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Rites of Passage

A handsome filmmaker gets reel, as his new documentary about the Panama Canal hits big on the festival circuit.

Douglas’ Hots: 4K video, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Beaver’s, Winter Street Studio, the Rockets
Douglas’ Nots: Fluorescent lighting, calorie counts, bad special effects, sugary cocktails

Alex Douglas, 32, started making films as a little boy. “The plot was always to rescue G.I. Jane,” he blushes. “Even then, I was hopelessly romantic.” Therefore, it is no surprise that decades later, he proposed to his artist wife, Whitney, with a collection of short clips he had secretly recorded during their relationship.

That montage might have been his most important work to date, but there’s been much more. While at Stratford High School on the west side of Houston, Douglas’ first breakthrough occurred when HBO picked up one of his short films. He then studied film at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he became interested in documentaries. Since graduating, his work has been showcased at the Hong Kong and San Jose Museums of Modern Art, and featured on CNN and NPR.

His most recent work, The Passage, which has received awards at the Harlem Film Festival and the Santa Barbara Film Festival in recent months, focuses on the communities affected by the multibillion-dollar Panama Canal expansion. As the canal widens, so does the gap between the superwealthy and the abject poor, he says. “We were not necessarily making a call for action, but rather bringing up questions about globalization on a micro-level. You see yourself in these people and their lives, and my goal was to honor their voices.”

In addition to producing documentaries, the sentimental Douglas, who lives in the Washington Corridor area, also owns the production company Sculpting With Time, making wedding videos and capturing other milestones for clients. “I believe people searching for and finding one another is just as important as larger cultural scopes and projects,” he says, “and I strongly believe that real life can be just as magical as make-believe.”