CTFF Filmmaker Highlight: Joel Gershon


CTFF Filmmaker Highlight: Joel Gershon


After graduating from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Joel worked as a producer for the groundbreaking Air America Radio network, working directly for Rachel Maddow and with such talents as Mark Maron and Al Franken.

In 2005, Joel became a reporter for the International Herald Tribune in Bangkok, fulfilling his lifelong dream of living and working abroad as a journalist. He then worked as the regional correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter before moving on to producing broadcast news pieces and short documentaries, which have aired internationally on CNN and Current TV and have been screened at various film festivals. Throughout his career, Joel has had the privilege of interviewing a variety of notable people including Maxine Waters, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Jeff Bridges, Amitabh Bachchan and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.


Joel later worked as a national television reporter and producer and as a university professor in Thailand, teaching media studies at one of the nation’s top schools.

After 12 years of living abroad, Joel moved back to the U.S. in 2017 after accepting a teaching job at American University in Washington D.C., and currently Joel is working as a content producer at the local cable channel, DCTV.

Joel will be attending the screening of his documentary film “Cirque Du Cambodia”

Opening Ceremony & Film Screening: Cirque Du Cambodia
Saturday, September 25th, 2021 @ 1:00 PM


Location: Art Theatre Long Beach. 2025 E 4th Street. Long Beach, CA. 90814
(Art Theatre mandate: Guests must be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination OR proof of a negative test result within 72 hours. Masks are required inside the theatre. Kids under 12 can enter with masks)


Originally a New Yorker, I moved to Bangkok to work as a print  journalist and television reporter/producer from 2005-2017,   where I was captivated by the many fascinating cultures I encountered as I explored the continent. But it was in 2011,  when I visited Cambodia that I came across something that struck me in the most magical and unexpected way. With few expectations, I went to local tourist attraction at a special arts  school, Phare Ponleu Selpak, in a small Cambodian village. 

There, I witnessed a circus show performed by local youths – some of whom were orphans, others  recovering drug addicts but all with little hope of a bright future. The palpable joy on the performers’ faces  (and the audiences’) gave me goosebumps and I knew right then and there that I had to capture those  faces, the mind-boggling circus tricks and the incredible stories of these young people’s lives. Little did I  know that telling the story of this special circus would consume my life for the next nine years.  

Phare’s circus is part of the “social circus” movement, which teaches circus arts to at-risk youths who  come from challenging backgrounds. I quickly learned about the benefits that come with circus training:  excellent physical fitness, a sense of responsibility and teamwork, an understanding of the importance of  staying focused and accomplishing goals. I grew to understand how social circus programs are an  effective way for vulnerable youths to escape poverty, potential danger and have a chance at a better life.  The importance of the circus and the arts in these young people’s lives was something I hadn’t seen,  heard or thought of before and it deeply moved me. 

As I learned more about Phare, I met two of its top students, Dina and Sopha, who were a cut above the  rest in terms of their abilities and dedication. They were so talented that they were accepted to train at an  elite circus school based in Montreal. That set into motion their quest to attain a seemingly impossible  dream: to perform with Cirque du Soleil, also based in Montreal. With a narrative this compelling, I knew  Dina and Sopha’s unique journey – from Cambodia to Cirque – would make a powerful and dramatic film.  

I wanted to share their determination and hope and promoting the concept of the social circus. I hoped  that others could see the importance of creativity and art in overcoming the many challenges that  vulnerable children around the world face. 

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