All posts by Ronit Bezalel

Meet New Day – Lauren Knapp

by Lauren Knapp

Lauren Knapp

I’m a documentary filmmaker and video journalist interested in shedding light on touchstone issues through intimate storytelling. The Sandman is a short documentary that profiles the doctor leading Georgia’s lethal injection team. The film unpacks why a doctor would defy medical ethics to participate in executions, highlighting the significance a white coat lends to executions, and how the public perception of lethal injection might perpetuate the practice of capital punishment.

Over the past decade, a series of botched executions have revealed the violence inherent in the lethal injection process – a method of execution that many consider to be the most humane form of capital punishment. In 2015, a group of Oklahoma death-row inmates challenged their planned executions arguing that one of the drugs in the state’s three-drug protocol would lead to an unconstitutional amount of suffering. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the execution method stating that the inmates needed to offer a viable alternative form of execution. For me, this case highlighted the contradictory nature of using medicine for executions. As I looked into it, I discovered that while lethal injections use the tools of medicine, the procedures vary from state to state and the methods are fairly unscientific. I wanted to understand how medicine came to be used in this way, and why a medical professional would assist in state executions.

Dr. Musso is one of the only medical professionals willing to publicly discuss his participation. For him, the death sentence is akin to a terminal illness. He sees his role as simply ensuring that the execution is done properly to avoid the unbearable pain of a lethal injection gone wrong. However, in our conversations, he also conceded that the mere practice of lethal injection gives the public a sense of humaneness that other forms of execution do not. By bringing doctors and nurses into the execution chamber, executions become sanitized in a way.

While I did not set out to make an advocacy film, I do hope that The Sandman encourages viewers to think critically about lethal injections and state-sanctioned executions. More than anything, I want to lay bare a criminal punishment that is too often shrouded in secrecy.

While there are several films that focus on the death sentence and questions surrounding guilt and innocence, there are few that deal directly with the protocol itself. In fact, I have not yet seen a film that explores the use of medicine as an executioner’s tool.

This was an extremely difficult film for me to make. The subject matter was clearly dark and it was a real challenge to engage with it in such a deep way for a year. As a filmmaker, I had to juggle my obligation to the person I was filming, to the audience, and to the truth as best as I could see it. As filmmakers, we wield a great deal of power in the edit room. I cut 5 or 6 different versions of this film before I felt that I had the right balance — allowing Dr. Musso’s point of view to clearly come through, but also creating a space where viewers can question the larger system.

Meet New Day: Joel Fendelman

by Joel Fendelman

Joel Fendelman

My name is Joel Fendelman, and I’m an independent filmmaker who strives to embrace socially conscious stories that deal with religion, social class, and race. My goal as a filmmaker is to communicate the underlying connections between us all.

Grand Saline, Texas, a town east of Dallas, has a history of racism that the community doesn’t talk about. This shroud of secrecy ended when Charles Moore, an elderly white minister, self-immolated to protest the town’s racism in 2014, shining a spotlight on the town’s dark past. Man on Fire untangles the pieces of this protest and questions the racism in Grand Saline today.

When I first heard about this story, I was struck by the extremity of the act but also humbled by Charles’ courage. At the time, I was questioning what I was doing to help bring about social justice in the world and yet here is this remarkable man who attempted to self-immolate for the greater good. It was a real gut punch, but it also motivated me to want to learn more about Charles and this town. It made me question if his act changed anything.

Man on Fire

As with all my films, Man on Fire was a personal journey of discovery and healing. I realized how ignorant I was about racism in today’s society and racist thoughts in my personal life. I had this idea of racism being explicit like beatings and segregation from the 1960s, but I came to realize that, while racist violence still happens, there is another dimension of racism today that is more implicit. I was fortunate to have an expert on this subject–my producing partner Dr. James Chase Sanchez–to help guide me and the film. We interviewed over 50 people, mostly from the rural south who, let’s say, still have some more growth to do. But I would also say that they have given all of us who watch the film a gift. Yes, we can watch them and easily point our fingers, or we can use it as an opportunity to point the finger back at us and ask, “What part of Grand Saline is still in me?”

David

I also have a narrative feature film within the New Day Films called David, about a 10 yr old Muslim boy living in Brooklyn and his unexpected friendship with orthodox Jewish boys who mistake him for being Jewish. It is a a coming of age film that explores questions of identity and what really separates us as humans.

