Aviva Slesin

  • Oscar-Winning Documentary Producer

An Academy Award-Winning producer, Aviva Slesin creates artful documentaries that shed new light on countless emotional and complex stories.


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Talks & Conversations with Aviva Slesin

An Evening With Aviva Slesin


Aviva Slesin is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Aviva won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary for her film The Ten Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table in 1987. She is member of the Directors Guild of America and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Aviva has been a MacDowell Fellow and has had a special exhibition of her work, called The Long and Short of It, shown at the Sundance Film Festival.

Aviva was born in Lithuania. She was hidden as a baby during the last years of World War II by a Christian family who risked their lives by hiding her. At the end of the war, her mother, who survived a concentration camp, retrieved Aviva, and they lived in Munich, Germany, before emigrating to America in the mid 1950’s.

Aviva’s career was launched in 1975 as a freelance film editor with Shirley MacLaine’s A China Memoir: The Other Half of The Sky, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary. Next, she edited Making Television Dance, Making Television Dance, about choreographer Twyla Tharp, followed by The Rutles, a Beatles satire directed by Gary Weis and Monty Python's Eric Idle. In 1981, Aviva made the transition to independent producing and directing with nine comedy shorts for Saturday Night Live, one of which - Singing Dogs with Bill Murray - was featured at that year's New York Film Festival. In 1981, Aviva started her own production company, Aviva Films NY. Then she directed and edited Directed by William Wyler, a biography of the late Hollywood director, which aired on PBS on American Masters and was shown at the London, Venice, Sundance and New York Film Festivals in 1986. It was also nominated for an Emmy.

In 1987, Aviva won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary for The Ten Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table. And, in 1990, she directed Stood Up!, an ABC After School Special. Voices in Celebration, a documentary on the National Gallery of Art for their fiftieth anniversary, appeared next. Followed by the documentary Hot on the Trail: Sex, Love and Romance in the Old West, which she produced and directed for TBS.

Since 1995, Aviva has produced and directed short segments for The Rosie O'Donnell show, Kids Talk, Edgewise, HBO's Real Sex, and Religion and Ethics News Weekly. In 2003, she produced and directed, Secret Lives: Hidden Children and Their Rescuers During World War II, which was nominated for two Emmys in 2004 and won the Christopher Award that year. Secret Liveswas shown on HBO/Cinemax, was a critic’s pick of the New York Times and was named as one of the best 10 documentaries of the year by Andrew Sarris.