Janis Ian & The Art of Song

Director and Producer Varda Bar-Kar, Co-Producer Alessandra Pasquino
Janis Ian & The Art of Song


In the mid-60s, Janis Ian, a tiny teenage Jewish singer-songwriter from New Jersey scores a hit (“Society’s Child,” 1966) about an interracial relationship. The song launches her illustrious career but also ignites controversy, and she plunges into an emotional tailspin–only to emerge from the ashes with an even bigger hit (“At Seventeen,” 1975) about body shaming. For the next six decades, Janis overcomes homophobia, record industry misogyny, and a life-threatening illness to produce an indelible body of work that continues to draw large audiences around the globe.

Phase of Support: Production

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Varda Bar-Kar

Varda Bar-Kar - Director, Producer, Writer

Award-winning director Varda Bar-Kar is known for her compelling and vibrant film work. She was born in England to a South African mother and Romanian father and had lived on three continents by the time she was ten years old. She brings a global perspective to her work, which explores the complexity of the human condition in uplifting ways. Her documentary Big Voice (Netflix, PBS) takes a deep dive into the dynamic classroom culture of passionate Santa Monica High School choir director Jeffe Huls. Her documentary Fandango at the Wall (HBO, HBO MAX) follows Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra founder Maestro Arturo O’Farrill to the United States-Mexico Border for a fandango with the masters of a three-hundred-year-old folk music tradition called son jarocho, transforming the barrier from an object that divides to one that unites. Varda is currently in production on a documentary about iconic singer-songwriter Janis Ian’s extraordinary life and music.

Alessandra Pasquino

Alessandra Pasquino - Co-Producer/Line Producer

Alessandra Pasquino is an Italian-born filmmaker and veteran independent documentary producer based in Los Angeles. Recent projects include Bad Reputation, a feature doc about iconic rock star Joan Jett, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and Superpower Dogs, the IMAX documentary spotlighting the life-saving superpowers and bravery of some of the world’s most remarkable dogs, which premiered at Science Centers nationwide. Notable past collaborations include projects with director Oliver Stone, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Alessandra has also produced and directed numerous ethnographic films on the effects of globalization on culture and health in developing countries for the UCLA Department of Anthropology. Alessandra is a founding member of GroundStorm Media, a production company and digital streaming service dedicated to capturing diverse human stories from the frontlines of communities facing challenges and crises around the world.

Pierre Hauser

Pierre Hauser - Executive Producer/Co-Writer

Pierre Hauser is a writer, film producer, and long-time philanthropic activist. He has served as Executive Producer on a number of films, including the documentaries Spaceship Earth and the upcoming The Return of Tanya Tucker, and the narrative short Some Still Search (about ICE raids during the Trump administration). Pierre is a member of Impact Partners, a documentary investment group, and for several years served on the board of Fork Films (founded by his wife Abigail Disney), helping to choose the annual slate of documentaries to provide with grants. Among his non-profit involvements, Pierre is Co-President, along with Abigail, of the Daphne Foundation, which since 1991 has provided grants to grassroots groups pursuing innovative approaches to reducing poverty in New York City. Pierre has published numerous short stories and several history books for young adult readers, including a history of undocumented immigration and two works on late-19th and early-20th century African-American history.

Brooke Wentz

Brooke Wentz - Executive Producer/Music Supervisor

Brooke Wentz is a respected music rights executive, author, music supervisor, and Billboard-award-winning producer. She’s served as Music Supervisor on numerous renowned documentaries including The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Bill Cunningham: New York, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, and Minding the Gap. She founded two music companies -The Rights Workshop and Seven Seas Music. Prior to launching these companies, Brooke ran ESPN’s music department, set up TechTV PRO rights, managed A&R for Arista Records, and was a former radio host. She has a forthcoming publication of interviews she conducted with a wide range of NYC musicians and creatives.

Project logline and bios courtesy of the grantees.