Meet New Day: Anike Tourse

by Anike Tourse

I’m Anike Tourse, a multimedia maker with experience working both in front of and behind the camera. I’ve written for television series including One Life to Live and Girlfriends and I’m the writer and director of a short film called America; I Too, which stars Academy Award nominee Barkhad Abdi, with music from Grammy winner Quetzal.  I’m currently in pre-production for a feature film called America’s Family, which tells five stories of one family separated by one border, and their journey to reunite.

America; I Too

My hope in making America; I Too was to give audiences a sense of what undocumented immigrant families and detainees are struggling with in terms of arrest and deportation, as well as to remind Americans of what is at the core of the American Dream: justice, fairness, opportunity, and fighting like hell for our constitutional rights. The film features a predominantly immigrant cast and crew including over 250 Extras, most of whom are undocumented immigrants living in greater Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Lancaster, California.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) commissioned the short film, not knowing that production would start on the same day President Trump signed an Executive Order to deny U.S. entrance to anyone from the seven countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Academy award nominee Barkhad Abdi signed up for the project unaware that two of the places he had lived in, Somalia and Yemen, would be included in the ban. The cast and crew, activists and community members worked together to shoot the short in just three days. The result was an accessible and empowering tool that immigrant communities could use to help protect themselves.

May 2019: Commemorative Months

Voices of Resilience

Mental Health Month

May is the 70th Annual Mental Health Month, an opportunity to look at mental health in our lives, our communities, and our cultures.

Who Am I To Stop It, by Cheryl Green, is a documentary about a group of artists with traumatic brain injuries, and explores the ways visual art, music, and personal narrative help these individuals cope with institutional and internalized ableism.

Abrazos, by Luis Argueta, shows the importance of reunification of transnational families, and the negative consequences of separation across borders, especially on the youngest family members.

Voices of Resilience: Insight from Injury by Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins, looks at “moral injury” in veterans, and the path of healing for those whose sense of their own goodness has been compromised by war.

You can find these and other New Day films related to mental health here.

Raging Grannies

Older Americans Month

May is alsoOlder Americans Month, and this year’s theme is “Connect, Create, Contribute.”

New Day has a collection of films related to our elder community members, including Stages: Intergenerational Theater on the Lower East Side, by Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, which documents a collaboration between aging Puerto Rican women and urban teenagers who create an original play out of the stories of their lives.

Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65, by Deirdre Fishel, follows nine women, ages 67-87, who challenge ageist assumptions by talking about their desires, their bodies, and their sex lives.

Raging Grannies: The Action League, by Pam Walton, is about a gaggle of activist grannies who protest war, labor abuses and other injustices, using their “harmless” demeanor as older white women to disrupt and engage.

You can find these and other films about aging and elders here.  

Kites and Other Tales

Asian American Pacific Heritage Month

May is Asian American Pacific Heritage Month, and New Day has an extensive collection of films about Asian and Pacific Islander stories and perspectives.

95 and 6 to Go, by Kimi Takesue, shows the filmmaker’s relationship with her spry elderly grandfather, who takes an interest in her stalled romantic screenplay and uses it as a lens through which to share his own memories.

Kites and Other Tales, made by Alan Ohashi in 1975, is a beautiful educational film that focuses on kite maker Tom Joe, who seeks to preserve the craft of kite making and the traditional Asian folklore behind it.

Yuki Shimoda: Asian American Actor, another archival film from the Visual Communications collection, was made by director John Esaki, and celebrates the thirty-year acting career of Yuki Shimoda.

An Exciting New Partnership

New Day Films Partners with Visual Communications on Groundbreaking Asian-American Films

by Nicole Opper

Wong Sinsaang

Visual Communications, one of the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts organization, has forged an alliance with New Day Films. This means select titles from their award-winning filmography are now available for streaming license to schools, universities, and individuals. The release of ten classic Visual Communications titles on New Day’s website represent an exciting new chapter in New Day’s ongoing mission to develop and support cinematic voices of multiple ethnicities and generations.

This exciting alliance is underscored by both organizations’ unwavering commitment to social change. The films in the Visual Communications collection are works of art, of great historical importance, and are now under the extraordinary care of New Day Films. The members of New Day are honored to include them in our catalogue.

Founded in 1970 as a film production collective seeking to build a greater consciousness of Asian Pacific history in America, today VC is a full-service media arts center and home to film festivals, workshops, and an array of artists services. Their long history runs parallel with New Day Films, and many MOs have deep ties to this groundbreaking organization

The ten groundbreaking Visual Communications films newly in the New Day Films collection are:

YUKI SHIMODA: ASIAN AMERICAN ACTOR
by John Esaki
A film celebrating the thirty-year acting career of the late Yuki Shimoda – reflecting his achievements as well as career disappointments typical of being a minority actor.

