2 NEW DAY FILMS STREAM FOR FREE IN SUPPORT OF DACA AND UNDOCUMENTED YOUTH

With the recent decision by the Trump administration to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the lives of 800,000 undocumented young people and their families have been thrown into complete disarray. New Day filmmakers Brenda Avila-Hanna and Corey Ohama have been monitoring the proceedings closely for some time now. As the directors of two films that feature undocumented young people known as “DREAMers,” they understood full well how devastating the administration’s decision could be to DACA recipients and their communities.

This September, in solidarity with DREAMers across the country, the two directors are offering free streams of their short films Vida Diferida (Life, deferred) and I Was Born in Mexico, But…. on their website www.dreamerdocs.com. We spoke to the filmmakers to learn more about their projects and the impact of recent events on their subjects.

Vida Diferida (Life, deferred)

New Day (ND): What drove you to create your films?

Brenda: I met Vanessa, the subject of Vida Diferida (Life, deferred), when I was a middle school teacher and Vanessa was one of my students. I began to notice that over the years, her aspirations of becoming a doctor and her excellent grades took a backseat to preparing to live an adulthood in the shadows because she was undocumented. As an immigrant myself, I realized that she was an American in every way except in paper, yet she didn’t have a shot at acquiring legal residency like I did. How was it possible that someone so deserving had to settle for so little in the land that she loved? Why did the immigration system favor some and block so many others?

Corey: My film I Was Born in Mexico, But… is centered on the voice of a young woman who lives in my small hometown in Northern California and whom I’ve known for several years. Because I’ve had experience working in a local tax business, she approached me and asked for help applying for an ITIN number (a number that undocumented people use to legally file their tax returns). I was caught off guard– it had never crossed my mind that she might be undocumented. We ended up having a long talk and I got my first clear picture of the incredible challenges faced by these young people who are forced to live in a kind of legal limbo.

I Was Born in Mexico, But….

ND: How has DACA affected your subjects’ lives?

Corey: I interviewed my subject before DACA was even created. There were no work permits and no driver’s licenses. It was hard for undocumented young people to envision their futures. The psychological stresses were intense—from having to worry about getting pulled over while driving, to feeling rejected by the country you loved. DACA helped a lot. It took away the everyday fears and provided a work permit: my subject was able to get a professional license in the field she studied. Now, of course, with DACA being rescinded, everything is up in the air again.

Brenda: The original concept for the film was to document Vanessa’s transition into adulthood and the gradual shift in goals and aspirations due to her undocumented status. A few years into documenting this, DACA happened. As a 17-year-old young woman, Vanessa had to make the decision to share her entire family history with the U.S. government. In spite of the potential risks, her family supported her decision. Immigration law can be so complex and dehumanizing. This film also reflects on the fact that for every DACA recipient, there is a loving family and community taking on a enormous risk and embarking on an emotional roller coaster.

ND: Where do we go from here?

Corey: Education around immigration is so important. Almost one out of every four children in the U.S. is an immigrant or a child of immigrants. Because our nation is making the crucial decision right now what the future of these young people will be, we wanted to make our films available to be part of the discussion. You can help by viewing the films and sharing them with your students, colleagues and communities. See for yourself how personal stories can break down barriers, stimulate discussion and foster understanding about issues like immigration that are often contentious and abstract. I also recommend checking out these other films in the New Day collection that feature undocumented youth or parents: I Learn America, Sin País (Without Country), Life on the Line, and Abrazos.

Brenda: For those who want to get directly involved, you can encourage Congress to pass legislation to grant permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. Call your representatives and show up at town halls. Attend rallies! Use social media to amplify the voices of the DREAMers who lead the movement (#heretostay). For a centralized, reliable source of information on DACA and a concrete list of actions visit www.weareheretostay.org, www.unitedwedream.org and www.defineamerican.com.

From now until the end of September, Vida Diferida (Life, deferred) and I Was Born in Mexico, But….will be streaming for free at www.dreamerdocs.com.

To purchase the films for your classroom or library, visit New Day Films. Enter the promo code DACA15 at checkout for a 15% discount.

Filmmaker Brenda Avila stands with her father and son in a multi-generational show of support for DACA at a recent rally

 

 

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ON THE 20th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PBS BROADCAST OF IN WHOSE HONOR?

by Jay Rosenstein

Twenty years ago, on July 15, 1997, at precisely 8PM Central time, I took my dog out for a walk.

I don’t remember that exact detail because of a legal case, a witness statement, or a trial. I remember it because that was the moment when my four-long-years-in-the-making documentary, In Whose Honor?, about the controversial use of American Indian mascots in sports, hit the airwaves for the first time. It was the first television broadcast ever in my hometown of Champaign, Illinois. One hour later, the film would be shown to the rest of the nation on PBS.

