Kari Barber is a journalist and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Her most recent documentary Struggle & Hope premiered internationally in Cannes, France, at the Festival International du Film Panafricaine and won numerous awards including an “Award of Excellence” from the Broadcast Educational Association. The film follows the stories of residents and descendants who are trying to save and preserve historically all-black towns in Barber’s home state of Oklahoma. Struggle & Hope was awarded development funding from ITVS, the leading documentary film funder and distributor for public media. Along with the feature-length documentary, Barber also produced a participatory website, which included oral histories, photographs and more than 20 short web videos about the remaining historically all-black towns. The website won “Best in Competition” in its division at the Broadcast Education Association in 2016 and was named “Curator’s Choice” at the International Digital Media and Arts Association’s iDEAS Exhibition in 2015. As part of the participatory storytelling project, Barber received a grant from Oklahoma Humanities to hold live screening and discussion events in five of the remaining historically all-black towns. An Associated Press story about these events was picked up and run by 40 media outlets across the United States.
In 2018, Barber was awarded a highly competitive grant to experiment with live journalism from Localore and the Association of Independents in Radio. Through the grant, she worked with Our Town Reno to hold live narrative events focusing on homelessness and displacement in the Reno community. The events were held at a motel, along the river and at The Eddy House, a drop-in center for at-risk youth.
Barber’s previous short documentary Baking Alaska premiered in 2013 at La Femme International Film Festival in Los Angeles and went on to screen at more than a dozen film festivals. The film won many awards including “Best of Competition” in its category at the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts in 2015 and “Best Short Documentary” at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. Baking Alaska has international distribution through the Gaia Corporation.
In addition to directing and producing her own films and media projects, Barber has also worked in various roles on other films including as a researcher and reporter for two documentaries for the PBS public affairs show Frontline – Flying Cheaper and Lost in Detention. She also co-produced The Mama Sherpas (2014) from executive directors Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein and directed by Brigid Maher.
As a journalist Barber worked internationally as a freelance media producer in Southeast Asia and West and Central Africa where she reported for organizations including the Voice of America, Associated Press Television News, Marie Claire magazine, Reuters news agency, France 24, the United Nations humanitarian news analysis site IRIN, and The Christian Science Monitor. As a journalist, she traveled to nearly a dozen African countries producing radio, television and multimedia reports on topics including dissident bloggers, government human rights abuses, presidential elections, civil conflicts, art, sports, oil unrest and economic growth. She also worked in Sierra Leone as a media trainer for the organization Journalists for Human Rights.
Barber’s first media jobs were at a newspaper in Cambodia and a television station in Little Rock, Ark.
Barber’s research interests include interactive documentary, animated documentary, nonlinear narrative, and storytelling and technology.
- M.F.A. in Film & Electronic Media, American University
- B.A. Journalism, University of Oklahoma