WATARIDORI: BIRDS OF PASSAGE
by Robert A. Nakamura
This important tribute to the Issei (first generation Japanese Americans) integrates the stories of three people who describe a collective history through their personal memories.

KITES AND OTHER TALES
by Alan Ohashi
Kite maker Tom Joe seeks to preserve the craft of kite making as well as the traditional Asian folklore behind it.

TO BE ME: TONY QUON
by Pat Lau and Don Miller
Tony, an active ten-year-old Chinese immigrant, describes adjusting to an American school. Tony describes his first impressions of “strange new classrooms” as the film journeys with him through Los Angeles.

…I TOLD YOU SO
by Alan Kondo
A film that weaves scenes of Japanese American poet and professor Lawson Inada’s life with his writings.

CRUISIN’ J-TOWN
by Duane Kubo
A film celebrating the music and influences of contemporary Asian American culture on Dan Kuramoto, June Okida Kuramoto, and Johnny Mori — three musicians who make up the core of the jazz fusion band Hiroshima.

CITY, CITY
by Duane Kubo
This experimental narrative piece offers an abstract view of a contemporary city and the people who inhabit it.

PIECES OF A DREAM
by Eddie Wong
A lyrical, expressive film history of Asian Pacific Americans on the Sacramento River Delta.

WONG SINSAANG
by Eddie Wong
A lyrical portrait of the filmmaker’s father, a proprietor of a dry-cleaning business in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood.

CHINATOWN 2-STEP
by Eddie Wong
Capturing the all-American fervor of parade competition, the film profiles the Los Angeles Chinese Drum and Bugle Corps, an important fixture of the Chinese American community.

For more information on these films and important contributions of Visual Communications, please visit: https://www.newday.com/filmmaker/301

April 2019: Earth Day


Uranium Drive-in

Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22, urges us to solve climate change, end plastic pollution, protect endangered species, and grapple with the questions of survival on this distressed planet. New Day has a collection of films that address the nuances of these serious issues. Uranium Drive-in by Suzan Beraza follows a proposed uranium mill in Colorado, and the emotional debate between those desperate for jobs and those concerned about the environmental impacts. Water Warriors by Michael Premo tells the story of a community’s successful fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry. There Once Was an Island: Te Henua e Nnoho by Briar March shows the real effects of rising sea levels on an island called Takuu in Papua New Guinea where the people are being forced to either relocate, or face increasing floods and other impacts of climate change. See these and other films related to Earth Day here.

Good News Corner

A spot to recognize achievements of particular merit by filmmakers within the New Day Films collective.

Luis Argueta wins Global Citizen Award from Peace Corps!

New Day filmmaker Luis Argueta, of Guatemala, will be awarded the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) 2019 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award in June. The award honors an outstanding global leader who grew up in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers served, whose life was influenced by Peace Corps, and whose career contributed significantly to their nation and the world in ways that reflect shared values in human dignity and economic, social, and political development. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a global leader by NPCA.

Watch films directed by Luis HERE.

Read more about his Global Citizen Award HERE.

——

Robin Lung’s Finding Kukan recognized by the American Library Association

Finding Kukan

The American Library Association (ALA) has just released its 2019 List of Notable Videos for Adults, and we’re delighted to announce that New Day filmmaker Robin Lung‘s Finding Kukan has been selected! The ALA’s list of 15 films was carefully curated from videos released over the past two years, and is meant for use by librarians and the general public. Its purpose is to call attention to recent releases that make a significant contribution to the world of video. Finding Kukan takes a look at the life of Li Ling-Ai, the uncredited female film producer who co-produced Kukan, the 1942 Academy Award-winning documentary film on China that was lost for years.

You can learn more and purchase your own copy HERE.

Meet New Day: Michelle Aguilar

by Michelle Aguilar

I am a documentary filmmaker committed to social equality and fair representation of marginalized populations. I make my films with the intention of connecting people, alleviating ethnocentrism, and providing visual and narrative evidence to help people learn about the world in which we live. I find a lot of joy and creative inspiration in nature, and I am lucky enough to live in the Sierras and call South Lake Tahoe, CA home.