I was too restless to sit at home and watch the broadcast, so the dog and I decided we might as well circle the neighborhood.

Although the documentary had received a huge amount of advance publicity, I wasn’t at all prepared for what I would encounter on our walk. As I peeked into the windows of the houses as we passed, every house with a TV on had it tuned in to the same thing: My documentary. Every. Single. One. It was a very strange feeling.

When I returned home, my wife had just finished packing. As the documentary aired on our local PBS station, my wife, my dog, and I jumped in the car and drove three blocks to a hotel, where we would be spending the night.

A vacation? Hardly. We left the house just in case someone tried to bomb it or burn it down. If that sounds extreme to you, consider that every person I had told in advance of our plan had the same reaction: “That’s probably a good idea.”

When the program’s national broadcast hit the air at 9PM on the PBS series POV, the series’ Executive Producer Lisa Heller, along with a Native American publicist she had hired, plus all sorts of other POV big-wigs and New York City V.I.P.s, gathered in a beautiful Manhattan location to celebrate the broadcast of my film. Meanwhile, my wife, dog, and I hid in a central Illinois hotel.

That was twenty years ago.

Thankfully, nothing happened to my house. But such was the environment in Champaign, Illinois, at the time. The film was very critical of the University of Illinois’ American Indian sports mascot, Chief Illiniwek. Speaking against “the Chief” in 1997 elicited a reaction not unlike that when John Lennon famously stated the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.

The University of Illinois did, however, eventually get a measure of revenge against me. Three years later, I was set to be hired as a faculty member. But in what is always just a pro-forma Board of Trustees approval exercise, three members of the University’s Board of Trustees actually voted to block my hiring. Two of the three had been interviewed in the film; the third had barged into the room where I was filming an interview, insisting that I interview her as well.

Ultimately, my hiring was approved, by a 6 – 3 vote, giving me the distinction of being the only faculty member in the history of the University of Illinois to be hired without unanimous Board of Trustees approval. That goes to show the kind of out-of-proportion emotional devotion there was to this mascot. I consider it a badge of honor.

Jay Rosenstein films a mascot (1998)

That’s about it for the negative things that happened over the twenty years since the film was released, save for a couple of stray letters. As for the positives, there are so many I hardly know where to begin.

The television broadcast of In Whose Honor? was, when it comes to Native American rights activism, the shot heard ‘round the world. The film immediately became a unifying force for the many disparate groups and individuals who had been championing the movement to rid the country of racially stereotyped American Indian sports mascots and reclaim Native American identity for Native American people. It not only solidified and energized the efforts of these various groups, it also shot the issue into a kind of public awareness overdrive. Kenneth Stern, then of the American Jewish Committee and one of the very first supporters of the efforts of Native American activist Charlene Teters, who is the main subject of the film, expressed it best when he wrote, “The film has sped up the educational curve on this issue by at least a decade.”

I felt this energy on the very first day after the film’s national broadcast. That morning, I went to work as usual. But at noon I received a strange phone message from my wife. “You better get home right now. The phone keeps ringing, and I think there’s something wrong with the answering machine.”

I ran home to see what was happening. There was nothing wrong with the answering machine. At that time, answering machines recorded messages on tape, and the 30-minute tape on our machine had completely filled up that morning, and calls were continuing to come in. It took me a week just to sort them all out.

At dozens of schools around the country, In Whose Honor? played a key role in helping to rid those schools of their Native American mascots and nicknames. And it wasn’t just at individual schools—local and even statewide school boards were being persuaded to create policies eliminating all their Native nicknames and mascots. The cities of Dallas and Los Angeles are two of the early school boards that I recall taking such action. In some cases, these efforts even eventually worked their way up to state legislatures, where lawmakers in states like Wisconsin and California took up the issue.

The one place where I am well aware of the film’s role was with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, the governing body for all of college athletics. In 1998, about a year after the release of the film, I received a phone call from someone at the NCAA. They wanted ten copies of In Whose Honor? to distribute to the members of their Minority Affairs Committee. Some time later, the NCAA released a statement on behalf of that committee, recommending that all their member schools drop their Native American mascots and nicknames. I was thrilled that the film had played a part in that decision, but nothing seemed to come of it afterwards.

I wasn’t at all prepared for the shock I would experience when, in 2004, the NCAA itself announced that the eighteen member schools with Native American nicknames or mascots would have to get rid of them or face penalties. That NCAA policy led to my home school, the University of Illinois, finally eliminating its racist mascot, Chief Illiniwek, the mascot that was the original target of my film. I was elated, not only for the result, but also for the fact that my work had played a role in the final outcome.

