Rian Brown-Orso

  • Professor of Cinema Studies
  • Codirector, Apollo Outreach Initiative
  • Codirector, Apollo Center for Media Education and Production

Areas of Study

Education

  • BFA, Massachusetts College of Art, 1994
  • MFA, University of California San Diego, 2000

Biography

Rian Brown-Orso is an award-winning independent filmmaker, visual artist, and associate professor of cinema studies at Oberlin College. Brown-Orso’s work spans a variety of film genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, and video installation. 

In 2015, she was awarded grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation’s Just Films initiative for the production of The Foreigner’s Home, a full-length documentary film about Toni Morrison at the Louvre, which was released in 2017.

Her works have screened internationally at film festivals and museums including Rotterdam International Film Festival, British Film Institute, BAM, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cleveland Museum of Art, L.A Hammer, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Harvard Film Archive, The Wexner Center for the Arts, Anchorage Museum of Art, MOCA Cleveland, Santa Fe International Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Women in the Director’s Chair and others. Reflecting Brown-Orso’s background in visual arts and cinematography, her films employ visually dynamic imagery, hand-painted animation, and experimental techniques.

She codirected Blue Desert ~ Towards Antarctica, a multichannel video installation shot during an expedition to Antarctica with National Geographic.

Brown-Orso was associate producer for a feature documentary, Raise the Roof, a heroic story about rebuilding a Polish synagogue that appeared on PBS in 2017. It won Best Documentary in the Seattle Jewish Film Festival. The film was screened in over 60 film festivals worldwide.

In 2009, she cofounded and codirected the Apollo Outreach Initiative, a media education program that works with urban youth in the Northeast Ohio. She has received numerous awards including three Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence awards. She also worked as an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts.

Brown-Orso grew up in Boston and studied visual art at Massachusetts College of Art and received a Master of Fine Arts in film from the University of California, San Diego. Her work focuses on women’s issues, social justice, and experimenting with new forms of animation and time-based art.

Fall 2021

Experiments in Moving Image & Sound I — CINE 322
First Person Cinema: Personal Narrative — CINE 326

Spring 2022

ANIMATION WORKSHOP : Stop Motion Animation from Analog to Digital — CINE 313
First Person Cinema: Personal Narrative — CINE 326
Advanced Film Making Projects — CINE 364

Notes

Rian Brown-Orso Gives Commentary

April 3, 2020

Rian Brown-Orso, associate professor of cinema studies, gave video commentary for CAN Journal that included her reflections about teaching art online during the time of COVID-19. 

Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree's Film Reviewed in Journal

January 11, 2020

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree's documentary film, The Foreigner's Home was reviewed by Shahram Khosravi, professor of anthropology at Stockholm University, in the journal Anthropology News.

Film by Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Released on Amazon Prime

November 7, 2019

The Foreigner's Home, a film about Toni Morrison at the Louvre, directed by Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree, was just released on Amazon Prime. The pair were also interviewed about the documentary by CAN Journal.

Rian Brown-Orso Featured on Ideastream

April 22, 2019

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso is collaborating with Cleveland cleric Leah Lewis, an Urgent Art Fund recipient, on a documentary called “Black Buckeyes: A Tale of Two Cities" that will compare and contrast the histories and present day realities of African Americans living in Cleveland and Cincinnati. The project was featured on ideastream.

Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Speak as Invited Guests

February 28, 2019

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree were invited guests to Columbia University's Institute for Research on African-American Studies on March 7, 2019 to speak about their documentary film, The Foreigner's Home.

Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Screen Film

January 3, 2019

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree screened The Foreigner's Home on Saturday, January 5 in conjunction with the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power. The film also screens on January 16 in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater.

Rian Brown-Orso Featured in Solo Exhibition

November 16, 2018

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and New Media Rian Brown-Orso was featured in a solo exhibition of animations and video at The Sculpture Center in Cleveland.

Rian Brown-Orso and Geoff Pingree Interviewed by International Film Festival Rotterdam

February 6, 2018

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso and Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree were interviewed about their film The Foreigner’s Home in a blog post for the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Rian Brown-Orso receives Ohio Arts Council Award

April 21, 2017

Rian Brown-Orso received an Individual Excellence Award for media arts from the Ohio Arts Council.

Individual Excellence Awards are peer recognition of creative artists for the exceptional merit of a body of work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists' growth and development and recognize work in Ohio and beyond.

Rian Brown-Orso Receives Award

February 8, 2017

Rian Brown-Orso, associate professor of cinema studies and new media, received a 2017 individual excellence award from the Ohio Arts Council.

News

Postcards from Oberlin

May 8, 2020

“The best thing about my quarantine workday (besides hanging out with my toddler) is seeing my students, even though they are far away. The second best thing is seeing them when it's warm enough to be outside in my backyard in Lakewood. Students + sunshine (+ toddler) = happiness,” writes Kathryn Metz , assistant professor of ethnomusicology.