John J. Valadez, Director

Office: 270 Communication Art and Sciences


John is a Peabody Award winning filmmaker with two National Emmy nominations. He has been writing, directing, and producing nationally broadcast documentary films for the past 18 years.

John’s films for national television have tackled diverse subjects such as the false imprisonment of a leader of the Black Panther Party, Latino gangs in Chicago, segregation in America’s schools, the history of Latino civil rights, the evolution of Chicano music, and the genocide of Native Americans in the Southwest. They have garnered top prizes at film festivals from San Francisco to Chicago to Mumbai; have been broadcast across the United States, Canada, and Europe; and have been featured at major museums and cultural institutions – including the Hirshorn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Lincoln Center, and the National Gallery of Art. 

John grew up in Seattle, taught photography in India, and recently accepted a professorship at Michigan State University where he teaches documentary filmmaking.


The Head Of Joaquin Murrieta
Director, Writer 

This half-hour documentary film for PBS tells the story of a legendary Mexican outlaw who was lynched 160 years ago, and the filmmaker’s quixotic journey to bury his purported severed head. PBS broadcast in 2017 (national distribution to local stations).

Selected Awards 


Director, Writer 

This one-hour film tells the story of the Chicano fight for equality during the 1960s and 1970s. It aired as the fifth-hour of the nationally broadcast PBS series Latino Americans in 2013 (17 million viewers). Latino Americans received the largest Latino viewing audience in PBS history. Narrated by Benjamin Bratt and produced for WETA. Senior Producer: Adriana Bosch. Executive Producer: Jeff Beiber.

Selected Awards  

War And Peace 

This one-hour film tells the story of Latinos in World War II as they fought fascism abroad and discrimination at home. It aired as the third-hour of the nationally broadcast PBS series Latino Americans in 2013. 

The Longoria Affair 
Director, Producer, Writer

This one-hour documentary explores the birth and impact of the Mexican American civil rights movement as seen through the troubled relationship between Lyndon Johnson and Hector P. Garcia. A co-production with WGBH/ITVS, this film is narrated by Tony Plana and aired nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens in 2010 (7 million viewers. The largest audience for Independent Lens in 2010). Executive Producer: Judith Vecchione.

Selected Awards

  • National Emmy Award nomination – Outstanding Historical film, 2011
  • Premio Letras de Aztlan Award: Outstanding Contribution to the Chicano Community through Documentary Film, The National Association for Chicana/o Studies and South Texas College, 2011
  • Imagen Award, Outstanding Documentary Film, 2011
  • Outstanding Achievement: Civil Rights History, California State Legislature, 2011
  • Outstanding Achievement, American GI Forum of Commerce, City of Commerce 2010
  • Preservation of Civil Rights History, American GI Forum of California, 2010
  • Keys to the City from the Mayor & City Council of Corpus Christi, TX, 2011
  • Contributions to Hispanic History, the American GI Forum of Michigan, 2011

The Chicano Wave
Director, Producer, Writer  

This one-hour film is a history of Mexican-American music and features: Ritchie Valens, Little Joe, Freddy Fender, Los Lobos, Flaco Jimenez, Linda Ronstadt, Selena, and Los Tigres del Norte. This film aired as the third-hour of the nationally broadcast PBS series Latin Music USA and was produced for WGBH/BBC. Narrated by Jimmy Smits and aired in 2009 (14.7 million viewers), 2012 & 2017 (2.2 million viewers). Executive Producer: Elizabeth Deane. 

Selected Awards

  • U.S. State Department’s American Documentary Showcase, 2011
  • Gold Plaque Award, Chicago International Film Festival, 2010
  • Cine Golden Eagle Award, 2010
  • Outstanding Achievement: Contributions to American Music and Civil Rights History, the California State Legislature, 2009

The Last Conquistador
Director, Producer, Writer  

This one-hour documentary chronicles a sculptor’s quixotic quest to build the world’s tallest bronze equestrian statue and how Native Americans are determined to stop what they see as a monument to white supremacy and genocide. Produced for ITVS/PBS, the film received a primetime national broadcast on the documentary series POV in 2008.

