Resume of Collis Davis


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Personal Statement

I read somewhere that a web site should include a personal statement plus an educational summary. Perhaps this is a good idea for visitors who don’t wish to wade through my 8-page resume. I’ve also noticed that I don’t have any kind of biographical sketch either, so I have placed one below this personal statement in the About Collis H. Davis, Jr. paragraphs which include my educational background.

Although I am an outsider, an American expatriate, my experience here in the Philippines has offered me both privileges, for the most part, and drawbacks in other regards.

For example, frequently, but less so now than 10-15 years ago, great deference is extended to me simply because I am a foreigner (a “kano”, typically, “old kano”), and especially because I am an Americano. I get quite annoyed when this kind of deference is offered because I really don’t deserve any special treatment when Filipinos usher me to the head of a cue or line of people waiting for service or access. It’s embarrassing. I politely thank the individual and remain wherever I am in the back of the line. Speaking of lines or cues of people, it used to be when my my wife (asawa) and I first came to the Philippines (circa 1995) and were wholly dependent on public transportation to go anywhere, many people customarily barged ahead of others waiting patiently to board a provincial bus. Fortunately, I don’t see this kind of rude behavior anymore; now folks cue up in any kind of line. But when I see individuals attempting to barge in front the line, I stop them from doing so. Another case like this is when one individual, man or woman, barges into a hopelessly crowded train before letting others disembark the car, I usually speak up, loudly, berating the violator to wait until others fighting their way to get out of a train car as is the case with LRT or the MRT train lines. I have very little patience with such persons and stop them from violating the rights of others.

As a filmmaker, gaining access to resources in Philippine institutions has been somewhat problematic, mostly because I am either not taken seriously or I am deemed ineligible to participate due to my status as a foreigner. This latter situation is due to the reality of not being a citizen of the Philippines although I like to think of myself as being an “honorary Filipino”. But in regard to professional access, I’ve been discriminated against gaining access to Ilongot traditional music housed in the UP Ethnomusicology Center that was poorly run by the then National Artist for Music, the late Professor Jose Maceda. I fought him tooth and nail to use some of the Ilongot recordings made by the late Michelle Rosaldo and Renato Rosaldo. It didn’t matter to Prof. Maceda that I had Renato’s permission to use their recordings. But as a result, several years after Maceda’s passing, UP professionalized the Ethnomusicology Center. The completion of my film, Headhunting William Jones, depended in great measure on my finally gaining access to these Ilongot (Bugkalot) recordings made in 1966.

I am proud to say that my protest with Prof. Maceda resulted in a much-improved library of Philippine traditional music, now recognized by the United Nations as a cultural resource.

About Collis H. Davis, Jr.

Born in Hampton, Virginia, USA in 1942, Collis H. Davis, Jr., an African-American, has been a resident of the Philippines for the past 16 years.

With BS and MFA degrees earned respectively at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and New York University, plus three years in the US Army (1966-69), Davis embarked on a career in the visual arts, principally in filmmaking and still photography. But with the advent of the computer revolution and development of the Internet in the 1980s, he quickly envisioned the potential of producing interactive videos using then cutting-edge laser videodiscs, speech-recognition and touch-screen technology. The end result of his research was a work called Elegba’s Stratagem: An Interactive Narrative Video” that employed what he called “backtalk cinema”. Prior to his sojourn to the Philippines, Davis taught media courses at Pratt Institute and CUNY’s Brooklyn College, The Ohio State University, and later, the University of the Philippines-Diliman and De La Salle University, including graduate studio arts thesis project advisement and mentoring at Philippine Womens Unversity.

He has been an aficionado of jazz for five decades and written jazz reviews for print media in Chicago and New York, and was a New York photography stringer for Downbeat magazine. Davis earned a Master of Fine Arts degree (1975) from New York University’s graduate film and television school. Davis’s films and videos have been broadcast on US and international public broadcasting systems. Davis collaborated with Richie Quirino to produce a one-of-a-kind documentary, PINOY JAZZ: The Story of Jazz in the Philippines which was broadcast locally and internationally through ABS-CBN’s Myx Channel and Global TFC network. PINOY JAZZ is a ground-breaking work in that it is first documentary to tell the story of how African-American music came to influence the development of jazz in the Philippines from 1898 onward. Co-produced with Richie Quirino and Gus Lagman, this work has been shown in academic and public settings since its completion in 2006, and with a revision completed in 2009. Joining together with Richie Quirino, Davis designed and maintained the web site of the Jazz Society of the Philippines for 10-years. (, now defunct.)

The other main body of Davis’s work in documentary filmmaking consists of numerous projects produced over the decades since his graduation from NYU. Most notable among his documentaries is ”The Edification of Weldon Irvine”, his MFA thesis project. This 60-min work has been picked up by a Japanese group and they have released the documentary with Japanese subtitles in 2008. In 1981, Davis won a $19,000 WNET-TV TV Lab grant to produce Voyage of Dreams, a 27-min documentary about the Haitian Boat people which employed computer-graphic animation sequences. In terms of recent works, many have been “industrials” for NGOs and private businesses. Currently, Davis has just completed a 16-year long documentary called Headhunting William Jones, whose research was supported in part by two Senior Scholar Fulbright fellowships in 1995-96 and 2000-2001. The subject matter concerns the story of a Native-American anthropologist who came to the Philippines in 1907 to conduct research among a head-hunting group, the Ilongots (Bugkalots, today).

Presently, Davis is promoting Headhunting William Jones by submitting his 90-min work in festivals world-wide for 2017.
                                                                                                                                                         February, 2017


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