Founded in 2005, the Maysles Institute provides training and apprenticeships to underprivileged individuals and it films subjects who do not otherwise have a voice in the media. The Maysles Cinema is its movie theater in Harlem that presents a range of documentary films dealing with the diversity of people and cultures, visual history and questions of social justice.

The institute is led by the American documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles. He and his brother David (1932–1987) are considered the pioneers of direct cinema; they created the first narrative nonfiction feature-length films at the outset of their careers in the 1950s. Albert is legendary for his work in the films Psychiatry in Russia (1955), Youth in Poland (1957), Salesman (1968), Gimme Shelter (1970), Grey Gardens (1976) and his works featuring the artist Christo—Christo’s Valley Curtain (1974), Running Fence (1978) Christo in Paris (1990), Umbrellas (1995) and The Gates (2005)—among many other internationally acclaimed works. He also received special permission and exclusive access to film the 2003 visit of the Dalai Lama to New York City. He has been the cinematographer on 57 films, director for 35 films and the producer of seven. Many of his films have focused on music, art and artists.

The Maysles Cinema is located at the institute’s Harlem headquarters. Its many ongoing film series include:  Documentary Masterworks; Music on Film; American Prisons; Family Portraits; Globalization/Gentrification; and More from Docwatcher’s!



On Our Side: Teaching Documentary Film to the Children of Incarcerated Parents. This youth program addresses the communication barriers posed to children whose parents have been incarcerated. These young students learn documentary video production skills. In doing so, they receive professional training that will enable their employment in the future, among other benefits. The process teaches them to use filmmaking to tell their stories and to share their creations with their family members and the rest of the world.

Mentor Program. Selected students receive one-on-one instruction from professional filmmakers, editors, cinematographers and graphic artists in this after-school program. Students learn to outline, produce, shoot and edit their own film, and throughout the process they use the institute’s equipment, space and resources. Students must apply for this program to become a part of it. Please note that scholarships are available.


The institute’s Youth Education Program supports and encourages young filmmakers and artists by providing resources and opportunities that inspire positive communication and expression.