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Reclaiming the Flag

Smithies Create


Published December 20, 2023

Since making her first documentary for her Smith Scholars senior thesis, Cynthia Wade ’89 has racked up awards for films on topics ranging from animal welfare to LGBTQ rights. Wade’s latest work—the result of three years of filming inside a flagmaking factory in Wisconsin—won a 2023 Emmy for outstanding short documentary. 

The Flagmakers paints a compelling portrait of the mostly immigrant and refugee workers at the plant, who make flagpoles and sew 5 million flags a year—including those flown during Vice President Kamala Harris’ inaugural speech. The film aims to reclaim the meaning of the flag at a time of political division, says Wade, a Smith medalist who also has an Academy Award to her name. The message of The Flagmakers, now streaming on Hulu and Disney+, has recently found a new medium: It’s been optioned for a Broadway musical.

Cynthia Wade ’89 
Disney+ The Flagmakers

Headline photo by Heidi Gutman
Photo at right by Marc Bryan-Brown for NATAS

Cynthia Wade ’89 after her Emmy win.