El Cacao

El Cacao exposes the dark side of chocolate production in Latin America by examining the economics of Fair Trade from the point of view of the indigenous farmers, as they attempt to sustain their community through the growth, harvest, and trade of cacao beans in the global market. This 20-minute documentary film highlights the life of an indigenous Ngäbe farmer in Panama and his unconditional devotion to this so-called “superfood.” The film threads together the themes of neoliberal ideology, human rights, and the economics of the chocolate industry.  While the demand for chocolate in developed nations continues to rise, the farmers in developing countries, like Panama, are rarely awarded the economic incentive promised to them. The film utilizes cinema vérité techniques with candid interviews. Most of the film hinges on intimate shots in personal working and living space within a small Ngäbe community in the Bocas del Toro region of Panama.

I had the opportunity to live and work alongside cacao farmers for over two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. I wanted to make a film that went beyond the mainstream story of chocolate and delved into the intimate life of the most important person in the chocolate supply chain, the cacao farmer. My goal with El Cacao was to personalize the farmers that are disenfranchised in their country and in the global economy. By harnessing the power of narrative visuals and technology, I hoped to create an accessible and entertaining avenue for people to learn, grow, connect, and act.

This was my first documentary, so there were tons of lessons to learn, especially considering the challenges of the production setting. The community I filmed within Panama was located deep in the jungle; there was no electricity to charge batteries and the weather presented us with multiple torrential downpours every single day. The editing process also proved to be incredibly challenging. I had various interviews with US based chocolatiers that I initially edited together with Samuel’s story in an attempt to complete the bean to bar trade story.  Fortunately, I had incredible mentors and colleagues through the SOCDOC program at UCSC that encouraged me to question how many voices needed to be included and how they may take away from Samuel’s story, which is the one I cared most about.

Poetry in Motion

by Isabel Hill

April is National Poetry month and it’s a fantastic time to watch one of New Day Film’s poetry-related documentaries! New Day features films about poets as well as films that use poetry as an intricate form of cultural and empathetic communication. The following titles represent diverse examples of poetry in cinema and its ability to alter perspectives.

In Deaf Jam, by Judy Lieff, we learn that poetry can be communicated in very different ways. The film tells the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word slam scene. In a wondrous twist, Aneta, an Israeli immigrant living in the Queens section of New York City, eventually meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet. The two women embark on a collaboration creating a new form of slam poetry that speaks to both the hearing and the Deaf.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers, by Andy Abrams Wilson, layers poetry, music, and images into a powerful elegy that simultaneously laments the passing of a life and celebrates the hope and transcendence that love can bear even in death. Through the beautiful paintings and poetry of San Francisco poet and artist, Beau Riley, the film is a portrait of grief and healing between Beau, a recovering alcoholic, and David, born a paraplegic.

At the height of the Cold War, American poet Lyn Hejinian traveled to the Soviet Union, where she met Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshcenko. Several years later the two were asked to begin a correspondence—a kind of cultural experiment, where each was given a list of everyday words, such as “home,” “book,” “violence,” and asked to reflect and then write to each other about these subjects. The result became the basis of Jacki Ochs’ cinematic poem, Letters Not About Love. Ochs combines the spoken word with home movies, archival material, and new images from the United States and Russia – creating an insightful examination of the relationship between language and culture.

Filmmaker and theater artist Karina Epperlein goes into a federal women’s prison and through poetry and creative expression helps prisoners find their own voices and share their important stories. Voices from Inside is the culmination of four years of volunteering inside this prison combined with work on the outside with the children of these prisoners. It is a compelling illustration of the inherent value of creative rehabilitation.

Heidi Schmidt Emberling’s Spirit of the Dawn introduces us to sixth graders on a Crow Reservation in southeastern Montana, who write poems about their rich Native American culture and history. Juxtaposed with the present-day classroom where students are encouraged to retrieve and honor their strong and distinct heritage is the dark past of boarding schools, where Native American children were beaten for speaking their indigenous language.

National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (recognized in March) is a time to elevate the focus and conversation on the mixed-ability world and what it means to be perceived as “different.”  

Joanne Hershfield’s personal documentary, The Gillian Film, is a bold examination of how we might transform our understanding of the meaning and worth of people with developmental disabilities.

Another intimate look at the subject is Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy, directed by Academy Award-nominee Alice Elliott. The film is an exploration of an unusual, symbiotic relationship between two people that some would call profoundly disabled.

Explore New Day’s collection of excellent films on disability-related topics here.

Meet New Day: Julie Mallozzi

Julie Mallozzi

by Julie Mallozzi

I am an independent documentary filmmaker and teacher based in Boston, MA. As a person of mixed heritage, I am interested in the ways cultural traditions from around the globe intersect, hybridize, and are turned to new social purposes far from their original context. My film Circle Up tells the story of a group of mothers who seek true justice for their murdered sons – justice that involves not revenge and mass incarceration but forgiveness, accountability, and community healing. The film exists as a 69-minute feature and a 14-minute short.

