Ruth Leitman has a BFA in Film and Photography from University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Through her company Ruthless Films, she has directed six feature length documentary films that have received funding from Rockefeller Foundation, Paul Robeson Fund, TriBeCa Film Institute, Fledgling Fund and Illinois Humanities Council. Her films focus on women and those whose lives have faced a lack of opportunity, but who are survivors
Leitman’s Southern Gothic film Alma (1998), won the Documentary Feature Jury Prize at Hamptons Film Festival, screened at International Documentary Film Amsterdam, South by Southwest, Director’s Guild of America and the Whitney Biennial. Her film Lipstick & Dynamite (2005) premiered at TriBeCa Film Festival and Hot Docs. It won the Documentary Storytelling Prize at Nantucket Film Festival, was released theatrically by Koch Lorber Films and broadcast on SHOWTIME. Lipstick was featured on Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and NPR’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Leitman wrote Fordson, which has garnered numerous festival awards. Most recently Tony & Janina’s American Wedding (2010) an immigration story, premiered at Chicago International Film Festival winning a Jury Prize. The film won several advocacy awards after it became a clear agent for change, after the film’s subjects were reunited in the US in August 2011.
In the summer of 2009, Leitman’s first documentary Wildwood, NJ. (1994) became a youtube viral hit. With over a millions views, featured on several best of year-end lists, hundreds of blogs including: Jezebel, Urban Outfitters, G4’s Attack of the Show, VH-1’s Best Week Ever, the film became a symbol of ‘90’s zeitgeist girl culture. It was appropriated and reused in pop culture media from the fashion runways of Milan to music videos of Lana Del Rey. Wildwood was invited to screen at Hot Doc’s fifteen-year anniversary festival in 2013.
Leitman’s freelance clients include: The Redwalls, Neko Case, Ronald McDonald House, Safe Humane Chicago, American Trial Lawyers Association, Sallie Mae Student Loans, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and Fair Wisconsin. Early work as a photographer includes: Rolling Stone, SPIN, Esquire, Working Mother, Newsweek, Outkast, Black Crowes, REM and Indigo Girls. Her work is a part of the permanent collections at the High Museum of Art and the Georgia Museum of Contemporary Art.
Leitman is a director on the upcoming documentary series Hard Earned produced by Kartemquin Films, which will air on Al Jazeera America in 2015.
She is currently in development on the 1950’s fiction feature film, The Pin-Down Girl, about the pioneers of women’s wrestling.
Leitman is on the faculty at Columbia College Chicago.