Kirk French

Film Production and Media Studies, Media Studies

Kirk French

Assistant Professor (Courtesy Appointment)


  • Ph.D., Penn State (2009, Anthropology)
  • M.A., University of Cincinnati (2002, Anthropology)
  • Bachelor's, Texas State University (1998, Athropology)



Kirk French is an award-winning professor of anthropology and Emmy-nominated filmmaker at Penn State University. As an anthropological archaeologist his earlier research focused on ancient water management technologies and landuse practices in Mesoamerica. Over the past five years French began to increasingly focus on visual anthropology, specifically documentary film.

His film projects focus on telling the stories of the cultural and environmental changes humans are experiencing in our rapidly changing world. Relying on a method of co-production with local residents, French aims to deliver a story that prioritizes the voices and perspectives of the people, to facilitate a documentary that remains in the authentic voice of the community. He recently finished his first feature-length documentary, Land and Water Revisited, which was nominated for an Emmy, took home several awards from international film festivals, and is currently available for streaming on PBS. He is currently working on his second film, A Century After Nanook.

For French, the rewarding nature (both personally and academically) of his film projects led him to create the Community-Oriented Research in Visual Anthropology (CORVA). The CORVA lab at Penn State produces both feature-length documentaries and short videos. In addition to being a video production lab, CORVA serves as a training facility for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Lastly, French developed ANTH140 - Anthropology of Alcohol (aka Booze and Culture), now the largest anthropology class in the United States with over 700 students enrolled each semester. The success of the course and the impact it has had on the more than 7000 students who have successfully completed it led to French being honored with the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020.



Kirk French
321 Carpenter Building