With support from the MacArthur Foundation, Jean-Michel Dissard (with Gitte Peng) directed and produced I LEARN AMERICA. Prior to this documentary, Jean-Michel produced critically acclaimed films chronicling adolescent youth, including: “Raising Victor Vargas” by Peter Sollett (Cannes + Sundance Film Festivals) a fiction about Latino youth in New York City; “Rikers High” (Best NYC Documentary at Tribeca Film Festival), a documentary about 3 incarcerated teenagers in NYC's Rikers Island; “Ezra” (Pan-African Festival FESPACO Grand Prize), a fiction about the child soldiers of Liberia. He was one of the writer and producer on “Down to the Bone” (Sundance Best Directing and Best Acting) directed by Debra Granik. Building on the needs and creativity of local allies, Jean-Michel also uses I LEARN AMERICA to spark “home-grown” events addressing issue of immigration and education in schools and communities around the USA. Originally from France, Jean-Michel migrated to the US when he was 16 years old.
Jean-Michel directed and produced I LEARN AMERICA with Gitte Peng an education reform expert who served as Senior Education Policy Advisor in Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, developing and overseeing the City’s school reform policies and initiatives. She has also worked at the NYC Board of Education and the National Urban League and in various advocacy and public interest roles. While at Yale Law School, she represented asylum-seekers and low-income clients. Gitte has also produced documentaries for NY Public Television, directed a short about new immigrant teens in the Bronx, and edited with filmmaker Sam Pollard.