I’m a filmmaker and educator born and raised in Mexico City. Vida Diferida (Life, Deferred) is a six-year journey into the life of a young, undocumented woman– before, during, and after the implementation of America’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program.
The film began as an annual end-of-the-year video for a non-profit organization working with immigrant families. I was a Heritage-Spanish teacher and I noticed that with each passing year, undocumented youth had to learn how to slow themselves down, limit their aspirations and prepare for an adulthood spent in the shadows. As an immigrant with a far more privileged journey than my students, witnessing the contrasts between my immigration experience and theirs was a big eye-opener to the arbitrary mechanisms that operate within our immigration system. After working with these students, there was no doubt in my mind that they are American in every way but on paper. They are the realization of their parent’s dreams, hard work and sacrifice, and my life is so much richer and better for knowing them. I made the film in hopes that this story will be just as transformative to viewers’ lives and outlook on immigration as it was to mine.
In the past couple of years, DACA has made headlines and Americans have become more familiar with what it stands for. Vida Diferida is not just about this policy, but about the generation that came of age in the midst of it. The time span of the film provides a unique window into what life was like before DACA; the lowering of expectations, the lack of hope and the uncertainty that an undocumented status brings to young people as they make key choices for their adult lives. We also captured the moment when DACA was announced: the application process, the hesitancy to come out of the shadows, the conversations happening in households and the possibilities ahead. Finally, we follow up on the impact and limitations of this policy along with the current risk of having it all taken away.
When we began filming, we never imagined that DACA was going to happen in the near future. While documenting the first years with DACA, we never imagined that the policy would be under threat so soon. It has been an uncertain story to tell as it has been an uncertain life and future for young people like our protagonist Vanessa. Audiences have been overwhelmingly responsive to her story as they realize the devastating impact that uncertainty can make over the years. This has allowed the film to support educators as they get to understand their student’s journeys better, for peers to understand their undocumented/DACA friends and for undocumented/DACA children to open up to allies and people in their daily lives.
Learn more about Brenda and her work here.
By Nicole Opper
Celebrated artist Alex Grey said, “When artists give form to revelation, their art can advance, deepen and potentially transform the consciousness of their community.” This Youth Arts Month, we highlight New Day Films that feature people using art as a means of empowerment, both for themselves, as well as for others who have experienced discrimination, marginalization, or the pain of being rendered invisible.
The Year We Thought About Love goes behind the scenes of the oldest queer youth theater in America. In a twist on the common image of LGBTQ youth as victims, the film reveals the troupe members as artists and activists, celebrating the fullness of their lives in both thoughtful and hilarious ways. “When I started making a film about the world’s longest running LGBT youth theater (20 years and counting), I never knew Michelle Obama would give one of the main youth in the film a Youth Arts Award at the White House,” reflects filmmaker Ellen Brodsky. “I never knew the film would tour over 50 festivals and I never knew that middle schools, high schools, community groups, colleges and universities all over the US would listen and listen so deeply to what queer youth ages 14 – 22 have to say about love with friends, family, God, and sweethearts.”
Sins Invalid witnesses a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. Since 2006, its performances have explored themes of sexuality, beauty, and the disabled body, impacting thousands through live performance. Co-director Patty Berne explains, “The voices and experiences of our communities are rarely made visible in the media, and when they are, they’re rarely told by members of our communities. As a result, the power and downright juiciness of our bodies isn’t often depicted. In inserting our experiences into public dialogues, it’s critical that we include our bodies, the very things that are cited as the ‘problem.’ I love unruly bodies, I love seeing them in person, and I love seeing them on screen. Our lack of conformity is not a deficit, it’s a bonus!”
It’s important to remember that age is no measure for a youthful spirit. Pam Walton’s film, Triptych, is about three women who are vital and productive well into their seventies, and who have devoted their entire adult lives to making art. Lana Wilson is a mother and grandmother who has used her seemingly boundless energy to become a well-known ceramic artist. Jeanne DuPrau, author of The City of Ember, is a New York Times bestselling children’s writer. And Nan Golub, a lesbian painter living in New York City, studied with Richard Diebenkorn and Deborah Remington and has drawn comparisons to the celebrated Mexican artist Rufino Tomayo. Pam writes, “I wanted to give attention to older women in art because our culture tends to ignore them. I wanted every artist, including writers, male or female, young or old, to be inspired by them.”
In Who Am I To Stop It, three everyday people with traumatic brain injury disabilities use arts to reconnect to a sense of identity, self-pride, and community and to assert their agency and self-advocacy. For filmmaker Cheryl Green who had herself acquired disabilities from traumatic brain injury (TBI), the film was a personally fulfilling journey. She shares, “The impairments were a big problem. Losing most of my friendships, feeling misunderstood, and experiencing ableism was worse. Becoming a filmmaker was an accidental turn in my life that built bridges between my inner world and the confusion people around me had about my inner world. I made Who Am I To Stop It to ask two questions: Do other people become isolated after TBI, and do they also feel like art saved them? The short answer is yes to both.”
For more New Day films about the transformative power of art, click here.
I currently have three films in New Day’s collection. Wheelchair Diaries, a film about accessibility in Europe, came about after I was discouraged from studying abroad because of my disability. A Cerebral Game, a personal film about growing up, was an opportunity for me to revisit and try to heal painful adolescent memories. And RAMPED UP, a film about the Americans with Disabilities Act, was made because I was conflicted about serial litigators suing businesses over access.