Continue reading Meet New Day: Julie Mallozzi

March 2019: Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the lives of women leaders as well as to center our attention on the stories of women less in the spotlight.

Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish In Iowa

In her film, Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish In Iowa, New Day filmmaker, Marlene Booth, examines the complicated process of negotiating identity — as an American, a Jew, and a woman.

The film Passionate Politics , by Tami Gold, tells the story of Charlotte Bunch, a civil rights organizer and lesbian activist, who becomes as an internationally-recognized leader of a campaign to put women’s rights on the global human rights agenda.  

A local story of the arrest of five African American lesbians who were violently and sexually-threatened by a man in the street is the subject of another important New Day film, blair dorosh-walther’s film Out in the Night.

You can find these titles and other films focused on Women and Women’s Studies here.

Eight Love Stories that Defy Expectations

By Nomy Lamm

Sometimes our attempts to find love miss their mark. We aim for something, and then once we get it, it’s not what we thought it was. The misconceptions of the world keep others from seeing us, we miss our chance. We are pushed into things we’re not ready for, or choose things for survival’s sake. We fight, we beg for space, we struggle to ask for what we want. And sometimes we come into our power just when nobody expects us to. These eight films are for those who want to see representations of the “other side” of love, the side that often makes us more worldly and cynical, but somehow still offers opportunities for profound compassion.

Bachelorette, 34, by Kara Herold, details the filmmaker’s experience of her mother’s obsession with finding her a husband, despite the fact that she has no idea what Kara wants. “Kara, I just remembered, I met the perfect man for you… The only problem is that he’s Catholic and Republican, but that’s nothing that can’t be changed. CALL ME!” Constructed like a 1950’s informational video, assembled from clip art and intimate documentary footage, Bachelorette, 34 examines the pressure society puts on women to find “Mr. Right.”

Seeking Asian Female

Seeking Asian Female, by Debbie Lum, takes a close look at the uncomfortable and yet totally human dynamic between a 60-year-old white American man obsessed with Asian women, and Jianhua (“Sandy”), a 30-year-old woman from Anhui, China, who agrees to Steven’s online proposal and moves to California to be his fiancée. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, becomes an unwitting accomplice as she becomes their translator, helping them understand each other better.

In the Name of Love, by Shannon O’Rourke, asks what is motivating the thousands of Russian women who sign up with agencies to meet and marry American men. The film grapples with the tremendous economic challenges and difficult decisions that face Russian women, and the financial and emotional pros and cons of exporting one’s heart.

Tales of the Waria

Tales of the Waria, by Kathy Huang, follows several trans women living in Indonesia, known as “warias.” These women prioritize romantic love as central to their life purpose, but social and religious norms often thwart their efforts. Despite obstacles including family pressure, economic hardship, and aging, they stay true to themselves and seek lasting companionship.

Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women over 65, by Deirdre L Fishel, tears the granny panties off your preconceptions of older women’s sex lives. These nine women, ages 67-87, express themselves with honesty and humor as they explore their feelings about sex, love, and the realities of aging. Aware that many people see them as “nothing but an old woman,” these women defiantly live life on their own terms.

To You Sweetheart, Aloha,

To You Sweetheart, Aloha, by S. Leo Chiang, tells the story of Bill Tapia, a 94-year-old Hawaiian jazz pioneer who gave up on music after his wife and daughter passed away within two years of each other. A new relationship with 26-year-old Alyssa, a Hapa-Hawaiian woman with a special connection to Bill’s past, inspires him to rediscover his musical passion and youthful spirit.

The Year We Thought About Love, by Ellen Brodsky, goes behind the scenes of the oldest queer youth theater in America, as they explore love and write a script based on their lives. They dramatize many of the most painful and triumphant moments in their young lives, and build community that helps carry them through the rough times.

Eager for your Kisses, Love and Sex at 95, by Liz Cane, tells the story of Bill Cane, a 95-year-old singer/songwriter and music teacher who – after mourning the loss of his wife of fifty years – puts an ad in the personals and goes ballroom dancing in search of a new companion. He soon embraces a revitalized life full of romance, sex and music.

