Jed Riffe

Jed Riffe is an award-winning independent filmmaker best known for his film Ishi, the Last Yahi. Produced and Directed by Jed Riffe and Pam Roberts, written by Anne Makepeace and narrated by Academy Award winner Linda Hunt, the Emmy-nominated, dramatic documentary was shot in 16mm film and released theatrically in 35mm by Roxie Releasing.

Ishi, the Last Yahi won “Best Documentary” awards at eight major national and international film festivals, including a “Best of Festival” award from the National Educational Film and Video Festival and a Gold Hugo in History from the Chicago International Film Festival. The film was broadcast in the U.S. on the PBS “The American Experience” series, and National Geographic Television International is currently releasing it worldwide.

With the advent of high-quality digital technologies, Jed is now producing documentaries and feature-length motion pictures in DVCAM and HDTV. In 2001, he founded Jed Riffe Films, LLC, to continue his lifelong work of producing and directing cinematically compelling and socially meaningful film, television, and interactive programs. All of his film projects feature an extensive grassroots and national outreach campaign.

Riffe is currently the co-executive producer of Beyond the Dream: California and the Rediscovery of America, a four-hour series exploring the dynamics of culture, identity, and civic engagement within the most multiethnic state in America. As America’s cultural center slides westward and so-called minorities become majorities in state after state, life in the Golden State offers Americans a glimpse into the future.

The series is funded by PBS, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, ITVS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Diversity Initiative. Emiko Omori and Jed Riffe are producing and directing two episodes of the four-part series: Against the Grain: Sustainability, Agriculture, and the Foods We Eat, and California Indians: The New Gold Rush.

In 2001, Riffe completed post-production on Who Owns the Past?, an hour-long documentary on the American Indian Struggle for control of their ancestral remains. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc., and the Ford Foundation, Who Owns the Past? was selected for screening at seven national and international film festivals where it has won numerous awards. In 2001, PBS selected Who Owns the Past? for broadcast on its new series, “Independent Lens.” PBS and CPB also funded Riffe to produce an interactive website,, to accompany the national broadcast of the program. The film is now being used as an organizing and educational tool by tribal governments and social justice organizations.

Jed recently completed principal photography on Convention, AKA The Heart of the Possible,, a feature-length dramatic motion picture about the American political system. Written by journalist Norman Solomon and being filmed in HDTV, production on The Heart of the Possible commenced at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and principal photography was recently completed in San Francisco.
In February and March of 2000, Riffe produced the HDTV component of a 19-day on-location shoot in the Amazon region of Brazil. The international documentary TV series Amazonia: Mother of Nature, a series on sustainable development in the Amazon, is being directed by Luiz Lobo for DTVisions, Inc. The series is part of a major enhanced TV and broadband media project.

In April of l999, Riffe produced and directed an HDTV shoot at Grotte de Chauvet in the south of France for Cairnstone Film, LLC. The footage is for a series on the evolution of man told through the oldest cave art in the world.

In addition to the above films, over the last 27 years Riffe has produced many other highly regarded documentary films for PBS, The History Channel, and NHK (Japan), including: Rosebud to Dallas: Relocation of the American Indian, Promise and Practice: The Housing and Community Development Act, and Ishi, the Last of His Kind.

He also produced and directed three interpretive documentaries and interactive programs: Roots of Beauty, for the National Museum of the American Indian; Bear’s Hiding Place, for the Lassen National Forest; and California: A Place, A People, A Dream, for the Oakland Museum of California History. In 2000, he directed a two-camera digital video shoot on the outer islands in southeast Alaska for the Tongass National Forest.

Jed is a long-time member of the International Documentary Association, the Film Arts Foundation, Association of Independent Film and Video Makers, and the Bay Area Video Coalition, where he is on the producers advisory committee. In addition to his eight “best of festival” documentary awards, in 2001, he was awarded a Gerbode Fellowship for his accomplishments in nonprofit arts.

Showing all 8 results

  • film_83

    Bear’s Hiding Place: Ishi’s Last Refuge

    This documentary journey into the past follows a contemporary archaeological expedition to find and confirm the location of Wowunupo’mu Tetna, or Bear’s Hiding Place, the last refuge of the Yahi and of Ishi before his dramatic appearance in 1911.

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  • film_160

    California and the American Dream

    This incisive, thought-provoking four-part series explores the dynamics of culture, community, and identity in California, one of the most diverse places in the world. Each film provides a trenchant and highly discussible case study of divergent California social trends that are keenly evident all across America.

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  • film_156

    California’s “Lost” Tribes

    This insightful documentary explores the conflicts over Indian gaming and places them in the context of both California and Native American history. The film examines the historical underpinnings of tribal sovereignty and the evolution of tribal gaming rights. It illustrates the impact of gaming on Indian self-determination, and the challenges that Native people face in defining the identity of their people for the future.

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  • film_12

    Ishi, the Last Yahi

    This widely acclaimed film recounts one of the most extraordinary and important stories in American history and explains its contemporary relevance with power and eloquence.

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  • film_159

    Ripe for Change

    This fascinating documentary explores the intersection of food and politics in California over the last 30 years. It illuminates the complex forces struggling for control of the future of California’s agriculture, and provides provocative commentary by a wide array of eloquent farmers, prominent chefs, and noted authors and scientists.

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  • film_84

    Roots of Beauty

    This richly detailed documentary illustrates the complex processes utilized by Pomo Indian weavers of northern California to cultivate, manage, harvest, and prepare the indigenous plant materials used in their world-famous baskets.

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  • film_154

    Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law

    This provocative and powerful documentary explores the conflict over the legalization of medical marijuana in the United States. Ten states have passed legislation permitting the use of medical marijuana. Yet all marijuana use, cultivation, and possession — for any reason — remain illegal under federal law.

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  • film_41

    Who Owns the Past?

    This outstanding documentary relates the powerful history of the American Indian struggle for control of their ancestral remains.

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