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James Baldwin: The Price of The Ticket

This taut and compelling documentary profiles the life and work of author/civil rights activist, James Baldwin. Featuring interviews with James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Paul Winfield, William Styron and others, the film captures the enduring spirit, honesty and intelligence of Baldwin at a point of reflection in his life.

About the Director

Award-winning writer/filmmaker Karen Thorsen finds inspiration at the intersection of art and social justice.  Her heroes are game-changers, the artist/activists who shape history; her films tell stories without narration, weaving first-person narratives with archival treasures. Thorsen began as a writer. After graduating from Vassar College, with a year at the Sorbonne, she was an editor for Simon & Schuster, journalist for LIFE Magazine, and foreign correspondent for TIME. Screenwriting followed, then directing. Her first feature-length documentary as Producer/Director was the award-winning JAMES BALDWIN: THE PRICE OF THE TICKET—with Co-Producers Bill Miles & Douglas K. Dempsey, Executive Producers Albert Maysles & Susan Lacy for PBS/American Masters.

Widely considered a classic, the film has been honored in twenty-five countries … and is a centerpiece of Thorsen’s non-profit initiative, the JAMES BALDWIN PROJECT (JBP). Supported by the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and State Humanities Councils, JBP outreach & engagement has already reached tens of thousands. In 2014, the original 16mm BALDWIN was restored and re-mastered; in 2015, JBP launched a nationwide series of film screenings, live presentations and public forums focused on inclusion and the meaning of brotherhood. Now, for Baldwin’s 2024-25 Centennial, JBP is exploring the
theme Identity, Then and Now, one community at a time. “We use the arts to open minds and change lives, with James Baldwin as catalyst.  To ensure that his message—that inequality and injustice impact ALL of us—will be heard and debated by those who need it most.  To engage diverse communities, to inspire dialogue across differences, to help us find common ground.  To expand understanding of ourselves and each other.”

Other JBP efforts include JAMES BALDWIN ON OUR SHOULDERS, a memoir of Thorsen’s collaboration with Baldwin, both while he was alive and after his death. Two excerpts have been published as essays by the prestigious James Baldwin Review; the book version will be released in 2025. Its narrative chronicles the “head-on collision of straight White female, gay Black male, generations apart—with more in common than most people realize.”

Additional Thorsen credits include broadcast productions and museum installations, often in collaboration with DKDmedia’s Douglas K. Dempsey. Their films have screened on six continents and in six museums on the National Mall; permanent installations include the Smithsonian Museum of American History, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Great Platte River Archway and Pilgrim Hall Museum. Recognition for their work ranges from multiple THEA and festival honors to Parents Choice and the Oscar Short-List. Most recently, Thorsen & Dempsey co-directed the Play-on-Film NICE MAN COMETH: a collaboration with Michael Tucker & Jill Eikenberry, presented online by a series of theater companies in 2021-22. JOE PAPP IN FIVE ACTS—a feature-length portrait of the man who founded NYC’s Public Theater and free Shakespeare in the Park, Co-Produced/Co-Directed by Tracie Holder & Karen Thorsen—premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, then on PBS/American Masters in 2022. Currently in development is Thorsen & Dempsey’s
THOMAS PAINE: VOICE OF REVOLUTION, an NEH-funded feature-length documentary.

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