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Photograph of Bill Gentile

Bill Gentile Journalist in Residence Film and Media Arts

Additional Positions at AU
Director, Backpack Journalism Project
Bill Gentile is an independent, national Emmy Award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker teaching at American University (AU) in Washington, DC. His career spans four decades, five continents and nearly every facet of journalism and mass communication.

He covered the U.S.-backed Contra War in Nicaragua and the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s; the U.S. invasion of Panama; the 1994 invasion of Haiti, the ongoing conflict with Cuba, the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s worked across Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Chad, Angola, Rwanda and Burundi. His book of photographs, “Nicaragua,” won the Overseas Press Club Award for Excellence, Honorable Mention.

He is a pioneer of “backpack video journalism” and author of the highly acclaimed “Essential Video Journalism Field Manual” and its Spanish-language version, “Manual Esencial de Produccion Video Periodismo.” He teaches the first-ever Spanish-language class at AU’s School of Communication (SOC), “Backpack Documentary en Español.”

He is the director, executive producer and host of the documentary series, FREELANCERS with Bill Gentile. He engineered the School of Communication’s 2015 partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and is the driving force behind that initiative. Gentile helped found, and is the faculty advisor of, the AU student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the organization’s first student chapter in the nation’s capital. He is a member of the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium Advisory Board. He is a member of the Overseas Press Club (OPC) Foundation Board of Directors. He is advisor to the Association of Foreign Correspondents in the United States.

Gentile collaborates on filmmaking with the university’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS). His recent work includes “Fire and Ice on the Mountain,” about the diminishing glacier at Huaytapallana, Peru, and its impact on the local population’s spiritual relationship with the environment. He also produced “When the Forest Weeps,” a short film that examines how Ecuador’s Kichwa Indians struggle as their deep spiritual relationship with the Amazonian rain forest diminishes in a clash with the forces of so-called modernity. In 2013, he shot, produced, wrote and narrated a three-part film series on religion and gangs in Guatemala. They are, “I. The Gangs,” “II. The Researcher,” and “III. The Pastor.”

Bill Gentile began in 1977 as reporter for the Mexico City News and correspondent for United Press International (UPI) based in Mexico City. After covering the 1979 Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, he spent two years as editor on UPI’s Foreign Desk in New York, then moved to Nicaragua and became Newsweek Magazine’s Contract Photographer for Latin America and the Caribbean.


Spring 2024

  • COMM-544 Foreign Correspondence

  • COMM-560 Backpack Documentary

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

International affairs, conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism, Latin America and the Caribbean, foreign correspondence.

Selected Publications

  • Nicaragua, book of photographs made in that Central American nation during the Contra War of the 1980s. Published by W.W. Norton.

Media Appearances

Professional Presentations


Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

“Nurses Needed” and “Afghanistan: The Forgotten War,” stories done for NOW on PBS, named Number 1 and Number 3, respectively, as the top stories broadcast by NOW in 2008.





Professional Services

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

International affairs; photojournalism; conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism, Latin America and the Caribbean; foreign correspondence; backpack documentary; social documentary; .

Additional Information

Bill Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker at American University, where he brings 30 years of field experience and professional contacts to the next generation of communicators. In 2008, Gentile traveled with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province. The film he produced and shot, Afghanistan: The Forgotten War, was broadcast by NOW on PBS. Later in the year he shot and produced a story on America’s nursing shortage, also broadcast on PBS. In December C-SPAN broadcast, The White House: Inside America’s Most Famous Home, on which he worked as Documentary Consultant. Gentile teaches Photojournalism, Foreign Correspondence and Backpack Documentary

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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