WHO WE ARE
Oh Mercy is a production of Worldwide Documentaries, a not-for-profit company that has focused on subjects of humanitarian concern for more than 30 years. Worldwide Documentaries is recognized throughout the international human rights community as a pioneer in distribution, awareness, and social impact strategies that enable films such as Oh Mercy to be effective and sustainable agents for social change.
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 over 30 years that focus – although not exclusively – on global human rights and social justice 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. In 2019, he received the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice for his film Not My Life.
Robert’s latest film, Oh Mercy-Searching for Hope in the Promised Land was released in February 2021. Oh Mercy is a documentary film about the thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Central America who awaited court dates and immigration hearings in the US under the policy of Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico”—many for well over a year. Increasingly desperate and discouraged, they huddled in squalid camps and detention centers on both sides of the Rio Grande, which for several hundred miles serves as a natural border between Mexico and the United States. The film in one year, has been accessed through its website thousands of times, and is being used in educational and faith based settings; by advocacy groups; as well as by individuals wanting to learn more about current US immigration policies.
At 77, and a doting grandfather, Robert feels as though he is “just getting started”. He is now working on a follow up film to Oh Mercy as part of 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 the trails in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York where he lives with his family and Golden Retrievers, Mia and Eli.
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.
EXECUTIVE 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!
CO-DIRECTOR | 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 | STILL PHOTOGRAPHER
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.
CINDY ANDRADE JOHNSON
Deaconess Cindy Andrade Johnson, of Travis Park United Methodist Church, is a humanitarian and advocate who has worked with migrants all her life. She lives with her husband Mike Johnson in the US/Mexican border town of Brownsville, Texas. Cindy also works as a consultant in the areas of Education, Cultural Competence, Migration and Missiology. Cindy’s involvement with the Matamoros camp is plentiful, as she ventures into the camp every Tuesday to bring supplies and medicine to the migrants in order to ensure their health. Cindy is also very adamant about speaking to and amplifying the voices of the migrants.
Alfonso Pozzo is a creative consultant, senior producer, showrunner, and five-time Emmy winner. Through his independent production company, Juxtapozz Films, Alfonso creates high-end original content for broadcast and digital platforms in domestic and international markets. Recent projects include the 30 for 30 ESPN documentary The Dominican Dream on the boom of Dominican immigration in 1980's New York seen through the prism of then top-ranked high school basketball player in the nation, Felipe Lopez. Prior to Jutxapozz, Pozzo spent over 18 years at Major League Baseball Productions & MLB Network where he worked as a Senior Producer on projects like the Emmy Award-winning Showtime series The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants. He also directed a number of feature-length documentaries, including Cuba: Island of Baseball, a look at the extensive and intertwined history of MLB and Cuban baseball and politics.
Born in Spain to a Honduran dad & a Cuban mom, Alfonso grew up in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and daughter. A big time sports and travel fan, he has been to over 50 countries for work and pleasure, including four FIFA World Cups, and has season tickets to the Brooklyn Nets.
WILL SEVERIN, HANDSOME SPYDER, INC.
Will Severin composes music for film, television, theatre and the web. Will received his BFA from SUNY Purchase following formal music training at the University of Miami and the Berklee College of Music. Classically trained, Will is adept at a wide range of musical styles and mediums, from classical to rock, film to theatre and has performed in Broadway pit orchestras and rock clubs across the country. Previous film scores include Dorian Blues, Nate Dogg, The Outage, and The Thing On The Doorstep. He composes music for commercials and corporate industrials for clients as diverse as New York Life, GE, Coca-Cola, Bell South, Raytheon and Home Depot. He has composed for numerous original stage productions and co-composed the scores for the award-winning musical A Tale of Cinderella with Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee George David Weiss. Will's record production credits include projects for Warner Music, Atlantic Records and various indie labels. In addition, Will is lead singer for progressive rock group Infinite Spectrum and guitarist/composer for jazz fusion group Crazy Swedes. Will is a partner in Handsome Spyder, Inc., a film production company specializing in the creation of high quality commercials, industrials, films, and web-based content. Will provides music, sound design and audio post services for numerous clients. Handsome Spyder has completed projects for clients including: Whirlpool, NY Life, United Way, SIXT, and numerous others.
EDITOR | CINEMATOGRAPHER
Mitchell is a recent graduate of the S.I. New House School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Based in New York City, and with his many talents, he is beginning what will be a successful career as a cinematographer and editor. In his capacity as an editor for Worldwide Documentaries, Mitchell has already demonstrated a remarkable gift for storytelling on film, producing both short and mid-length project videos. Mitchell spends his down time enjoying the outdoors through a variety of sporting activities, and following the Yankees.
Jim has been fortunate enough to have spent the last 4 decades creating award-winning work as an illustrator and graphic designer, living out a dream that has gone from crayons to computer screens. His work has been recognized by regional and national organizations including The Rochester Advertising Federation, The Society of Illustrators and Print Magazine. After spending 35 incredible years as part of a creative team, Jim has spent the last 4 discovering the freedoms that come with being his own boss. One of the great benefits of that change has been the opportunity to focus more of his creative energy and talents to partners and projects like Worldwide Documentaries and Oh Mercy. Jim has had the privilege of working with Bob and Heidi on two of their acclaimed films, A Closer Walk and Not My Life and is once again thrilled to be a small part of their latest contribution to the world.
“My work has always been about two things, discovering the essence of something through creative exploration and then capturing and communicating it in a way that is meaningful and beautiful to myself and others. Never boring, always challenging, I'm still learning new ways every day to try and make it happen.”
In his spare time, which he has a bit more of these days, Jim enjoy’s growing as a photographer, spending time with family and friends, listening to his music collection and exploring the outdoor world with his adventurous wife of 26 years. You can find them paddling across the water, peddling down the road, trudging up a mountain or gliding over the snow anywhere they can get to these days.
Oh Yeah, Go Bills!
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER | SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR
Erin Reilly is a recent graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY, where she obtained a degree in Media and Communication, with minors in English and Film and Television Studies. She comes to Worldwide Documentaries with an extensive writing background, with experience in journalistic writing, young adult fiction writing, and screenwriting. At Fisher, Erin was the managing editor of the college’s national literary magazine, ANGLES, and Editor-in-Chief of the Cardinal Courier. She hopes to pursue a career in screenwriting and young adult fiction writing.