Meet New Day: Kimi Takesue

Kimi Takesue

by Kimi Takesue

I am a Brooklyn based filmmaker who grew up in two radically different cultural zones: Hawai’i and Massachusetts. My film 95 and 6 to Go takes me back to Honolulu where I discover an unlikely creative collaborator in my spry, Japanese-American grandfather. Grandpa Tom is a retired postal worker in his 90s, and recent widower, who keeps his loneliness at bay puttering around his modest home–clipping coupons, rigging an improvised BBQ, and lighting firecrackers at New Year’s. His daily routines are interrupted when he takes an unexpected interest in my stalled romantic screenplay; suddenly, his imagination is unleashed. While slurping noodles or munching on toast, he eagerly comes up with new titles, songs, and a happy ending to the fiction script. Reality and fiction intertwine as Grandpa Tom’s creative ideas converge with memories of his life marked by love, loss, and perseverance.

95 and 6 to Go

While growing up in Hawai’i, I never knew Grandpa Tom harbored creative interests. I never saw him read a novel or talk about art. For me, he existed on the fringes; he was a pragmatic, hard-working grandfather who consistently reinforced the importance of family obligation and a steady job. 95 and 6 to Go is about the process of “seeing” my grandfather, and bonding with him, for the first time. The film explores the life of an ordinary man, who proves to be exceptional in his creativity, humor, candor, and will to live.

95 and 6 to Go features a distinctive and little known group of Japanese-Americans in Hawai’i who were not interned during World War II and, thus, retained a fascinating fusion of Japanese and American culture. Most of our representations of Japanese-Americans are in the context of suffering during the war; it’s critical to see an alternative portrait. 95 and 6 to Go is an intimate story that has resonated powerfully with audiences of different ages and across cultures, encouraging viewers to reflect on family, memory, and mortality. Folks come away from the film eager to hear the stories of elders and to connect across generations.  

Commemorative Month: Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans, a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history, and the struggles Black communities face as they move toward liberation.

Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route

Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route by Pam Sporn examines the rise, demise, and contested resurgence of the City of Detroit through the lens of African-American mail carrier, Wendell Watkins, and the committed community he faithfully served for thirty years. Saving Jackie by Selena Burks-Rentschler is a snapshot of a recovering addict’s attempt to strengthen her damaged relationship with her two estranged daughters, from the perspective of her elder daughter. Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes by Harleen Singh traces the journey of three comic creators – a Black man, a Sikh man, and a white woman – who challenge notions of race, appearance, and gender stereotypes through cartoons, comics and cosplay.

You can find these and other films on African American subjects here.

Audio Description as a Tool for Equity

Audio Description is a creative tool to bring blind and low-vision audiences into the world of a film, but those without visual impairments are usually unaware of the importance of this craft.  Here’s how it works. A trained narrator (audio describer) orients audiences by verbally describing visuals on screen when there is no dialogue or competing soundtrack. When done well, an audio description is an art unto itself. At New Day Films, we do not view this task as an act of compliance to laws governing disability access. To us, Audio Description (AD) is one more step toward achieving equitable distribution of documentaries to a larger, more diverse audience.

Creating an AD track is much more than just capturing great audio. Thomas Reid, a blind podcaster, considers the audio describer to be a second director: the describer chooses which visuals to describe by homing in on the film director’s original vision for the film. The script has to be lush and descriptive, while also being focused and expansive. Just as New Day strives to broaden representation of our film subjects and our filmmakers, we seek Audio Description that is culturally relevant and sensitive.

Images that make the final cut of a film are not arbitrary, and excellent Audio Description respects the ways that visuals are a major part of film storytelling. When the language and delivery of an Audio Description track feels integrated into the soundscape, it creates an atmosphere that is inclusive and deeply informative for all audience members. Check out Thomas Reid’s insightful podcast episode (text and audio) about what happened when the Audio Description for the blockbuster film Black Panther failed to capture enough of the nuances of Wakanda’s culture and design and ways in which the describer’s voice did not match the tone of the film itself.

Because Audio Description is relatively new compared to captions, it is very rarely included in film budgets from the start. New Day hopes to be a leader in advocating for the inclusion of accessibility features as an integral part of the art, not just as add-ons after a work is completed. We value all of our audience members and honor what accessible media offers to students, instructors, and community members with varying access needs.

New Day Films currently has 15 titles with Audio Description, spanning topics from blindness and other disability experiences to those unrelated to disability at all. Our three most recent acquisitions with Audio Description are I Was Born in Mexico But…, Blind Faith, and America, I Too.

