Greenwald has produced and directed numerous feature-length documentaries, along with many short films and videos. [19] In 2013, Greenwald released War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State and a documentary about the U.S. government's drone program, Unmanned: America's Drone Wars . [20] His full-length feature documentary, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA (2015), illustrates the connection between gun industry profits and gun deaths in America. [21]

Following the release of 16 Women and Donald Trump, which featured women who publicly accused President Trump of sexual misconduct, Greenwald hosted three of the accusers at a December, 2017 press conference in New York. [22] In 2018, Greenwald created a short film to thank three Black women targeted by Donald Trump entitled, Thanks. [23]

In 2019, Greenwald released Suppressed: The Fight to Vote about voter suppression in the 2018 Georgia election, in which Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the race for governor. [24] Variety described the film as "scary and galvanizing" and said it demonstrated that "what happened in Georgia has implications that extend far beyond that race." [25] The film was updated and released in April 2022 to expose voter suppression laws passed in 19 states across the United States. The 2022 film, entitled Suppressed and Sabotaged: The Fight to Vote features additional stories from voters in Florida, Arizona, and Texas.

As coronavirus raged throughout the US in the summer of 2020, Greenwald's short film, Maddie’s Grandparents: A Preventable COVID Tragedy , about a Florida teenager who turned her grief at losing both her grandparents to COVID-19 into activism, [26] [27] made national headlines, as did her response to President Trump telling Americans not to let COVID “dominate” their lives. [28] Greenwald also joined forces with American rock musician Tom Morello for No Justice No Peace , a short video about police violence that “spotlights the contrast between the racial injustice in the U.S. and the Trump administration's position on it” [29] in honor of George Floyd. [30]

In the fall of 2022, Greenwald's Brave New Films will release Beyond Bars: A Son's Fight for Justice , an intimate look into the life of former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Distribution and impact

Greenwald has applied the principles of guerrilla filmmaking at Brave New Films, using small budgets and short shooting schedules to produce political documentaries [31] and then distributing them on DVDs and the Internet in affiliation with advocacy groups such as [31] Brave New Film's methods are "rewriting the book on how movies are made and distributed." [32] Greenwald's innovative model is said to be "working magnificently": [33] "Millions of viewers have seen BNF films via grassroots 'house parties' and independent online DVD sales", [34] as well as in more traditional theater screenings and online.

As a pioneer in alternative methods for effective progressive political campaigns, [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] Greenwald has eschewed traditional distribution models of studio and network releases. [36] [37] He was among the first to post political online shorts and viral videos on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet, as well as releasing full-length documentaries online in a series of “real time” chapters. [37] [38] [40] Greenwald's group takes full advantage of a variety of media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, and harnesses new distribution channels as soon as they emerge. [39] [41] A 2019 profile described the approach as a "marketing alchemy of feeds, hashtags, likes, favorites, hearts, @s, memes, soundbites and video clips, all edited, spliced and calibrated to grab attention in a hyperspeed world." [42]

This approach has "inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take action and forced pressing issues into the mainstream media." [43] He has been called "one of the most prominent and influential voices in new media." [44] According to a Brave New Films website, as of 2013 its documentaries "have been streamed across all 7 continents and have been viewed over 70 million times." [45]


Various sources have described Greenwald's political activism as left-wing. [46] [47] [48] [49] [50]

Greenwald has lectured at Harvard University for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and speaks frequently across the country about his work. [51] He addressed the United States House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense regarding war profiteering on May 10, 2007. [52] In 2013, Greenwald went to Capitol Hill once again, to discuss weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles with lawmakers. At a Congressional briefing, Greenwald testified with the Rafiq Rehman family, the first Pakistani drone strike survivors to appear before Congress. [53] Since May 2005, Greenwald has been a contributing blogger to The Huffington Post . [54]

Selected filmography

Feature-length documentaries

Features and television movies

Documentary shorts

Awards and honors

Greenwald's work has earned 25 Emmy Award nominations, [55] two Golden Globe nominations, [55] the Peabody Award [55] and the Robert Wood Johnson Award. [55] He was awarded the 2002 Producer of the Year Award by the American Film Institute. [2] He has been honored for his investigative film work by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California; [56] the Liberty Hill Foundation; [57] the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; [58] Physicians for Social Responsibility; [58] Consumer Attorney's Association of Los Angeles; [55] Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy [58] and the Office of the Americas. [19]

Greenwald's films have garnered the following nominations and awards:

Robert Greenwald has been the recipient of the following awards for his activism:

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