Category Archives: Member Profiles

March 2019 Meet New Day

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.

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

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.  

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.

Meet New Day: Katherine Acosta

by Katherine Acosta

Katherine Acosta

My film Divided We Fall, chronicles the most exhilarating, and heartbreaking, political experience of my life: the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising in my home city of Madison.  For two weeks, tens of thousands of people crowded the capitol square, up to 100,000 on the weekends, with hundreds occupying the statehouse. Never in my life did I expect to see so many people roused to resist a corporate and union-busting legislative agenda. I thought surely the revolution was here.

Divided We Fall

Yet despite the masses of determined and resourceful protesters, we lost. Divided We Fall explores some of the reasons why. Originally, I planned to write a book, utilizing my skills as a sociologist. But I had always wanted to try my hand at filmmaking, and this story demanded to be told as a film.

Earlier films on the topic focused on the heroism of the protesters in their conflict with Governor Scott Walker and his ALEC-inspired agenda. Our film also honors the courage and creative initiative of the protesters and highlights their successes. But we go further, turning a critical lens inward to reveal tensions that challenged the movement’s solidarity and contributed to its ultimate defeat.

An engineer once told me that often more is learned from failure than from success. My goal has always been to prepare for a win next time. In this era of deeply compromised elections, through gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the influence of big money, direct action becomes vitally important. As writer and activist Jamala Rogers (author, Ferguson Is America) said in response to our film, “We have to get smart, strategic, and serious.” Divided We Fall is my contribution to those goals.

 

Meet New Day: Michael Premo

by Michael Premo

Michael Premo

My film Water Warriors tells the story of a community’s successful fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry. When an energy company begins searching for natural gas in New Brunswick, Canada, indigenous and white families unite to drive out the company in a campaign to protect their water and way of life.

Water Warriors

This 22-minute film evokes the intensity of the Elsipogtog First Nation’s water protection blockades, which were a precursor to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests lead by the Standing Rock Sioux. It can be accompanied by a scalable exhibit that features large photographs, projections, and a soundscape. The project was designed so it could be presented on a range of scales and to a variety of audiences – from individual viewing online, to community screenings, pop-up exhibits at Pow Wows and outdoor events, to full gallery-style installations. Each venue will create a different viewing experience.

In response to a court ruling that banned protest near SWN worksites, a multi-cultural group of land protectors blockade Rt 126, blocking Royal Canadian Mounted Police vehicles, burning tires and shale gas exploration equipment. The few regional highways are major arteries for local traffic and the most direct routes through the thick forest. They provide an efficient thoroughfare for SWN to collect seismic data on the amount of natural gas hiding in the underground shale formations. On October 17, 2013, anti-fracking protests turned violent when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the encampment that had been peacefully blockading SWN’s equipment, preventing them from doing seismic testing- a prelude to fracking. The RCMP arrested 40 people while torched police cars sent clouds of black smoke into the air. Police pepper sprayed elders from Elsipogtog, fired sock rounds to control the crowd, and an RCMP officer was infamously recorded shouting “Crown land belongs to the government, not to fucking natives.” The community responded by steadfastly maintaining encampments in key locations to disrupt any attempted work by SWN. On December 6, 2013 SWN pulled out and ended their operations in New Brunswick. Community members believe they will return, and that the fight is far from over.

We have already partnered with communities in Oregon, Oakland, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and New Brunswick, Canada – all locations threatened by pipelines, fracking and offshore drilling. Water Warriors screening events have proven to be a fresh way of bringing together diverse groups of residents who don’t often intersect, who aren’t already involved with advocacy or an organizing effort, and who might not normally attend an “activist” meeting. We’ve also worked with Indigenous educators to develop a screening kit to accompany Water Warriors : a step-by-step guide that makes it easy for anyone to plan, promote and host a successful Water Warriors event or incorporate it into existing programming—even (and especially) if they’d never organized an event like this before. We are most proud of the ways that Water Warriors has directly inspired ordinary people to take action in their communities.

New Day Filmmaker Mike Mascoll

by Mike Mascoll

Mike Mascoll

I grew up as an inner-city kid, and at the age of eight years old I made an early suburban trek in search of a better education and opportunity. My unique education and exposure to communities outside of my own opened my mind to the many socioeconomic disparities that continue to divide our nation.

On the Line, Where Sacrifice Begins

My film On The Line: Where Sacrifice Begins highlights METCO, one of the longest running voluntary school desegregation programs in the country, its historical impact on the city of Boston and those personally involved in the program itself. The idea for the film was born out of my desire to share my personal story with a broader audience, to inform others about the importance of equity, access and opportunity through education.

The lessons drawn from former & currents participants of the METCO program have a lasting impact. The educational harms of segregation and the academic benefits of desegregated schools have been well documented. Public schools are the first places where migration patterns and cultural differences manifest themselves and are also where the potential to learn from diversity is likely the greatest.

On the Line, Where Sacrifice Begins

On The Line first screened in front of a sold out audience on the Graduate School of Education campus at Harvard University. It was in that moment that I recognized my calling to deliver meaningful stories with a sense of purpose. The heartfelt post-screening panel discussion reminded all in attendance of the importance for every high school and university to continue the conversation about our country’s path to recovering from formalized racial segregation.

New Day Out and About!   

At New Day Films, we’re known for our decades-long reputation of creating compelling social issues films, but as a co-op of member-filmmakers we do so much more than just sell educational media through our catalog. We’re passionately engaged in the educational sphere and the social issue landscape. Here are some exciting ways our members are engaging with the larger world at conferences, and other events in the near future:

Come meet us in person!

Ellen Brodsky representing New Day Films
at the Association for the Studies of African American Life and History in Cincinnati!

On October 2, 2018, New Day filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik will present and screen Becoming Johanna at the Out and Equal Workplace Summit conference in Seattle, Washington. Becoming Johanna profiles a trans teenager struggling to transition despite her mother’s resistance and finding a family of choice to support her quest.

On Oct. 6, New Day filmmaker Robin Lung will deliver the keynote presentation and host a screening of her film Finding Kukan at the American Association of Chinese Studies conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The film is a compelling investigation into the making of Chinese American Li Ling-Ai’s 1942 Academy award-winning documentary Kukan, a film detailing the Chinese experience of World War II neglected in the news media.

On Oct. 6, New Day filmmaker Pam Sporn will screen her film Detroit 48202 at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route examines the rise, demise, and contested resurgence of Detroit through the lens of African-American mail carrier, Wendell Watkins, and the committed community he faithfully served for thirty years.

On Oct. 8, New Day filmmakers Ellen Brodsky and Ellen Frankenstein will be at the National Media Market conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, presenting some of our latest acquisitions. New Day will also host tables throughout the conference.

On Oct. 19, New Day filmmaker Katherine M Acosta will host a screening and discussion about her film Divided We Fall at the North American Labor History conference in Detroit, Michigan. Divided We Fall combines original in-depth interviews with dramatic citizen-produced video and photos to tell the story of the movement that inspired workers around the world yet failed to achieve its most urgent objective – defeating Governor Scott Walker’s signature union-busting and austerity legislation.

Between Oct. 18-21 at the National Latinx Psychological Association conference in San Diego, California, New Day filmmakers Brenda Avila Hanna and Corey Ohama will discuss their respective films about the experiences of “dreamers” – undocumented children who grew up in the United States, but were born in Mexico and thus face a precarious future in the only country they have known. Their respective films are Vida Diferida/Life Deferred and I Was Born in Mexico, But..