Elizabeth Freya Garbus[1] (born April 11, 1970)[2] is an American documentary film director and producer.[3] Notable documentaries Garbus has made are The Farm: Angola, USA, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, Bobby Fischer Against the World, Love, Marilyn, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and Becoming Cousteau. She is co-founder and co-director of the New York City-based documentary film production company, The Story Syndicate.[4]

Liz Garbus
Liz Garbus
Elizabeth Freya Garbus

(1970-04-11) April 11, 1970 (age 52)
EducationBrown University
OccupationDocumentary filmmaker
Years active1993–present
SpouseDan Cogan
WebsiteOfficial website
Garbus at the Miami Film Festival presentation of Nothing Left Unsaid

Early life and educationEdit

Garbus grew up in New York City.[5] She is the daughter of civil rights attorney Martin Garbus and writer, therapist, and social worker Ruth Meitin Garbus. Her family is Jewish.[6][7]

In 1992, Garbus graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history and semiotics from Brown University.[5]


While in high school, Garbus made a documentary about students' last day of school.[8] Then while at Brown she took classes in video production.[5]

After college, Garbus worked as an intern at Miramax, eventually getting a job working for filmmaker Jonathan Stack.[5]

In 1998, The Farm: Angola, USA, which she co-directed with Jonathan Stack, was nominated for an Academy Award. The film garnered multiple awards including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and two Emmy awards.[9]

In 1998, she co-founded an independent documentary production company, Moxie Firecracker Films, with fellow Brown University alumna Rory Kennedy.[9] The company name is a combination of each woman's previously separate production companies: Kennedy’s company was called Moxie and Garbus’ company was called Firecracker.[5]

In 2002, Garbus' film The Execution of Wanda Jean was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.[9]

In 2003, Garbus directed The Nazi Officer's Wife, which was narrated by Susan Sarandon and Julia Ormond.

In 2005, Garbus collaborated with partner Rory Kennedy to executive-produce Street Fight about the 2002 Newark mayoral election; it was nominated for an Academy Award.

In 2006, the pair worked with actress Rosie Perez to produce her film Yo Soy Boricua.[10]

In 2007, Garbus' film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib premiered at Sundance and won an Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special of 2007.

In 2007, Garbus directed the film Coma, which aired on HBO in July of that year. The film follows four brain-injured patients receiving treatment at the JFK-Johnson Medical Facility in New Jersey.

In 2009, Garbus’s film, Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (HBO) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

In 2011, There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane was chosen to be a part of HBO’s Documentary Films Summer Series.

In 2011, Garbus directed Bobby Fischer Against the World, which chronicled the great Cold War showdown between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972.[11] The film premiered on HBO and opened the Premiere Documentary Section of the Sundance Film Festival.

Bobby Fischer Against the World, opened the documentary section of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, reserved for master American documentary filmmakers.[12]

In 2011, Garbus was nominated a second time for an Academy Award, for her film Killing in the Name, which she produced with her producing partner Rory Kennedy.[13]

Garbus' 2012 film, Love, Marilyn featured Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Lindsay Lohan, Lili Taylor, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and others reading from Monroe’s never-before-seen private writings. The film opened as a Gala Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was acquired by HBO for a 2013 debut.

Love, Marilyn, internationally opened as a Gala Premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and aired on HBO summer of 2013.[14]

In 2014, A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, which Garbus directed and produced, premiered on HBO and featured first-hand accounts of veteran firefighters and interviews conducted by former FDNY member Steve Buscemi.

In 2015, she directed What Happened, Miss Simone? a documentary about the singer Nina Simone. What Happened, Miss Simone? was the opening night film for Sundance Film Festival, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature 2015, a Grammy for Best Music Film 2015, and Garbus was nominated for a DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary. The film was released by Netflix on June 26, 2015. It won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.

