‘The Janes’ Filmmakers Win duPont-Columbia Journalism Award!

On Monday, February 6th, Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin won the duPont-Columbia Silver Baton award for their documentary The Janes. The Alfred I. duPontColumbia University Awards honor excellence in television, radio and digital journalism, and are considered some of the most prestigious awards in journalism. 

The Janes is a documentary about The Jane Collective, a group of women in Chicago who provided abortions to thousands of women prior to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1972. Mixing archival footage with recent interviews of the Janes (now much older, of course), Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin create a heartfelt and informative account of the incredibly important work that these women did.

“When I say The Janes changed my life, they changed my life.”

In my review of The Janes (written when it opened in theatres last year), I said: “The Janes is a must see documentary. It is, first and foremost, informative, with a comprehensive overview of the history surrounding reproductive rights and lots of archival footage of the protests and general climate of 1960’s Chicago. But it is also emotional, taking an empathetic approach to the personal stories of women affected by this history. As one interviewee – Dorrie Barron – emphatically states: ‘When I say the Janes changed my life, they changed my life.'”

This quote highlights just how deserving Emma and Tia are of the duPont-Columbia Award; The Janes is an extremely well-done documentation of a piece of history that more people should know about (especially now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe in their recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision).

Both Emma and Tia have strong quals in the documentary film world.

Emma produced Jane Fonda in Five Acts, one of my personal favorite documentaries. As I described this documentary in my review, Jane Fonda in Five Acts “explores Jane Fonda’s life to date divided into five movements: her childhood, her three marriages, and finally herself. Emotional, honest and strikingly brave, this film is a masterpiece.” 

Tia, on the other hand, received international acclaim in 2009 for Trouble the Water, a film about Hurricane Katrina which she co-directed/co-produced with Carl Deal. In her review, FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner described Trouble the Water as “A triumph of documentary filmmaking.” Following Kimberly Rivers Roberts – a young Black woman who documented the whole of Hurricane Katrina with a cheap camcorder – the film “melds first-person and third-person perspectives into a taut 96 minutes that both captures the moment and provides the context. Critics and audiences are all applauding…”. Critics certainly were applauding; Trouble the Water was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2009, as well as an Emmy Award for Best Informational Program in 2010. 

It’s safe to say that both Emma and Tia are passionate and talented filmmakers, with a profound ability to tell stories that truly matter. Their recognition as important journalists is apt. Emma and Tia dedicated their duPont-Columbia award to their editor, Kristen Huntly, but also to the women of the Jane Collective.

Congratulations to Emma and Tia, and to the incredible Janes. This honor is highly deserved all-around. 

© Julia Lasker (2/9/23) – Special for FF2 Media®


Read Julia Lasker’s review of The Janes here. 

Read Julia Lasker’s review of Jane Fonda in Five Acts here.

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of Trouble the Water here.

Stream The Janes here. 

Watch the duPont-Columbia Awards here.


Featured Photo & Bottom Photo: HBO / WarnerMedia

Tags: chicago, Dobbs Decision, documentary, DuPont-Columbia Award, Emma Pildes, Jane Fonda in Five Acts, Journalism, Kristen Huntley, The Jane Collective, The Janes, Tia Lessin, Trouble the Water

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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