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Justin Schell


Minneapolis, MN      

I'm a filmmaker, writer, photographer, and the Digital Humanities Specialist for the University of Minnesota Libraries. My first documentary, Travel in Spirals, tells the powerful story of Hmong hip-hop artist Tou SaiKo Lee's journey back to Thailand, 30 years after he was born in a refugee camp there. I'm in the final stages of post-production on my first-full length documentary, We Rock Long Distance, weaves the story of Lee along with two other artists, M.anifest (originally from Ghana) and Maria Isa (born in St. Paul, MN but with "Sota Rican" roots in both New York and Puerto Rico) as they travel from Minnesota to their original homes of Ghana, Thailand, and Puerto Rico, while complicating the very idea of home in the process. 

 My video work has been shown in the Walker Art Center, TPT, and online at the Huffington Post and the Progressive. It's also been screened in the Twin Cities Film Fest, Twin Cities Underground Film Festival, and the Qhia Dab Neeg Hmong Film Festival. I've written journalism for the Walker Arts Center, Rain Taxi, Mshale, Twin Cities Daily Planet, and my history of Twin Cities hip-hop is published in the Hip-Hop in America. And I got a PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. My dissertation, which is related to the documentary We Rock Long Distance, is available online

I live in Minneapolis, but I'll always call the Boogie Down Brewtown of Milwaukee, WI home. 


Articles by Justin Schell:

Headlines July 11 2006 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: Music for a Talking Piece of Wood

Martin Bresnick's Pine Eyes whittles away at the saccharine Walt Disney version of Pinocchio, exposing a darker, unadorned version of the classic story. No lie.

Headlines June 13 2006 | By Justin Schell
Milwaukee: Killer Sound Art

A seminal Alvin Lucier sound installation triggers complaints of nausea by museum staffers.

Headlines April 18 2006 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: Promoting Sonic Literacy, By The Books

In possession of a digital sample library that numbers in the tens of thousands, The Books create music with a distinct identity, formed, in a gratifying paradox, from other people's...

Headlines March 23 2006 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: Building Digital Bridges

The 2006 Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Art brings together digital artists of various stripes for a celebration of all things plugged in.

Headlines February 22 2006 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: A Snapshot of Local Improv

An overview of the improv scene in the Twin Cities reveals a diversity of artists, venues, and record labels.

Headlines December 8 2005 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: Build It And They Will Come

The Renegade Ensemble's enlists armature musicians into its ranks, cultivating a more community-first approach which attracts a favorable crowd to this relative newcomer to the Twin Cities music scene.

Headlines November 9 2005 | By Justin Schell
Minneapolis: Un-Silent Film

A look inside the 2005 Sight Unseen film festival reveals a wide range of diversity.

Headlines September 12 2005 | By Justin Schell
Milwaukee: Art to Art

A look at the a new collaborative project introduced by the contemporary dance group Danceworks.