Director, Ford JustFilms

Cara Mertes

Cara Mertes is part of Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression team, as director of JustFilms, Ford’s creative visual storytelling initiative. JustFilms works globally to support artist-led films and new media projects, strengthen organizations and networks for independent and artist-driven content, and develop new leadership and resources in this field.

Throughout her career as a nonprofit executive, award-winning executive producer and producer/director, broadcast programmer, curator, teacher, and writer, Cara has championed the leadership role of artists in society and worked to harness the power of independent film and new media—with an emphasis on nonfiction storytelling—to amplify awareness and accelerate progressive change.

Before joining the foundation, Cara served for eight years as director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund and was part of Sundance Institute’s leadership team. In that role, she oversaw the growth of the Documentary Film Program and Fund and led her team in funding and mentoring hundreds of filmmakers from around the world, expanding the annual portfolio of activities to include new funding, additional labs, and new global partnerships to increase impact and resources for the field. She co-founded the BRITDOC Foundation’s Good Pitch event and training model, which has raised over $20 million in new funding for artful social impact documentaries around the world.

Earlier, for eight years, Cara was executive producer of the PBS documentary series POV. She led an expansion of POV/American Documentary, producing an annual prime time series and PBS specials that brought dozens of award-winning films to public television viewers. She received multiple Emmy Awards, George Foster Peabody Awards, and duPont-Columbia Awards and was awarded a Webby Award for her pioneering web series on PBS, POV’s Borders. She was also executive producer of several Academy Award-nominated films, including Street Fight, Nerakhoon: Betrayal, and My Country, My Country and served as executive director of American Documentary.

Cara has served on numerous nonprofit boards and festival juries and is a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Writers Guild of America, and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and film from Vassar College. Cara also completed the Whitney Independent Study Program as a Helena Rubenstein Curatorial Fellow and Harvard University’s owner/president management program as a Ford Fellow.