In January 2018, The New York Times announced that Garbus and a documentary crew have been "basically living in the @nytimes newsroom since Inauguration Day [with] full access to the Russia investigation and much more."[15][16] The completed work called The Fourth Estate airs on Showtime May 2018.[17]

In May 2018, HBO premiered Garbus' documentary, A Dangerous Son, which portrays three families as they deal with the severe mental illness of three different children, and efforts to get treatment and navigate the health care system.[18][19] Garbus' subject and editing, focuses on: abandoned; alienated, and / or; rejected children; who then 'turn in on themselves'; become overly-mature, partly (similar to a bruised fruit) to become child prodigies, so as to 'become their own parents', exhibit narcissistic aspects and struggle with socialisation, similar to a 'fish out of water'.

In September 2020, Garbus released All In: The Fight for Democracy, a documentary film about voting rights in the United States starring voting rights activist Stacey Abrams and featuring other American politicians including former United States Attorney General Eric Holder and then-Representative Marcia Fudge.

In 2021 Garbus released "Becoming Cousteau" with National Geographic Films.[20]

Personal lifeEdit

Garbus is married to film producer Dan Cogan. They have a daughter and a son.[21]


Year Film Director Producer Notes
1996 Final Judgment: The Execution of Antonio James Yes
1998 The Farm: Angola, USA Yes Yes
1999 Different Moms Yes Executive
2000 Epidemic Africa Yes Documentary short
2000 The Changing Face of Beauty Yes Yes Co-directed with Rory Kennedy
2000 Juvies Yes Yes
2000 True LifeMTV Yes Yes Episode: "The Travelers"
2002 The Execution of Wanda Jean Yes Yes
2002 Schooling Jewel Yes
2003 Together: Stop Violence Against Women Yes
2003 A Boy's Life Yes
2003 The Nazi Officer's Wife Yes
2003 Pandemic: Facing AIDS Yes TV Mini-Series documentary
2003 Girlhood Yes Yes
2003 Con Man Co-executive
2004 Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable Yes
2005 Xiara's Song Yes Yes Cinemax
2005 P.O.V. Executive Episode: Street Fight
2006 Yo soy Boricua, pa'que tu lo sepas! Yes Yes Co-directed with Rosie Perez
2006 Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America Yes Episode: "The Homestead Strike"
2007 Addiction Yes Episode: "Brain Imaging Brookhaven National Laboratory"
2007 Coma IV Yes Yes
2007 Ghosts of Abu Ghraib Yes
2009 Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech Yes Yes
2010 Family Affair Yes
2010 The Fence (La Barda) Yes Documentary short
2010 Killing in the Name Yes Documentary short
2011 Bobby Fischer Against the World Yes Yes
2011 There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane Yes Yes
2011 The Fight for Fischer's Estate Yes Yes Video documentary short
2011 Chess History Yes Yes Video documentary short
2011 Focus Forward: Short Films, Big Ideas Yes Documentary short
2012 Love, Marilyn Yes Yes
2012 Robot Yes Yes Documentary short
2014 A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY Yes Yes
2013 Before the Spring: After the Fall Yes
2015 What Happened, Miss Simone? Yes Yes
2016 Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper Yes Yes
2018 The Fourth Estate Yes Yes
2018 A Dangerous Son Yes
2019 Who Killed Garrett Phillips? Yes Yes Two-part documentary
2020 Lost Girls Yes Executive
2020 I'll Be Gone in the Dark Yes Yes Six episodes
2020 All In: The Fight for Democracy Yes Yes
2020 Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You Yes Concert film
2021 The Handmaid’s Tale Yes
2021 Becoming Cousteau Yes Yes

Works and publicationsEdit

  • Garbus, Elizabeth Freya (1992). Feminine Transgression – Historicizing desire and subversion in Contemporary France (Thesis/dissertation). Providence, RI: Brown University. OCLC 549674496.
  • Garbus, Liz (2015). "Chapter 18: Prisons". In Quinn, James (ed.). Adventures in the Lives of Others: Ethical Dilemmas in Factual Filmmaking. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. ISBN 978-0-8577-2652-0. OCLC 925780839.