I Was Born in Mexico, But… is a creative portrait of a young woman who thought she was American but finds out as a teen that she is undocumented. Blind Faith follows the stirring personal journey, both intimate and universal, of a man coming to terms with his disability and struggling with the roles of father, husband, and successful entrepreneur, breaking through the myths of blindness and broadening our understanding of the complex hidden realities facing the blind community. America, I Too follows three arrested and detained undocumented immigrants who must navigate the system to fight impending deportation.

New Day Films titles with Audio Description as of January, 2019 can be found here, and are the following:

America; I Too
Blind Faith
Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy
Collector of Bedford Street
Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement
Freedom Machines
I Was Born in Mexico, But…
Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw
Out In the Night
Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty
States of Grace
The Insular Empire
The Key of G
Tocando La Luz (Touch the Light)
Who Am I To Stop It

Meet New Day – Yoyo Li

by Yoyo Li

YoYo Li

I’m Yoyo, an LA-based Chinese filmmaker who focuses on making documentaries about people living in underdeveloped areas in China. My second passion is being an art director for film and TV while also pursuing my primary hobby, dancing. With my documentary short, Under The Same Sky, I observed the vast differences between the schooling of an urban child and a child in the Chinese countryside and got closer to the truth about China’s “equal” education system. This system governed my schooling growing up and had a deep effect on who I am today. To look back on that today with a neutral point of view was something I enjoyed exploring.

Under the Same Sky

Due to the government’s censorship, it’s very challenging for anyone in China to ever report or expose the unequal education situation that exists, which is why it’s my goal and ultimate hope that my film will foster more debate and conversations throughout the Chinese public. The national Chinese media would never report or admit that the educational system has a lot more improvements to make under the “great leadership”, and especially not during the government’s current campaign for “equal education.”

As outsiders, the international media doesn’t have access to the information that comes from personal experience and long-term field research, which requires you to get to know the people and connect with them emotionally. My approach is to be very personal and really enter the lives of my subjects to give an audience authentic insight into what truly happens behind the government’s veil.

12/18 Commemorative Month

In December, we observe Universal Human Rights Month in honor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. The Universal Declaration states basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled, including freedom from discrimination, the right to equality, and the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, originally made by Stuart Schulberg for the US Department of War in 1948 and remastered by his daughter Sandra Schulberg in recent years, shows the trial that established the “Nuremberg Principles,” providing the foundation for all subsequent trials for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

The Reckoning

In The Reckoning, by Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates, prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo faces down warlords, genocidal dictators and world superpowers in his struggle to bring perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice. The Sandman, by Lauren Knapp, is a documentary short about Dr. Carlo Musso, a physician who has overseen Georgia’s lethal injection team since 2003, and his own moral equivocation providing “end of life care” to prisoners while personally opposing capital punishment. See these and other films about Human Rights here.

10 Ways New Day Films Changed the World in 2018

1. Visitor’s Day

Following the festival and broadcast premiere of Visitor’s Day, Nicole Opper’s film about an innovative group home for formerly homeless boys in Mexico, there was a private screening held for executives at Volkswagen in Mexico, which subsequently raised one million dollars toward the construction of a home for formerly homeless girls two miles away – the first of its kind in the country. Just like the original IPODERAC (Instituto Poblano de Readaptación) home for boys featured in the film, this new home will provide housing, food, education and counseling for 72 vulnerable youth from all over Mexico. It will open its doors in February 2019 – fifty years after the institute was founded.

2. The Year We Thought About Love

The Year We Thought About Love

The University of North Carolina, Charlotte invited Ellen Brodsky’s film, The Year We Thought About Love, and three of the film’s LGBTQ youth to their annual OUTSPOKEN event in October. There was a moving Q&A afterwards. The discussion covered the importance of safe places and one of the film’s youth said, “Our theater troupe ’True Colors’, was the place we shed the faces we wore throughout the day.” Some people applauded, others shifted in their seats, and some may have even shifted their perceptions.  One student chose to publicly thank them on the film’s Facebook page for bringing this “incredible documentary” to their campus. Brodsky and her team are working to make spaces safer, one screening at a time.

3. In the Executioner’s Shadow

From L to R:  Former chief executioner Jerry Givens with filmmakers Maggie Burnette Stogner and Rick Stack at the International Social Change “ChangeFest” Festival in Los Angeles, Nov. 10, 2018.

