Alumni Profile: Ernest D. Rose

Following service as a Navy pilot during World War II, Ernie Rose attended UCLA and became a member of the first class of film students in that newly established program.  Three years later he earned the first MA Degree ever awarded by the University of California for a documentary film he made in lieu of a traditional written thesis.  In a career spanning some 70 years he has worked on almost 200 non-fiction films in many parts of the world.  He has also done several pioneering research studies into how and why viewers react to films as they do.  His scholarly writing appears in 9 books and several interdisciplinary journals.

In 1953, while making films for the U.S. State Department, he was out in the streets amid the rioters shooting newsreels of the revolution in Iran when the government of the Shah was overthrown the first time by Prime Minister Mossadegh.  In 1968 Rose was kicked out of his hotel room in Czechoslovakia to make space for a Russian General the night hundreds of Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague to crush Premier Dubcek’s liberal political movement.    While working with the Los Angeles Fire Department Ernie learned to crawl through blazing buildings while shooting footage of fire fighters in action.  In the course of his work, he has had encounters with members of the notorious Triad gang in Hong Kong, and with a major drug lord in Medellin, Colombia.  While on an assignment in Malta, he witnessed the assassination by the Mossad of the head of Palestine’s Islamic Jihad movement who was staying at the same hotel that he was.  On a happier note, he was invited to tea by the Queen of Tonga while making two films in the South Pacific, one of them about Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visit to the islands.  Each year since then he’s reminded that the British monarch is exactly one month older than he is.

In mid career Rose was awarded a Mass Medi a Fellowship (a predecessor of today’s MacArthur Grants) by The Ford Foundation to do whatever he wanted for a year.  He used that time to enroll at Stanford University, earning a specially approved Ph.D. there combining advanced studies in the fields of Social Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, Political Sociology, International Relations and Communication Theory.   During the nineteen-sixties he headed the unit at Berkeley that made dozens of films and TV programs on four continents for professors and researchers on all nine campuses of the University of California. Rose has taught film making classes at six universities in the U.S. and several abroad as a 4-time Senior Fulbright Professor.  For the United States Information Agency and for the United Nations he has undertaken advisory assignments on communication matters to governments in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and Latin America.

Prior to retiring from academic life, Ernie served as the dean of a large liberal arts college at a university in Southern California and as dean of the renowned College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico.  During 1996 and 1997, he was called back to Washington and retained as a film consultant and expert witness by the U.S. Department of Justice where he was asked to appraise the dollar value of the famous 8mm camera original footage filmed by Abraham Zapruder of the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.

At age 93, Rose still teaches an occasional university class and presents a free, well attended, monthly screening and discussion series called “Documentary Film Masterworks” at several retirement communities in the Santa Rosa area, drawing mainly on his personal collection of more than 1,400 of the world’s best documentaries.  His latest research examines the differences  between the Oscar-winning Hollywood feature movie “ARGO” and an award-winning documentary on that same topic made by a colleague in Toronto a year later.

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