Selected honors and awardsEdit


  1. ^ Garbus, Elizabeth Freya (1992). Feminine Transgression – Historicizing desire and subversion in Contemporary France (Thesis/dissertation). Providence, RI: Brown University. OCLC 549674496.
  2. ^ Salamon, Julie (26 October 2003). "Film; A Filmmaker Who Chooses to Live Behind Bars". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Galloway, Stephen; Kilday, Greg; Gibney, Alex; Moore, Michael; Garbus, Liz; Berg, Amy; Vserhelyi, Chai; Dick, Kirby (25 January 2016). "Oscars 2016: Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, and More Documentarians on THR's Roundtables" (Video roundtable). The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  4. ^ The Hollywood Reporter Staff (May 12, 2021). "The Hollywood Reporter's 2021 Women in Entertainment Power 100". THR.com. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e Schwartzapfel, Beth (January 2007). "No Degrees of Separation". Brown Alumni Magazine. Brown University.
  6. ^ Pressler, Jessica (21 June 2009). "123 Minutes With Liz and Martin Garbus". New York.
  7. ^ Bloom, Nate (February 25, 2016). "The tribe at the Oscars, 2016". Times of Israel.
  8. ^ Feinberg, Scott; Garbus, Liz (13 November 2012). "Liz Garbus Interviewed by Scott Feinberg" (Video interview). Scott Feinberg. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  9. ^ a b c "Featured Artist: Liz Garbus". Center for Social Media, School of Communication. American University. August 2007.
  10. ^ Conan, Neal; Perez, Rosie; Smits, Jimmy; Garbus, Liz (12 June 2006). "Rosie Perez Film Explores Puerto Rican Pride" (Audio interview with transcript). Talk of the Nation. NPR.
  11. ^ Davies, Dave; Garbus, Liz; Saidy, Anthony (25 May 2011). "Bobby Fischer Biopic: A Chess Champ 'Against The World'" (Audio interview with transcript). Fresh Air. NPR.
  12. ^ "Bobby Fischer Against the World". Sundance Film Festival. 2010. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010.
  13. ^ "Documentary Short Film: Killing in the Name". Oscars. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011.
  14. ^ Vlessing, Etan (14 September 2012). "Toronto 2012: HBO Doc Films Takes U.S. Rights to Liz Garbus' 'Love, Marilyn'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  15. ^ Sam Dolnick [@samdolnick] (7 Jan 2018). "A documentary film crew has been basically living in the @nytimes newsroom since Inauguration Day. They have had full access to the Russia investigation and much more. It's made by Oscar nominee @lizgarbus. Airs in May on @Showtime" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ "We just announced a new revealing multi-part..." Showtime All Access. 6 January 2018.
  17. ^ Evans, Greg (6 January 2018). "Liz Garbus' New York Times Documentary Gets May Premiere On Showtime – TCA". Deadline.
  18. ^ Erbland, Kate (16 April 2018). "'A Dangerous Son' Trailer: Liz Garbus Chronicles Children Struggling With Mental Illness in a Chaotic World". IndieWire.
  19. ^ Doubek, James; Garbus, Liz; Handel, Sarah; Le, Viet (6 May 2018). "The Struggle Of Finding Help For 'A Dangerous Son'" (Audio interview includes transcript). Weekend Edition. NPR.
  20. ^ Becoming Cousteau, retrieved 2022-03-23
  21. ^ Hampton, Rachelle (15 February 2018). "My Parents' Work-Life Balance: When Your Mom Is a Documentary Filmmaker and Your Dad Is the Producer of Icarus". Slate.
  22. ^ "Liz Garbus". Forum on Law Culture & Society. NYU School of Law. 2009.
  23. ^ "What Happened, Miss Simone?" (Includes video). Peabody Award. 2015.

External linksEdit