Of course, it hasn’t just been victory after victory. You’ve heard of the Washington Redskins, right? The Atlanta Braves? Kansas City Chiefs? The Cleveland Indians’ indefensibly racist cartoon logo, Chief Wahoo? All still there. When last fall’s once-every-hundred-year miracle occurred, and my boyhood team, the Chicago Cubs, were breaking the longest championship dry-spell in professional athletics, I couldn’t watch a single game because of the nauseating sight of Chief Wahoo on Cleveland’s uniforms. So there is much work still to be done.

Jay and the film’s main character, Charlene Teters (2016)

But things are moving in the right direction. When Charlene Teters, the main character featured in In Whose Honor?, was selected as the ABC World News person of the week a few months after the film’s broadcast, anchor Peter Jennings practically apologized while introducing her so as not to offend his millions of pro-sports viewers. Yet by 2014, when Native American activist Amanda Blackhorse was suing to end the trademark protection for the Washington Redskins, both The Daily Show and South Park absolutely skewered the team, its owner, and its fans, without the slightest hint of apology. That’s one measure of progress. As for Amanda Blackhorse, she was first motivated to become involved in the fight against American Indian mascots after watching a documentary while she was a student at the University of Kansas. The film? In Whose Honor?

And the University of Kansas is hardly the exception. As an educational tool, In Whose Honor? is used in most every college and university in America today, and is one of the most requested films in the history of its educational distributor,  New Day Films. After twenty years, its relevance as an educational text for teaching about not just mascots, but race, stereotyping, and identity continues unabated.

I have made several documentaries since that PBS broadcast of In Whose Honor?, some more successful in film festivals (ERASED), and some more successful in garnering awards (THE LORD IS NOT ON TRIAL HERE TODAY—a Peabody Award winner). But In Whose Honor? is by far the most impactful film I have ever made, and probably ever will. It’s really the crowning achievement of my life (other than, of course, my children). When I die, I suspect the obit in the local Champaign-Urbana newspaper will read ” Jay Rosenstein, made anti-Chief Illiniwek documentary.”

And you know what? If that’s the case, I couldn’t be more proud.

Stream In Whose Honor? for free from now until September 20. Visit the film’s New Day page, add a 14-day streaming license to your cart, and enter promo code NDNIWH at checkout. Happy viewing!

 

 

 

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MEET NEW DAY: CHERYL GREEN

Cheryl Green

Who Am I To Stop It asks hard questions about life with acquired disabilities from traumatic brain injury (TBI). As an artist with traumatic brain injury myself, I wanted to know if other people like me felt isolated and abandoned after brain injury, and whether they felt that people understood their art better than they understood the person. I ask audiences to move away from the usual TBI storyline of tragedy to rehabilitation to inspiration. Instead, I ask them to let go of the urge to indulge in graphic descriptions of injury and impairment and come with me for conversations around identity, sexuality, loneliness, depression, poverty, and stigma. Nothing is cut and dry, nothing purely positive or negative. The film shows how peers with TBI are interdependent, creative, fabulous people with agency and richly complex identities.

Three artists with traumatic brain injury


Making the film was an accident. Back in 2012, I still wasn’t very clear-headed. I signed up for a crowd-funding platform without realizing I had to have a project to fundraise for. When someone called and asked what my proposed project was, words came out of my mouth saying that I would be making a documentary about TBI survivors who use the arts for every reason except art therapy. And then I made it. Because I’m very literal, and I said I would. I wholeheartedly endorse art therapy. But it was important for me, as a member of a proud disability community, to counter the public belief that peers with TBI are all patients for life, and that everything we do is focused on eliminating or avoiding disability.

The most beautiful thing for me is how many people at screenings tell me that they saw themselves on screen or saw their family member shown without any sensationalism or objectification. I’ve had audience members crying, saying they thought they were alone in their experiences of impairment and isolation until the screening. Other TBI survivors have said that just like the people in the film, art saved their lives.

Learn more about Cheryl and her work here.

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COMMEMORATIVE MONTHS

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, coinciding with the anniversaries of independence of several countries including México, Chile and Guatemala. Follow the rise of immigrant rights in Chicago in 2006-2007 through  Immigrant Nation!  by Esau Melendez—a topic that is all too relevant today.   Justice for my Sister, by Kimberly Bautista,  follows one Guatemalan woman during her three-year battle to hold her sister’s killer accountable. Palenque: Un Canto delves into the African heritage of the Colombian village where filmmaker Maria Raquel Bozzi grew up.  Explore these films and more here.

