Al Santana is a motion picture artist, photographer, and visual storyteller who is currently in pre-production on a feature narrative film titled ‘Vigilance’, a story of gentrification in the community of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and a music documentary series focusing on percussionists and drummers titled ‘Follow Your Dreams’. Upon his discharge from the US Air Force in I971, where he worked as a dental lab technician, Al Santana attended Staten Island Community College to pursue courses that would prepare him to transfer to Downstate Medical
Center to study dentistry. However, a six credit course in experimental cinema, which he took to hasten his transfer, changed his trajectory as he became enamored with the visual medium as a means of communicating. During his tenure at Staten Island Community College 1971-1973, Al took advantage of educational programs that broadened his understanding of the world through international travel; Ghana, Togo, Dahomey, South Korea, Hong Kong, The Peoples Republic of China and Japan. Al also used these opportunities to hone his skills as a budding still photographer, cinematographer and visual storyteller. Between 1977 and 1980 Al was staff cinematographer at New Jersey Public
TV where he lensed public affairs specials and documentaries. Among his credits are a documentary road film on song stylist Sarah Vaughan titled ‘Listen To The Sun’ and a documentary titled ‘Workin’ Or Slavin’ about prison inmate wages. Upon leaving the NJPTV, Al joined IATSE Local 600 motion picture photographers union and continued his career as a cinematographer and independent film producer/director. He shot segments of a popular public affairs show for WABC TV titled Like It Is With Gil Noble, and Entertainment Tonight for ABC. He also gained narrative feature film production experience working as a standby director of photography on ‘Roll Over’, directed by the late Alan Pakula, and ‘The Cotton Club’ directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Al’s seminal independent documentary film work ‘Voices Of The Gods’ about traditional West African religions that are practiced in the United States,premiered at the 1985 Margaret Meade International Film Festival. It has screened at various festivals and universities around the world and is in the permanent collection of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Research Center On Black Culture.
Between 1987 and 1993 Al Santana developed the first professional in-house video and photography unit for the New York City Transit Authority/MTA. He was responsible for producing corporate communications and training films. He also provided budget oversight and was responsible for managing and securing production equipment and outside technical services. As adjunct faculty, taught film and video production courses at the City College of New York for thirteen years 1994-2007. Al also taught digital film production courses at the Digital Film Academy in New York City from 2007-2010.
Al is a recipient of a 2007 New York State Council On The Arts independent filmmaker grant for a documentary film about U.S. merchant marines of color titled ‘Salty Dog Blues.’ The film, documents a piece of maritime history that has been overlooked and focuses on merchant seaman from Puerto Rico, the US Mainland, Jamaica and Surinam; their contributions in time of war and peace and their relationship to the National Maritime Union. Salty Dog Blues won first prize in the 2013 Workers Unite International Film Festival. ‘One People’ (2007) Al’s independent short hybrid narrative/documentary film features actors Kimmie Nicole, Jennica Carmona, Poet/playwright and activist, Amiri Baraka and Ruby Dee. The film focuses on two sisters who discover a politicized Lorraine Hansberry. ‘One People’ premiered at the 11th annual Harlem Stage On Screen Film Festival and was an official selection of Creatively Speaking Film Festival at BAM Rose Cinemas, the Martha’s Vineyard African -American Film Festival and as pa