Wesleyan portrait of Tracy Heather Strain

Tracy Heather Strain

Associate Professor of Film Studies and Co-Director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project

Center for Film Studies, 169


AB Wellesley College
EDM Harvard University

Tracy Heather Strain

Tracy Heather Strain teaches documentary production, storytelling and history at Wesleyan and brings to her students an enthusiastic interest in all styles, modes, models and platforms used in crafting nonfiction stories. She is an award-winning director, producer and writer committed to using film and video to bring diverse and often unknown stories to light in order to advance social justice, build community and empower the marginalized in engaging ways. Drawn to personal stories that reveal the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality work to shape lives, Strain weaves these individual journeys into society's larger historical, artistic and cultural narratives, connecting present and past, young and old, forgotten and remembered, insider and outsider. Artists and stories of material culture are topics of great interest. Her documentaries have been supported the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ford Foundation, Independent Television Service, LEF Foundation, among other funding organizations.

In 1999 Strain won a Peabody Award for her first two feature documentaries "Bright Like a Sun" and "The Dream Keepers" as part of the six-part Blackside/PBS series I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African American Arts, and another last year for the American Masters television broadcast of her latest directing effort, “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart,” the first feature film about the late artist/activist best-known for writing the play A Raisin in the Sun. The bio doc, which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival also netted Tracy a 50th NAACP Image Award for Motion Picture Directing last year, the American Historical Association’s John E. O’Connor Film Award and a Creative Arts Emmy producing nomination. Her other directing and producing credits include “Building the Alaska Highway” for American Experience, “The Story We Tell” in Race: The Power of an Illusion and “When the Bough Breaks” in the duPont Columbia-award-winning Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?. Strain is President and CEO of The Film Posse, the production company she co-founded with her husband/filmmaking partner and CFILM colleague Randall MacLowry. They are directing, producing and writing an NEH-funded film about L. Frank Baum and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the PBS history series American Experience planned for a April 12, 2021 premiere.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

2021 Spring Semester zia Zoom by appointment Wednesdays 2:00–3:20pm & Thursdays 9:20am–11:20am. Meetings may be arranged at other times by request.


Spring 2021
FILM 384 - 01
Documentary Storytelling

FILM 430 - 01
Documentary Production