These films, unsurprisingly, represent a clear trajectory of my work. Before I made Wheelchair Diaries, I wasn’t political about my disability or disability in general. Throughout its production though, I began to build a foundation of how to see disability as a social construct. By the time I made A Cerebral Game, I not only had a new lens for seeing disability, but wanted to experiment with a disability aesthetic, which in my case was the “shaky cam.” And then finally, with RAMPED UP, I wanted to present a major issue in the disability community and show both sides of it from the perspectives of people with disabilities. My goal was to buck the myth of homogeneousness among people with disabilities, a trope that is of course applied to other minority groups as well.
Most films about disability are made by non-disabled filmmakers. Often, stereotypes are reinforced and people with disabilities are seen as objects rather than subjects. When filmmakers enforce these stereotypes, enable voyeurism, or allow experts to dominate the conversation, these stories become corrosive and outweigh any exposure it may provide to people unfamiliar with disability. My films are not about medical diagnoses or overcoming or adapting. They’re about society’s reaction to disability, which is often problematic. These films, while not all personal, are about what I encounter daily.
The 2017 National Media Market, one of the largest media conferences for educators, will be in full swing in Portland, Oregon, from October 22-26, and New Day Films will once again be in attendance! Please come visit us in Suite #315.
We’ll have lots of viewing materials to share, and a free DVD raffle!
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.
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.
Captured over two years, my film Daddy Don’t Go tells the story of four disadvantaged dads in New York City as they struggle to defy the odds against them. I wanted to pay homage to every disadvantaged father who negates the “deadbeat dad” stereotype with a deep love for his children. These men, much like my own father, are often trying to be the dads they themselves never had. I made the film to bring new and positive images of fatherhood to a national audience.
I remember when we were filming one of our subjects in criminal court and the judge asked him if he was willing to let us continue to film him there, assuring him that it was completely up to him if our cameras stayed or left. I held my breath. I knew that if he said yes it would be a huge act of trust on his part. He turned around, looked at me and then nodded to the judge. I knew in that moment that so much of my hard work had paid off.
Daddy Don’t Go seems to be very moving to dads and parents who struggle. One of our screenings was held in the Bronx for the homeless men of the “Ready, Willing and Able” program– 70% of whom are fathers. I saw misty eyes and heard a few sniffles during the screening. No one moved to get up after it ended. I got dozens of handshakes, hugs and thank you’s as the men left the room. Screenings like that make you feel like all your efforts are worthwhile.
Learn more about Emily Abt’s work here.
By Briar March
New Day Films is excited to announce the launch of its fully
integrated streaming platform. Customers can now stream films and order DVDs directly from the New Day website — with streaming licenses that range from two weeks to seven years.
Our distribution co-op has remained committed to maintaining an independent streaming platform for almost a decade. Back in 2007, when Netflix moved into streaming, New Day Films also decided to stay ahead of the curve by launching its own streaming initiative. With the help of Seattle Community College TV (SCCTV), it developed New Day Digital: a website that allowed higher education institutions to stream our independent social issue documentaries.
In 2014, when we received the news that SCCTV was pulling out of the streaming game, we saw this transition moment as an opportunity to offer our customers an even more enhanced streaming experience. With the help of new streaming partner CMI, we decided to merge New Day Digital with New Day Film’s freshly revamped website. Filmmaker Paco de Onís headed up the small team of New Day filmmakers tasked with overseeing this integration. As he notes, New Day Films has always seen an independent streaming platform as vital to its future as a digital distributor. He writes, “As independent filmmakers, having our own platform empowers us in a way that makes it possible for us to continue making fiercely independent social issue documentaries. This has been New Day’s primary mission since 1971.”
New Day’s new and improved streaming platform is the product of two years of careful research and development. Customers with older licenses purchased through New Day Digital should continue to experience uninterrupted service. As with New Day Digital, the new integrated platform emphasizes our capacity to deliver customized solutions on a customer-by-customer basis, backed up by our easy to reach and responsive customer service team. Streams are delivered via IP authentication or from a user panel on our site — making it easy for students and professors to watch our films from school or home.
And New Day customers will have more to look forward to in the future! In Phase 2 of the streaming upgrade, currently in development, customers will be able to access new tools to enhance their viewing experience, including searchable video and the ability to “quote” parts of the film by clipping. They will also have the option to stream a thematic collection of films within New Day, or to stream the entirety of New Day’s rich archive.
If you need assistance with the new purchasing process, or have any other questions about the upgrade, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
I am a New York City-based filmmaker from a blue-collar background interested in illuminating stories and histories that are seldom taught. My film Hunting in Wartime profiles Tlingit veterans from Hoonah, Alaska, who saw combat during the Vietnam War. They talk about surviving trauma, relating to Vietnamese people, readjusting to civilian life, and serving a government that systematically oppresses native people. Their stories give an important human face to the combat soldier and show the lasting effects of war on individuals, families and communities.
The main impetus behind this project was to support, document and preserve Tlingit history. There isn’t a great deal of documentation regarding Tlingit history because the Tlingit community uses verbal storytelling. The film is only a piece in what we hope is a lasting historical media presence for Hoonah’s Vietnam veterans and a broader transmedia project that explores racism, history and war from a uniquely Native American perspective.
I was also drawn to the story partly because the Vietnam War has always intrigued me—as a student, activist, and filmmaker. I was born while the war was still taking place and my family watched the carnage nightly on television. Those images must have left an indelible effect on me.
The process of making the film was an emotional one. The most significant moment in the production process was when fellow producer Christie George and I interviewed Tlingit Veteran Kenny Austin in Hilo, Hawaii. He gave us a very long and intense interview. We took him out to dinner afterwards and when we gave him a ride home, we realized he had walked over two miles to meet us for the interview. At the time Ken was close to 80 years of age and not in the best of health. The experience confirmed how important it is for the veterans to have their stories heard. We knew we had to tell this story as best as we could.
Learn more about Samantha’s work here.