Director of TO THE END


"I've been making films about social movements for over a decade, covering historic campaigns from Occupy Wall Street and the immigrant labor movement to insurgent Congressional candidates to the inside-outside strategy of the climate movement which led to the passage of the first major climate legislation in US history. ... Students and audiences at my previous presentations have often told me they come away inspired and better informed, whether the topic is independent filmmaking or how movements can stop the climate crisis and make economic and racial justice part of the solution."

Rachel Lears is an award-winning documentary director, producer and cinematographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her most recent feature documentary, TO THE END (Roadside Attractions), which follows four high-profile environmental leaders who ignite historic shifts in U.S. climate politics, premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and went on to play at Tribeca Film Festival, CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, and others; it was released theatrically in December 2022. Her last feature documentary, Knock Down the House (Netflix), follows four women who ran insurgent congressional campaigns in 2018. The film won the US Documentary Audience Award and the Festival Favorite award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, was shortlisted for an Oscar and nominated for an Emmy in 2020. Previously, she co-directed The Hand That Feeds (PBS) with Robin Blotnick, following a groundbreaking labor campaign waged by undocumented immigrants at a Manhattan deli; the film won numerous festival awards and was nominated for an Emmy in 2017. Rachel was a 2013 Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellow, and she received the IDA Emerging Filmmaker Award in 2019.

Rachel also has an extensive academic background, with a BA in Music from Yale University, and an MA in Ethnomusicology, Graduate Certificate in Culture & Media and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from NYU. Her dissertation explored popular music, visual culture and cultural policy in Uruguay, and was supported by two Fulbright grants and a Mellon Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship, among others. She has taught courses at the undergraduate level in anthropology and ethnomusicology, and at the graduate level in documentary film production. Rachel has spoken and visited classes at numerous colleges and universities, discussing documentary film practice, film ethics, social justice impact filmmaking, and the contemporary issues explored in her work. Institutions that have hosted Rachel to speak include Columbia University, American University, Rutgers University, and more; in 2014 she gave the keynote address at the Ethnocineca Film Festival in Vienna, Austria. While promoting her films, she has also spoken extensively with media outlets, including podcasts such as The Intercept’s Deconstructed and television programs such as MSNBC’s Morning Joe and PBS’s Amanpour & Company.