Archipelago Films

Archipelago Films is a New York-based film and television production company.[1][2][3] It was founded in 1991 by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Andrew Young and Susan Todd.[4][3][5] Together, the team has produced, directed, and provided cinematography for over a dozen documentaries on social and environmental topics. In addition to their documentary work, Young and Todd have a filmography that includes: short narrative films,[6] museum exhibit pieces,[7] and films for nonprofit NGOs and corporations.

Archipelago Films, Inc.
IndustryFilm and Television
Founded1991 (1991)
FounderAndrew Young
Susan Todd
ProductsMotion pictures, television documentaries

They are known to employ a variety of digital cinematography techniques such as utilizing miniature cameras, probe lenses, aerial mounts, underwater housings, and remote control cameras to visualize the perspectives of their subjects.[8]


The name of the company is associated with its first film, The Spirit of Kuna Yala, made in 1991. The film features the Kuna Indians of Panama's San Blas archipelago as they "unite to protect their rainforest homeland, Kuna Yala, and the tradition it inspires." The film is told entirely in the words of the Kunas.[9]

The company's second film, Children of Fate: Life and Death in a Sicilian Family, was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary.[10][11][12] The film follows up on the same Sicilian family documented in the 1961 film Cortile Cascino, directed by Andrew Young's father, Robert Young.[13] In the updated portrait, Angela Capra is still fighting for her family, against "a vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance and crime" in a Palermo slum.[14] Children of Fate won the Grand Jury Prize and the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.[15]

In 1996, Young and Todd produced, directed, and photographed Cutting Loose, a feature-length documentary about the New Orleans Mardi Gras, for French and German television.[16]

Archipelago Films has also collaborated with Edward James Olmos and his company Olmos Productions for several feature documentaries. One of these films, commissioned by the United States Justice Department, It Ain't Love, is a story of teenage dating violence, following members of a young improv company as they re-enact their abusive relationships.[17] Subsequently, they directed the HBO documentary: "Americanos: Latino Life in the United States’’ which featured notable Hispanic icons, including Carlos Santana and Tito Puente.[18] Their portrait of the lives of teenaged gang members in Eastern Los Angeles, Lives in Hazard, was introduced by president Bill Clinton primetime on NBC.[19][20]

Archipelago has produced a number of nature films in addition to contributing to various nature series and productions. Archipelago's Madagascar: A World Apart was featured as part of the PBS series Living Edens.[21] Archipelago Films has also had an ongoing collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, working on the media components of new exhibits, including the film at the Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit.[7][22]

Recently, Archipelago Films has been filming wildlife in Eastern North America. Their footage of the breeding rituals of the North American wood duck was used in the PBS Nature show An Original DUCKumentary, which won the 2013 Emmy Award for Outstanding Nature Programming, and was nominated for Best Factual Series.[23][24]

Archipelago Films is currently in post-production on Backyard Wilderness, their upcoming 3D Giant Screen film.[25][1][26] The film features the wildlife found in the average suburban backyard, and will be released in March 2018.[25][1][26]