High Stakes Testing
Director, Producer, Writer  

This one-hour film uses personal stories to explore the history and controversy over the “standards and accountability” movement created by the Bush Administration’s “No Child Left Behind” education initiative. This film aired on the primetime documentary series CNN Presents in 2005. Executive Producers: Sid Bedingfield and Stanley Nelson. 

Selected Awards

  • Award for Broadcast Excellence: Outstanding coverage of Race and Ethnicity, The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 2006
  • Cine Golden Eagle Award, 2005
  • Distinguished Documentary Achievement, The International Documentary Association (CNN Presents), 2005

Beyond Brown
Director, Producer, Writer

This one-hour PBS documentary for primetime national broadcast commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and examines the re-segregation of America’s public schools. Produced segments about “high stakes testing” in Florida and the “tracking” of Mexican-American students into low ability classes in Los Angeles. Executive Producers: Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith. Aired on PBS in 2004.

Selected Awards

  • Award for Broadcast Excellence: Outstanding coverage of Race and Ethnicity, The Columbia University Graduate school of Journalism, 2005

Visiones: Latino Arts and Culture
Segment Director, Producer

This three-hour documentary series for national broadcast on PBS explores the many
expressions of Latino Art. Produced a segment about Puerto Rican poetry in New York City and the social conditions that inspire the work, featuring poet Pedro Pietri (Puerto Rican Obituary), journalist Juan Gonzalez (Harvest of Empire), and writer Piri Thomas (Down These Mean Streets). Executive Producer: Hector Galan. Aired in 2004. 

Selected Awards

  • Best Documentary Series – Alma Awards 2005

The Divide
Director, Producer

This one-hour film tells the story of a small southern town segregated between blacks, whites, and Mexicans. The film features writers Eric Liu (The Accidental Asian) and Ruben Martinez (Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail), and aired as the first-hour of the primetime nationally broadcast PBS series Matters of Race in 2003. Executive Producer: Orlando Bagwell.

Selected Awards

  • Worldfest Houston – Gold Award

Soul Survivors
Director, Producer

This one-hour film uses video diaries to explore how activists are creating innovative ways to stop violence and heal their communities. Featuring Chicano writer Luis J. Rodriguez (La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A.) This film aired in 1997 as the first-hour of the PBS/ITVS series Making Peace.

Passin’ It On

This one-hour film chronicles the life, false imprisonment for nearly twenty years, and release of former Black Panther Party leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad in New York City. Executive Producer: Sam Pollard. Received a primetime national broadcast on the PBS series POV in 1994. 

Selected Awards

  • San Francisco International Film Festival – Golden Gate Award
  • USA Film Festival – Grand Prize
  • USA Film Festival – Best Non-Fiction Film
  • Chicago International Film Festival – Gold Plaque Award
  • EarthPeace International Film Festival – People’s Choice Award
  • National Educational Film Festival – Silver Apple Award
  • Philadelphia International Film Festival – Best Short Documentary
  • Worldfest Houston – Gold Award
  • Ann Arbor Film Festival – Michael Moore Award, Best Documentary
  • Nashville Independent Film Festival – Award of Excellence
  • Three Rivers Film Festival – Best of Show
  • Big Muddy Film Festival – First Place
  • Charlotte Film and Video Festival – Gold Juror’s Choice
  • Atlanta International Film Festival – Best Short Documentary
  • North Carolina International Film festival – Best Documentary
  • Columbus International Film Festival – Bronze Plaque Award
  • Bombay International Film Festival – Best First Film of a Director
  • Black Maria Film Festival – Jurors Choice Award
  • Long Island Film Festival – Best Documentary
  • Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – Student Emmy Award
  • Upland Main Street Film Festival – First Place Documentary
  • National News and Documentary Emmy Award nomination for editing