Mark Brecke is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer, whose work documents the stories of people victimized by war, ethnic conflict, and genocide. Since 1995 without benefit or influence from mainstream media organizations, he has covered some of the most troubled regions of the world. Mark's work has been exhibited at a wide variety of venues, ranging from micro-cinemas to the Toronto International Film Festival and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. His work has also been featured on CNN, National Geographic, NPR and Democracy Now!. His photographs are in the collections of the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the Museo de Memoria y Tolerancia in Mexico City.

Emerging from the late 1980's experimental film community in San Francisco ----an environment in which personal expression often prevails over commercial viability----Mark studied cinema with Philip Greene (apprentice of Ansel Adams and assistant to Dorothea Lange), and continued his studies at UC Berkeley with found-footage, underground filmmaker, Craig Baldwin.

In the 1980's, Mark began experimenting with Super 8mm film as his preferred medium, and for the past two decades, his films have incorporated, in varying degrees, an interplay of photographic stills, motion images, and found and recorded sound. His experimental documentary film War as a Second Language was composed from 15 years of newsreels, documentaries, and raw footage of the Vietnam War to create an audio track, which he then juxtoposed with moving and still images that he shot in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1995. Tourists replace soldiers and the audio mix becomes a haunting and evocative narrative about history and the legacies of war. Amnesty International added War as a Second Language to their permanent film archive in 2004.

In 2003, Mark was chosen to photograph on an ambitious book, Letters to America: A Chance for Us to Listen. A collection of letters from 46 countries expressed an eloquent range of impressions of the United States — hope, fear, anger, admiration, support. The project took Mark to Ghana, Romania, Laos, India, Kuwait to photograph the authors in their home counties. Included on the travel itinerary was Iraq, where Mark was one of the few embedded photographers present during the invasion who was not affiliated with any official media organization.

In 2004, Mark extended his tong-term project on genocide to cover the crisis in Darfur. He photographed the refugee camps in eastern Chad and traveled behind rebel lines in the Darfur region of Sudan. From 2004 to 2010 he presented his Darfur photographs and lectured to more than 100 different audiences, including the U.S. Senate. In 2006 the U.S. Senate selected ten of Mark's Darfur photographs to be displayed in the Russell Rotunda of the U.S. Senate Building. That same year he was invited to participate in the international multi-media group exhibition DarfurDarfur, which traveled to over 35 museums and galleries worldwide.

Mark's film on the Darfur crisis, the critically acclaimed They Turned Our Desert Into Fire (2007), won the International Jury Prize for best documentary at the 31st Sao Paulo International Film Festival (2007). It also won the top documentary award at the Artivist Film Festival in Los Angeles (2008). They Turned Our Desert Into Fire has worldwide broadcast and institutional distribution through Documentary Educational Resources. San Francisco's Purebred Productions produced the Film.

In addition to other ongoing projects, he has worked as a stills photographer on feature and documentary films since 2002.

Currently Mark is making a new film in Somalia.


The Lost Reel (2017) 17min. HD color, sound. The search for the lost history of Somali cinema turns into the search for a forgotten 1984 epic film in this personal essay documentary.

The Lost Leader (2016) 12min. HD, color, sound. An urbanized history of Somalia’s motion-picture industry uncovered in Mogadishu’s cinemas.

They Turned Our Desert into Fire (2007) 88 min. HD, color/b/w, sound. For twelve Amtrak passengers, a cross-country train trip becomes an emotional journey into the heart of the Darfur tragedy.

War as a Second Language (2002) 26 min. Super 8, color / b/w, sound. The sounds of the Vietnam war are juxtaposed with moving and still images that were shot in Vietnam and Cambodia in 1995. Tourists replace soldiers and the audio mix becomes a haunting narrative about history and the legacies of war.

Art, Occupation and Fear (2002) time-based installation,10min. Super 8, color, sound. The Second Intifada seen through Israeli and Palestinian artist.

Hilton Hotel (2001) 3 min. Super 8, b/w with Theremin sound track. A camera’s survey of an abandon hotel in the jungle of Cambodia’s south-western port of Kampong Som.

The Men's Room (1996, Super 8, with live recording of a confession, 7min).

Mannequin Duo Projection (1995) installation, 3 min. Super 8, color, inner-titles silent. A multiple projected narrative about the HIV epidemic told between three different women of color.

It's My News (1995) 10 min. Super 8, b/w time-lapse, sound. A POV street view through the display window of a coin operated newspaper box in San Francisco’s financial district from sunrise to sunset.

Bodega (1994) 20min. Video, Color, sound, with Jonathan Richman soundtrack. The America neighborhood corner grocery store, competing with the larger chain stores.

Kool-Aid (1989) 5 min. Super 8, color, silent. A life size Kool-Aid Pitcher takes on Toxic Man among the wreckage of San Francisco’s Loma Prieta earthquake.

MUNI (1988) 3min. Super 8, color, silent. A camera’s POV of a streetcar’s tracks, through the city of San Francisco.

Selected Lectures

2017 New York University (Cinema Studies)

2014 Aga Khan University, Nairobi Kenya.

2009 The South American Seminar for Promotion and Equality, Salvador Brazil.

2008 San Francisco Art Institute

2007 University of California Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism

2006 Google Tech Talk, Google headquarters, Mountain View California.

2006 World Affairs Council, San Francisco California.

2006 The Watson Institute for International Studies Brown University, Providence Rhode Island.

2005 Kennedy School of Government Harvard University, Cambridge MA.

2005 University of California Los Angeles, School of Law

2005 United States Senate, Washington D.C.

Partnership Projects

DarfurDarfur www.darfurdarfur.org

Google Earth in partnership with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. www.ushmm.org/googleearth/project/darfur/

New York Times Bestseller Not on Our Watch www.enoughproject.org

The Green Belt Movement www.greenbeltmovement.org

U.S. and Int'l Distribution (dvds and broadcast) Contact Documentary Educational Resources www.der.org