Palenque: Un Canto

 

NATIONAL DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH

October is National Disability Awareness Month, a time to educate about disability issues and to celebrate the contributions of Americans with disabilities. In UNSTUCK, filmmakers Kelly Anderson and Chris Baier document OCD through kids’ eyes only, avoiding sensationalism and instead revealing the complexity of a disorder that affects both the brain and behavior. Concerning Barriers is a collection of three films by Reid Davenport that center the perspectives of people with disabilities, including those on opposing sides of issues. Who Am I to Stop It, by Cheryl Green, centers the narratives of six artists with traumatic brain injuries, creating complex portraits that go beyond medical aspects of brain injury. Learn more about New Day’s wide range of films on disability here.

 

UNSTUCK

 

 

 

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MEET NEW DAY: COREY TONG AND JAMES Q. CHAN

Our short film Forever, Chinatown follows the story of an unknown, self-taught, 81-year-old artist, Frank Wong, who has spent the past four decades recreating his fading memories by building extraordinarily detailed miniature models of the San Francisco Chinatown rooms of his youth.

Corey Tong

Corey (Producer): The film was the perfect confluence of our interests: romantic, exquisite, emotionally loaded artwork; an eccentric artist; and our unique hometown of San Francisco with its complex historical neighborhood of Chinatown. We were excited to work together, and were also fortunate enough along the way to find partners in the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), California Humanities, and the city of San Francisco.

We combine real-life vérité footage with a romantic, highly stylized studio shoot to tell Frank’s unique story. In doing so, we pay homage to the artist himself, who describes his work as “half wishing and half memory.”

James Q. Chan

James (Producer, Director): Forever, Chinatown is Frank’s commentary on the encroaching changes to the neighborhood, and it is a love letter to a beloved community and city. The film needed to seamlessly weave together three parts: the contours of the artist’s life, the intimacy of his artwork, and the heart and soul of the film, Chinatown. It also highlights the profound changes wrought by the hyper-gentrification that is sweeping through San Francisco. The voices of those displaced by rising housing costs, conversions, and upscale redevelopment often go unheard, becoming only a statistical number in the harsh realities of Bay Area housing.

We’ve just completed our first year of our festival run and it’s been incredible. Screenings have included San Francisco’s Chinatown, North Carolina, the Philippines and Poland. Audiences have shared their moving personal family stories during Q&A’s, and some have returned to second screenings with their family members. Asian Pacific Islander health professionals who serve their community have said our film is a great visual aid in highlighting the complex dynamics of growing up in an ethnic minority, while local politicians and community organizations have reported that the film invites policy makers to sit through a film about gentrification and redevelopment, and be emotionally moved. The most touching moment was perhaps our packed screening in Vietnam at Hanoi Cinematheque where a tearful Mr. Saadi Salama, Ambassador of the State of Palestine, used our film to illustrate the importance of film in preserving community and culture.

Learn more about the work of Corey and James.

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

Becoming Johanna

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month), commemorating the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. New Day has a collection of films that highlight the resistance and empowerment of LGBT voices and stories. Becoming Johanna, by Jonathan Skurnik, follows the story of a sixteen-year-old transgender Latina girl as she grows into herself and finds community, despite the judgment of her mother.

 

Out Run

Out Run, by Johnny Symons and S. Leo Chiang, follows the Ladlad Party in the Philippines — the only LGBT political party in the world — in the run-up to what could be a history-making election.

 

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ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Forever Chinatown

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to highlight and celebrate the stories, perspectives, and histories of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. One of our newest films, Forever, Chinatown, by Corey Tong and James Q. Chan, tells the story of an unknown, self-taught 81-year-old artist who recreates his memories of the Chinatown of his youth by building intricately detailed miniature models.

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee follows acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay into the mystery around her identity, which was switched with another child when she was adopted at age eight from Korea by American parents. Find these and other movies by and about Asian-Pacific Americans here.

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BREAKING NEWS

Kelly Anderson

New Day is delighted to announce that the 2017 DWG George C. Stoney Award for Outstanding Documentary Work has just been awarded to our very own filmmaker Kelly Anderson! The “Stoney” award has been given since 2013 to individuals who demonstrate the values George Stoney promoted throughout his career–stories that represent the poor, the lesser known, the working class, and as a hallmark, engage social injustice themes. Previous winners include Michael Rabiger, Alan Rosenthal, Patricia Aufderheide, and Gordon Quinn.

