Film poster for "Mapping Stem Cell Research" with close up of man and close up of woman holding test tube.
Film poster for "Mapping Stem Cell Research" with close up of man and close up of woman holding test tube.
Exploring the debate over stem cell research through the story of biologist Dr. Jack Kessler who seeks a cure for spinal cord injuries after his daughter’s accident


Regular price $459.00



Stem Cell Research • Neurology • Public Health + Medicine • STEM • Technology + Society

Date of Completion: 2007 | Run Time: 83 minutes​​ | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Study Guide | Director: Maria Finitzo | Producer: Maria Finitzo

MAPPING STEM CELL RESEARCH: TERRA INCOGNITA  is a Peabody-winning documentary about renowned stem cell biologist Dr. Jack Kessler and his daughter Allison. When Dr. Kessler was invited to head up the Neurology Department at Northwestern, his research initially focused on using embryonic stem cells to help cure diabetes. However, when Allison was injured in a skiing accident and paralyzed from the waist down at age 15, Dr. Kessler decided to begin looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries using stem cells. Through Kessler's story, the film examines the constantly evolving interplay between the promise of new discoveries, the controversy of modern science and the resilience and courage of people living every day with devastating disease and injury.

Peabody Awards
"In Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita, filmmaker Maria Finitzo puts a human face on a polarizing, highly politicized subject, stem-cell research."

George Foster Peabody Award for Broadcast Excellence | Peabody Awards
Chicago Hugo Award | The Chicago International Film Festival
Honorable Mention | DOCNZ International Documentary Film Festival 
2nd Place Jury Awards | Mostra de Ciencia e Cinema

Chicago International Film Festival
The New Zealand International Film Festival
The International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
The Denver Film Festival
Anchorage International Film Festival
3rd Intl. Science Film Festival, Greece
Wisconsin Film Festival, Madison, Wisconsin
Coruna Science Festival, Mostra de Ciencia e Cinema
Council on Foundations Film Festival
Kos International Film Festival, Greece

University Film and Video Association 2008 Conference held at Colorado College
World Stem Cell Summit, Special Screening

Silverstein Lecture Series, Center for Genetic Medicine of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. 2007
Gene Siskel Film Theatre
Hayward Public Library, Hayward, CA, November 2007
Fine Arts Theatre, West Hollywood, California, December 2007
San Francisco Public Library, December 2007
Oakland Museum of California, December 2007
WETA, Washington DC, December 2007
Busboys and Poets, Arlington, VA, December 2007
Decatur Public Library, Atlanta, GA, December 2007
Athens Clarke-County Public Library, Athens, GA, December 2007
Chicago Cultural Center, December 2007
WHYY Civic Space, Philadelphia, PA, December 2007
Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA, December 2007
John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI, December 2007
Harry St. John Building, Ithaca, New York, December 2007
San Diego Public Library, December 2007
First Church in Jamaica Plain of the Universalist, Jamaica Plain, MA, December 2007
Democracy Center, Boston, MA, December 2007
Urban Institute for Contemporary Art, Grand Rapids, MI, December 2007
Arcadia University, Glenside, PA, December 2007
Charleston County Public Library, Charleston, SC, December 2007
Idaho State University Theater, Pocatello, ID, December 2007
St. Johns Cinema, Portland, OR, December 2007
Missouri History Museum, St. Louis, MO, December 2007
Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA, December 2007
Detroit Film Center, December 2007
Morris Graves Museum, Eureka, CA, January 2008
Boise State University Student Union, February 2008
Illinois Humanities Council, What is Fair? Genetics and Public Policy, DuSable Museum of African Art. 2008
Reel Time Independent Film and Video Forum and Evanston Community Foundation, Mary & Leigh Block Gallery. 2008
University of Milwaukee DocUWM Program and ITVS' Community Cinema Program, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2008
Faith and Bioethics, The National Cathedral, Washington, DC, followed by panel discussion with bio-ethicist Dr. Cynthia B. Cohen and Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd, 2008
Fusing Art & Society, University of Virginia Tech, Special Screening and Panel Discussion, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society, 2008
Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wisconsin, 2008. Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts & Letters, Stem Cell 10th Anniversary Celebration
Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, New York, April 2009

Maria Finitzo is a two-time Peabody Award-winning social issue documentary filmmaker whose 30 years as a filmmaker has resulted in a body of work that has won every major broadcast award including most recently the Alfred I duPont Award and has been screened in festivals and theaters around the world. She is the director and producer of THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE. Her films are novelistic in their structure, providing multiple points of connection for an audience. She allows the narrative arc of her character’s story to evolve, colliding with other subjects from the film, creating a complex, nuanced story that serves as a vehicle to deepen our understanding of society through everyday human drama.

A coming of age story that reveals the resilience of adolescent girls (5 GIRLS), a father determined to heal his daughter after a tragic accident (MAPPING STEM CELL RESEARCH: TERRA INCOGNITA) investigates the role of science in a democratic society, a young man, leaving foster care (WITH NO DIRECTION HOME) explores the challenges of trying to find one’s place in the world, a soccer coach committed to teaching his players – Hispanic girls – about winning in life (IN THE GAME), and a young couple, both working minimum wage jobs struggling to make ends meet while building a life for themselves and their children (HARD EARNED) are all films that explore different realms of storytelling by investigating the important social issues of the day.

Finitzo’s films have tackled a variety of subjects from the controversial science of stem cell research and the complex questions surrounding the command and control of nuclear weapons to the psychology of adolescent girls, each film demonstrating a depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise. Finitzo is a 2018 Film Independent Fellow and is also a fiction screenwriter and director. She is currently working on an adaptation of a short story by Nobel Prize winning author Alice Munro. A TASTE OF LIFE will be Finitzo’s 2nd fiction film. She is a longtime associate of the award-winning documentary company, Kartemquin Films, one of the oldest and most respected social issue documentary film companies in the country.