This year’s Telly awards recognized local talent in the University of North Texas’ Department of Media Arts twice for Dr. Melinda Levin’s ethnographical movies: “Cuban Earth” and “Mongolia: Earth and Spirit.”
Levin acts as the director of the university’s Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Production and Studies program, but for the past five years, she’s worked to develop the aforementioned films along with UNT students and alumni, shooting on location in Cuba and Mongolia.
“Cuban Earth” attained a silver and two gold Telly Awards while “Mongolia: Earth and Spirit” took a gold and two bronze awards in the general non-broadcast category.
Levin joins media conglomerates such as Disney, Warner Bros. and Sony Music Entertainment, which also were recognized in the 41st annual Telly Awards. Since 1979, the Telly Awards have credited global storytelling across all screens. Levin previously won a bronze Telly Award in 2011 for “River Planet,” a film she directed and co-produced.
In her years as a documentary filmmaker, Levin has voyaged around the Earth to pay homage to the planet by capturing the ways in which people care for the environment.
“Cuban Earth” follows the vibrant street performances of arts group Teatro Callejero Medio Ambiental, which translates to Street Theatre about the Environment, in Havana and Pinar del Rio, Cuba. The group’s mission is to raise awareness and to garner respect for the environment and animals.
Levin and the film’s producer, David Taylor, a former UNT English lecturer who is now an assistant professor at Stony Brook University, were struck not only by the group’s artistic chops, but also how they create costumes out of reusable materials from landfills and give opportunities to at-risk youth in the community.
“Mongolia: Earth and Spirit,” profiles Buddhist monk Delgar Mondoon, who has dedicated his being to environmental work. Levin co-produced and directed the film with UNT MFA documentary alumna Liz Daggett Matar.
“I’m grateful we get to work with such amazing individuals and that people have allowed me to share how they are making a positive difference in their own communities and the world,” Levin said. “Both TECMA and Delgar Mondoon are making selfless efforts for the betterment of our environment, and I’m honored to be a caretaker of their stories through these documentaries.”
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