Kelly is Professor of Media Studies at Hunter College (CUNY) where she teaches in the Integrated Media Arts MFA program. Her most recent film My Brooklyn on the gentrification and redevelopment of downtown Brooklyn was broadcast on the PBS World series America ReFramed. Her other work includes Never Enough, a documentary about clutter which won an award for Artistic Excellence at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and Every Mother’s Son (co-directed with Tami Gold), a documentary about mothers whose children were killed by police officers, which won the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, aired on POV, and was nominated for a national Emmy for Directing. Kelly’s other documentaries include Out At Work (with Tami Gold), which screened at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on HBO and won a GLAAD Award for Best Documentary. She is the author (with Martin Lucas) of Documentary Voice & Vision: A Creative Approach to Non-fiction Media Production. Kelly is currently working on the short documentary UNSTUCK: An OCD Kids Movie.

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MOTHERHOOD IS…

By Sophie Sartain

Did Donald Trump’s mother teach him to play nice, to use his inside voice, and chew with his mouth closed? It’s hard to say. Though we know a lot about the president’s real-estate mogul father, Fred Trump, Sr., we know little about his immigrant mother, Mary Anne, who came to New York from Scotland in 1930 with just $50 in her pocket. She presumably did her best to raise Donald and his four siblings. But, as with many mothers, whose lives are underrepresented in the media, her experiences have taken a backseat to the actions of the men in her life.

In this month when we celebrate Mother’s Day, consider these New Day Films that put the experiences of mothers front and center. They capture the broad spectrum of motherhood, each mining the mystery of a role as noble, challenging and complicated as life itself.

Every Mothers Son

Every Mother’s Son follows three very different mothers with a common purpose – justice for their sons killed by police. In the wake of aggressive “zero tolerance” policing practices that swept through American cities during the 1990s, the mothers negotiate the difficult journey from individual trauma to collective action. Filmmakers Tami Gold and Kelly Anderson recall that, “The challenge was to find a unique angle on something that had had a lot of media coverage already. We found the mothers as a way in that was different, and decided to focus on their transition from this terrible experience to speaking out for changes in policing. The mothers find a resilience in themselves that is remarkable and can provide inspiration to others.”

Sunshine

Sunshine tackles the issue of single motherhood and offers a refreshingly rare glimpse into the ever-changing nature of family. When filmmaker Karen Skloss became pregnant at the age of 23, she decides to keep the baby – even when it becomes clear that her relationship with the baby’s father won’t work out. Her decision compels her to find her own biological mother, who had given her up for adoption. “The plan was to explore themes surrounding single parenthood through other people’s stories,” says Skloss. “However, as things developed, it became clear that the story I had to tell was actually my own. I thought that if I explored issues surrounding single parenthood, I might be able to take more pride in my own little family.”

E Haku Inoa

A similarly dramatic journey unfolds in Christen Hepuakoa Marquez’s film, E Haku Inoa. At the age of eight, Christen was separated from her mother, a kuma hula or master hula practitioner in Hawai’i, due to her mother’s diagnosis of schizophrenia. Raised in the continental United States, Marquez develops a deep longing to reclaim her Hawaiian heritage and identity and returns to Hawai’i to reestablish contact with her mother. “When I returned for the first time, our interactions were strained because we were essentially strangers,” observes Marquez. “I think what makes this story incredible is that over that course of the film you see the emotional changes not only in my mother and I, but the gradual rebuilding of our relationship.”

Wo Ai Ni Mommy

Adoption is the focus of Wo Ai Ni Mommy, which features eight-year-old Fang Sui Yong, aka Faith Sadowsky, whose life is upended when she leaves a foster family in China and is adopted by a Jewish family in New York. An intimate and honest look at the issue of international adoption, the film documents Faith’s struggle to adapt to her new life and offers a rare glimpse into a personal transformation that neither she, nor her American mother Donna, could have ever imagined. “Adoption is complicated,” says director Stephanie Wang-Breal. “Faith gains a new language, a new home, a new sister and brother, but she loses her foster family, her birth language and access to her culture. These are losses for everyone, even for Donna.”

Mimi and Dona

Finally, in my personal film Mimi and Dona, a rupture between mother and child occurs not in the beginning of life but at the end. For 64 years, my grandmother Mimi has cared for my aunt Dona, who has an intellectual disability. But at age 92, Mimi can no longer manage Dona. Reluctantly, she agrees to move Dona to a state-supported living center in Texas. I made the film to spotlight the challenges of aging caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Also, as the mother of a young son with autism, I wanted to honor Mimi’s fierce devotion to her daughter. Was she over-protective of Dona? Possibly. Was she perfect? No. But in the end, no mother is, and therein lies the beauty of the endeavor.

For more New Day films on motherhood and family life, click here.

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