In the Executioner’s Shadow by Maggie Burnette Stogner and Rick Stack is a catalyst for conversation and action, stirring debate about criminal justice reform at festivals and grassroots screenings across the country.  The filmmakers recently brokered a partnership with The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in order to promote a strategic roll-out of community screenings, discussion and call-to-action. Audiences are asked to organize additional screenings in their homes and communities, creating a word-of-mouth momentum to overturn capital punishment. In addition, anti-death penalty coalitions in Pennsylvania and Oregon are launching statewide efforts at town hall meetings. In the Executioner’s Shadow will be the centerpiece of their legislative campaigns to help rally citizen support to sway state legislators.

4. New Day’s Earliest Films

In 2018, some of some of New Day’s earliest films – by New Day founders Amalie R. Rothschild, Liane Brandon, Julia Reichert, Jim Klein – were featured as “groundbreaking feminist films” by separate screening series at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Barbican Theatre in London, and UnionDocs in New York.  Each respective series focused on the artistry, advocacy, and innovation of the early feminist films and filmmakers that gave birth to New Day Films as the thriving co-op it is today.

5. The Campaign

The Campaign

To mark the 10th year since the passage of Proposition 8 in California – the 2008 law passed by California voters banning same-sex marriage – filmmaker Christie Herring held a special screening of The Campaign in San Francisco. The film follows the people behind California’s historic No-on-8 campaign to defend same-sex marriage through exclusive behind the scenes footage, interwoven with the national history of same-sex relationship recognition since the 1950s. After the screening, veteran activists and organizers had a powerful conversation about current risks for the LGBT community, ways to cultivate a sustainable movement, and the impact of Prop 8 on the LGBT movement and the country.

6. Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route

Pam Sporn screened her film Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route in Professor David Goldberg’s “The Black Worker in US History” course at Wayne State University. A mixture of black and white, as well as older and younger students engaged in a powerful discussion about historical memory and perspective. Some students shared memories of once vibrant neighborhoods decimated by urban renewal while others said they gained a new understanding of the structural racism that impacted Detroit once they moved from the suburbs to study in the city.

7. Man on Fire

Director, Joel Fendelman and Producer, James Chase Sanchez screened their film Man on Fire in Salt Lake City for Clearlink Media, a marketing company, and hosted a one hour workshop at the company’s headquarters on “Implicit Bias.” They used clips from the film to teach attendees about the various forms of bias that might appear in the workplace.

8. Gaza Ghetto: Portrait of a Palestinian Family

Joan Mandell screened excerpts from Gaza Ghetto: Portrait of a Palestinian Family in October at the Oral History Association conference at Concordia University in Montreal. Now 35 years old, Gaza Ghetto, was the first documentary to record scenes of Palestinian daily life impacted by the rule of Israeli-occupation in Gaza. Shown within the context of the 70th anniversary of Palestinian displacement and exile, the film was a revelation for a new generation of students. Audience members said that the first-hand discussion about the risks and rewards of filmmaking in difficult circumstances was an inspiration for their own documentary and oral history work.

9. The Sandman

Lauren Knapp recently participated in a live webinar with The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She screened selected clips from The Sandman and moderated a conversation with Dr. Jonathan Groner, a nationally recognized voice opposing lethal injection. The Sandman continues to contribute to a much-needed conversation about the use of medicine in executions.

10. Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes

Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes, directed by Harleen Singh screened at dozens of festivals around the world during which the filmmaker had a chance to see and hear the audience shift their opinions about diversity and stereotypes. The note below – received by Harleen at a screening – summarizes the kinds of audience experiences her film continues to foster.

Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes

Nov 2018 Commemorative Months

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and New Day has a collection of films on Native American and Indigenous themes.

Badger Creek

Badger Creek, by Jonathan Skurnik and Randy Vasquez, is a portrait of Native resilience as seen through a year in the life of three generations of a Blackfeet (Pikuni) family living on the lower Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. Spirit of the Dawn, by Heidi Schmidt Emberling, exposes a history of educational abuse, and introduces us to two sixth graders as they participate in a poetry class where they write poems celebrating their Crow culture and history. In Whose Honor? by Jay Rosenstein takes a critical look at “Indian” sports mascots, following Native American mother Charlene Teters as she struggles to protect her cultural symbols and identity. View our collection here.

Mezzo

This November for Transgender Awareness Month, check out New Day’s collection of titles relevant to trans and nonbinary people. Prodigal Sons, by transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed, is a profound story about homecoming, identity, and the complexity of family dynamics. Trinidad: Transgender Frontier, by PJ Raval, introduces the audience to three trans women whose lives intersect in the small town of Trinidad, Colorado, the so-called “sex change capital of the world.” Mezzo, by Nicole Opper, celebrates the life and art of Breanna Sinclaire, an African American trans woman opera singer. You can find these films and more here.