Dr. Joanna Lipper is an award-winning British-American filmmaker, photographer, author and lecturer, with a PhD in Women's Studies. Based in the UK, she runs Vertumnus Productions. With a focus on socially relevant, transnational feminist themes and a commitment to creating authentic, groundbreaking roles for women onscreen, this company is at the cutting-edge when it comes to engaging global audiences with films that inspire timely and provocative conversations. Current projects she is developing and attached to direct include a musical feature film adaptation of the novel Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. As a Lecturer at Harvard in the Department of African and African-American Studies, Joanna Lipper taught Using Film For Social Change (2011-2015). Dr. Lipper was a Research Associate at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, and an Academic Visitor at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford (2021-2023). Dr. Lipper is currently a member of the National Advisory Board of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.
Lipper’s most recent documentary, The Supreme Price, traces the evolution of the Pro-Democracy Movement in Nigeria and efforts to increase the participation of women in leadership roles. The New York Times called The Supreme Price “A Door Into Africa’s Recent History.” The Guardian included the film on a list of “Five Best Political Films in African Cinema.” The film received the Gucci Tribeca Spotlighting Women Documentary Award and was named Best Documentary at Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF). The film was nominated for a Grierson Award and an African Movie Academy Award.
Lipper’s work as a documentary filmmaker has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation/Just Films, ITVS, the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Women Make Movies, IFP Spotlighting Documentaries, Britdoc Foundation and The Fledgling Fund. An extended trailer from The Supreme Price was commissioned to launch Gucci's Chime for Change Women's Empowerment Campaign at TED 2013 and globally. The film was selected as the closing night event of the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2014. Impact and outreach campaign events related to the film were conducted in partnership with Women for Women International, Vital Voices and the U.N which distributed the film in Europe in their Ciné Onu Programme. The film was released theatrically and broadcast on television in over fifty countries.
Previous films Joanna Lipper has produced and directed include the award-winning documentary, Inside Out: Portraits of Children, Growing Up Fast and Little Fugitive. Lipper's nationally-acclaimed book about teen pregnancy and parenthood, Growing Up Fast, was published by Picador in 2003. Growing Up Fast tells the life stories of six teen mothers from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a post-industrial city in Berkshire County that was until the late 1980s, a manufacturing base for the General Electric Company. It documents the lives of these teenagers, their families and members of the community, as they witness factory closings and the transformation of their hometown under the strain of economic and social upheaval and the influx of drugs. From Publisher's Weekly: "Compelling and important...this book adroitly illuminates a social crisis." From The New York Times: "Lipper builds a detailed case against the systems -- schools, welfare, the Department of Social Services -- that repeatedly fail these girls." From Booklist: "This deserves a spot on the shelf near Robert Coles' similarly accessible investigations of contemporary social issues."
Lipper's photography has been published and exhibited at museums and galleries in the US and overseas. In 2016, her photographs were on view in London, featured in the exhibition Chief Nike Davies-Okundaye: The Power of One Woman at the Gallery of African Art (GAFRA).