Filmography and awards

Film and Television
Year Film Awards Notes
1990 The Spirit of Kuna Yala (59 min.) Golden Apple, National Educational Film & Video Festival
Red Ribbon, American Film and Video Festival
Earthwatch Film Award
Finalist, USA Film Festival
1992 Children of Fate (85 min.) Academy Award Nomination, Best Documentary
Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival
Cinematography Award, Sundance Film Festival
Grand Prix, Cinéma du Réel
Silver Centaur, Saint Petersburg International Film Festival
Golden Apple, National Educational Film & Video Festival
Best Documentary, Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival
1993 Lives in Hazard (57 min.) Directors Guild of America Award Nomination
Golden Apple & Best of Classroom, Nat. Educational Film Festival
1996 Cutting Loose (90 min.) Filmmaker’s Trophy, Sundance Film Festival
Cinematography Award, Sundance Film Festival
Golden Spire, San Francisco Film Festival
1997 It Ain't Love (58 min.) Best of Festival, Windy City Documentary Festival
George Stoney Award, Cinema Arts Center
Golden Apple, National Educational Film & Video Festival
1998 Madagascar: A World Apart (52 min.) Emmy Award, Best Cinematography
Emmy Award Nomination, Best Directing
Best Cinematography, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
1999 Saving Africa’s Forests (8 min.) Best Non-Broadcast Film, International Wildlife Film Festival
Finalist, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival
permanent installation at Bronx Zoo
1999 Americanos (85 min.) Best Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival
Best Documentary, Alma Awards
2001 Glacier Bay: Alaska’s wild coast (54 min.) Emmy Award Nomination, Best Science/Nature Film
Emmy Award Nomination, Best Cinematography
Best Nature Program, Aurora Awards
2003 Tiger Testimonials (6 min.) video installation at Bronx Zoo
2003 AIDS Warriors (48 min.)
2004 The Last Royals (54 min.)
2005 Deadly Messengers (54 min.) Emmy Award, Outstanding Science Programming
2005 Wild Chronicles: Madagascar (20 min.)
2008 Small Wonders, Big Threats (12 min.) Special venue feature at Bronx Zoo
2012 Unburden (20 min.) Best Dramatic Film, Action/Cut Short Film Competition
Grand Jury Prize, Gasparilla International Film Festival
Lifetree Award, Lifetree Film Festival
Short film


  1. "Eighth Grader Featured in Documentary". Archived from the original on 2018-04-18. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  2. TvTechnology. "Wildlife Production Marks 'Epic' Advances". TV Technology. Archived from the original on 2013-07-21. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  3. "Archipelago Films". BFI. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  4. "Susan Todd". Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  5. "Pound Ridge resident, Ring, and Bedford resident, Schwartz, join Westchester Land Trust's Board". Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch. 2015-02-09. Retrieved 2018-01-10.
  6. Unburden (2012), retrieved 2017-12-05
  7. Chin, Sue. "Bronx Zoo: Congo Gorilla Forest". World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  8. Weiss, David. "Andrew Young's Beavercam", DuArt NEWS, New York, 18 September 2012. Retrieved on 5 February 2014.
  9. "The spirit of Kuna Yala", Retrieved on 5 February 2014.
  10. "THE 66TH ACADEMY AWARDS | 1994". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  11. Giudice, Luisa Del (2009-11-09). Oral History, Oral Culture, and Italian Americans. Springer. ISBN 9780230101395.
  12. Martin, Edited by David C. Wall and Michael T. (2015-10-20). The Politics and Poetics of Black Film: Nothing But a Man. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253018502.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. Maslin, Janet. "Review/Film: Children of Fate; The Tenacious Hold Of Grinding Poverty On an Italian Family". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  14. Thomas, Kevin. "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Fate': Portrait of a Family Caught in Cycle of Poverty", LA Times, Los Angeles, 23 November 1993. Retrieved on 5 February 2014.
  15. Weinraub, Bernard. "The Talk of Sundance; The Winners and Notable Losers at Sundance". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  16. Leydon, Joe. "Review: 'Cutting Loose'", Variety, Los Angeles, 25 January 1996. Retrieved on 5 February 2014.
  17. Conover, Ted. "The Film Makers and the Abuser". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  18. Leydon, Joe. "Americanos: Latino Life in the United States". Variety Media LLC. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  19. Brennan, Patricia "Olmos Examines Rising Gang Peril in 'Hazard'", "Sun Sentinel", 31 March 1994
  20. Schulman, Cathy "Lives in Hazard", "Sundance Institute", Sundance Film Festival 1994, Retrieved on 20 April 2015
  21. "Madagascar - A World Apart: Notes from the Field", PBSRetrieved on 5 February 2014.
  22. "Tigers are here!" (PDF). Wildlife Conservation Society. May 2003. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  23. Frazer, Bryan. "Jumping Duckling". Access Intelligence, LLC. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  24. Hamlin, Stina. "Emmy Win for the DuArt-Posted DUCKumentary!", DuArt NEWS, New York, 7 October 2013. Retrieved on 7 February 2014.
  25. "Backyard Wilderness". SK Films. 2016-09-28. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  26. "Coming Soon". Retrieved 2018-01-10.

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