Creative & Production Team
Robert Bilheimer is the director, writer, and producer for Worldwide Documentaries, Inc, a not-for-profit film production company he founded in 1989 with his partner, longtime colleague, and senior producer Heidi Ostertag.
Robert has directed critically acclaimed films for 30 years that focus – although not exclusively – on global human rights issues. In 1989, Robert was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary for Cry of Reason, a feature-length film that profiles the South African anti-apartheid leader Dr. Beyers Naudé. In 1992, Robert made the definitive film version of Nobel Laureate Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, working from a script prepared especially by the author for the Smithsonian series Beckett Directs Beckett. Over the past fifteen years, two of Robert’s films-- A Closer Walk, about the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and Not My Life, about global human trafficking – have been seen by hundreds of millions of people across a broad set of global demographics, platforms, and networks, and remain the “go-to” films on their respective issues to this day. In 1996, Robert also made I’m Still Here, about families whose sons and daughters suffer from serious mental illness, especially schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
At 76, and a doting grandfather, Robert feels as though he is “just getting started,” and is launching into Running To Stand Still, a series of films about global forced migration, with all the passion and vigor that have characterized his work for three decades.
Robert was educated at the International School in Geneva, Switzerland; Hamilton College, where he received his B.A.; and Indiana University where he received his Master’s Degree in theatre and film. Before launching into his career as a documentary filmmaker, Robert worked as a freelance journalist, reporting for AFP and TIME from East and South Africa; as director in professional regional theatre, notably the Nairobi National Theatre; the Manitoba Theatre Center in Winnipeg; and the Rochester Shakespeare Theatre, which he founded. From 1968 – 1970, he also served a tour in the US Army, where he earned the Army commendation medal.
Robert spends as much time as he can hiking on the trails above the Finger Lakes in upstate New York where he lives with his family and Golden Retrievers, Mia and Eli.
Dr. Susan Bissell
Executive Producer, Advisor
Susan is currently a visiting scholar and senior fellow at the FXB Centre for Human Rights, Harvard University. A Canadian, she joined UNICEF headquarters in 1987, and served at the global children’s agency for 30 years. Early postings in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, and the Innocenti research center in Florence, Italy, culminated in her appointment as UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection, where she served until 2015. She then became the Founding Director of the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children. While in Bangladesh, Susan collaborated with filmmakers Catherine and Tareque Masud on the film A Kind of Childhood, and has been a close advisor to Worldwide Documentaries since 2000, and the production of A Closer Walk. Susan was awarded an honorary Professorship at Barnard College/Columbia University, and has also received the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award from Tufts University; the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal; and the Palme D’or, from Panathlon International. Now an independent advisor, she sits on the Board of Cure Violence, Voices of Resilience, and is a member of the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board.
Senior Producer | Impact Producer
One would be hard-pressed, anywhere in the international documentary filmmaking community, to find a producer as respected, admired, and beloved as Heidi Ostertag. During her 35-year career at Worldwide Documentaries, which began in 1985, she has established lasting personal and professional relationships with hundreds of individuals from all walks of life who are part of the documentary filmmaking process which she manages and oversees: funders, participants in, and subjects of, the films themselves; distribution partners, including NGOs and their staffs all over the world; production team members, advisors, consultants, board members…. The list goes on and on.
Heidi is also a brilliant researcher, incredibly hard worker, and a deeply compassionate human being. But perhaps the one thing everyone would say that best characterizes Worldwide’s Senior Producer: she is a person of enormous integrity and honesty, and you will always get a “good listen” from her, as well as a straight and thoughtful answer. It is difficult to overstate the contribution Heidi has made to Worldwide’s reputation and accomplishment over the years just by being the true professional she is.
In addition to her daily work responsibilities, Heidi has been married to Worldwide’s President and Director, Robert Bilheimer, for 20 years, at times a challenge in and of itself! But the family’s two Golden Retrievers, Eli and Mia, are a great distraction, as only goofy Goldens can be. She also finds renewal in the Adirondack mountains every chance she gets!
Director of Photography
Over the years as an Emmy nominated DOP/Cinematographer, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to experience situations that I would never have imagined possible. My work on films, national spots, high end corporate videos and documentaries has taken me to 6 continents, and over 50 countries; shooting on every format from 35mm Film to the Canon C300 Mark II. (Arri Alexa & Amira, RED, Varicams, Sony F55 to the FS7) From filming and lighting presidents, first ladies, dictators, and CEOS, to the ever "critical" Hollywood & Rock-n-Roll elite, I’ve learned how to adapt quickly to many situations and personalities. I’ve also filmed some of the worlds top athletes; travelling and filming in their home countries, to being on the field shooting a World Series or a Super Bowl. However, the love I have for filming human stories has not been limited to the famous. My work on documentaries has lead me into the gritty reality of of human trafficking and natural disasters, to people struggling with disease, drugs, and lack of education. I’ve been held at gunpoint in Sao Paulo with people demanding my footage (they didn't get it) and while in Uganda working having to watch helplessly as a baby died of AIDS. I believe there is no substitute for experience, and this combined with my ability to work with both client and crew to get the images we need, allows me to bring a unique talent to any production.
"Our work here at Worldwide is in the human rights arena, and I think Craig, as a human rights storyteller, is one of those rare people who feels what he sees, and sees what he feels, as only a true artist can. In the end, I think that will prove to be his valuable gift to the world in which we live. It certainly has been a gift to me,” says, Director Robert Bilheimer
Verónica Gabriela Cárdenas
Cinematographer | Project photographer | Translator |Facilitator
Verónica G. Cárdenas packs an enormous amount of artistic skill, energy, compassion and fearlessness as a documentary photographer whose young career has taken off like a rocket. Based in the southernmost region of Texas known as the Rio Grande Valley, migration issues are a recurring theme in her work, which she explores with astonishing sensitivity and insight. Her work has been featured in publications including TIME, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Texas Tribune, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, Texas Observer, Reuters, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed News, and the San Antonio Express News. Cárdenas is an International Women’s Media Foundation Fellow, an Eddie Adams Workshop alumni, and is currently a mentee under the Women Photograph Mentorship Program. She is also a participant in the New York Times Portfolio Review.
Along with Running Director Robert Bilheimer, one of Veronica’s favorite pastimes is taking naps. http://veronicagabriela.com/