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Karen Kramer Collection

Karen Kramer (b.1948) has been a documentary filmmaker since 1978, when her groundbreaking film about a small snake-handling church in Appalachia was released to widespread acclaim. Since then, she has independently produced a dozen other films about rituals, traditions, and communities around the globe, including such award-winning documentaries as The Jolo Serpent Handlers, Legacy of the Spirits, To Serve the Gods, The Last of the New York Cigar Rollers, Rice and Peas, Coney Island Mermaid, Celebration, Days of Awe, Haitian Song, Moko Jumbie, Breaking Leaves, Children of Shadows and The Ballad of Greenwich Village. Her films have been seen worldwide in over fifty countries on six continents.

Karen Kramer's films have received wide distribution both domestically and internationally. They have been televised, in whole or in part, on broadcast television—including NBC, WNET, CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show—as well as dozens of venues overseas. The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney and the Smithsonian are just a few of the hundreds of institutions that have shown her work, and over 150 universities screen her films regularly. 

Ms. Kramer has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as awards from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, the George Soros Foundation, UNICEF and many others. She holds a BFA in film production from New York University and teaches in the communications department at the New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village. She has been on the board of directors of many film organizations.

In addition to her film work, Karen Kramer is a freelance writer who has written numerous articles about film and other subjects for such publications as The Village Voice, New York Newsday, The Daily News, Time Out New York, the New York Post, Woman’s Own, The Independent, and many others. – adapted from

About the Collection

The Karen Kramer collection was donated by the artist to the Harvard Film Archive in 2016 and consists of seven 16mm projection prints of the following titles: To Serve the Gods (1982), Celebration! (1988), The Jolo Serpent Handlers (1977), Legacy of the Spirits (1985) and Haitian Song (1982).

Additional Resources

For more information about Karen Kramer, visit her personal websiteTo view The Jolo Serpent Handlers (1977) online, visit the Internet Archive.

To obtain screening copies (DVD and DSL) of Karen Kramer’s films, visit Documentary Educational ResourcesFor more information about borrowing or purchasing Karen Kramer’s films please email the filmmaker.

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