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, 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, 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, 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.
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 Toofollows 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In light of recently renewed debates about the rights of women, the fight for reproductive justice is more important than ever. In 1971 – while the women’s movement was still coming into its own – a group of independent filmmakers were unable to find distribution for their feminist films. New Day Films, born out of necessity and determination, remains a group of filmmakers committed to the ideals of equality, education, inclusion, hope, collaboration, and social change. In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic decision on Roe v. Wade legalized a woman’s right to choose throughout the country. As the volatile and deeply personal issue of abortion becomes headline news once again, New Day Films will do what it does best – illuminate the past and inform the present by distributing social justice films that reveal a history of the people, by the people. This month we feature timely and provocative films that focus on the continuing struggle for women’s empowerment and reproductive justice.
Acclaimed by the New York Times as being “forcefull, intimate, unpretentious and devastating…” the multi award-winning, P.O.V. broadcast film, Leona’s Sister Gerri, directed by Jane Gillooly, tells the dramatic story of Gerri Santoro, a mother of two and the “real person” in the now famous photo of an anonymous woman on a motel floor, dead from an illegal abortion. Reprinted thousands of times on placards, and in the media, this grisly photo became a pro-choice icon. Should the media have used this image? What circumstances led to Gerri’s tragic death? This film is a moving portrait of Gerri Santoro’s life and society’s response to her death.
First released in 1972, Amalie R. Rothschild’s film, It Happens to Us remains the classic plea for a woman’s right to choose. Through the personal stories of a wide range of women, both rich and poor, young and old, black and white, married and unmarried, it presents the most cogent arguments as to why ending a pregnancy must remain an available choice. In particular, it reminds people of the consequences when abortion was illegal and what life was like before the Roe vs. Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision. The New York Times called it “a jolting indictment of the furtive illegality of abortion”
Silent Choices, directed by Faith Pennick, is about abortion and its impact on the lives of African American women. The film is a “hybrid” documentary – part historical piece, part social and religious analysis, and part first-person narrative. From African Americans’ cautious involvement with Margaret Sanger during the early birth control movement to black nationalists and civil rights activists who staunchly opposed abortion (or stayed silent on the issue), Silent Choicesexamines the juxtaposition of racial and reproductive politics. Justine Wadland of Video Librarian called the film “A solid investigation into the social, economic, and political aspects of reproductive rights for African-American women…”
For a list of more films on a variety of topics related to Women’s Studies, go here.
This September, New Day is offering a 40% back-to-school discount off all films streamed directly from the New Day website (Promo Code: STRM40).With New Day’s robust film streaming service featuring over 250 titles, you are only a click away from bringing compelling, emotional, and relevant social issues to your classroom or organization.
Customers who purchase a streaming license gain immediate access to the film of their choice and never have to worry about storing, damaging, or losing DVDs. Professors can share a link with their students for easy viewing, inside and outside of the classroom. New Day’s easy interface also allows customers to communicate directly with filmmakers. You can request a free preview of a title, and even arrange for a virtual Q&A with the director!
New Day Films is a filmmaker-run distribution company that has been providing social-issue documentaries to customers for 47 years. It is the only cooperative of its kind to build and maintain its own personalized streaming platform. When you purchase directly from New Day, you are supporting the work of independent filmmakers and making it possible for them to continue making the films they feel passionately about.
Our growing collection of films are organized into 45 categories that cover everything from Addiction, Anthropology, and the Arts, to Disabilities, Education, Human Rights, and Women’s Studies… and everything in between. Here are some of the most recent, award-winning titles we’ve added:
Life on the Ganges is a short film that captures a different side of the Ganges River and explores why visiting Varanasi and bathing in the river still remains a spiritual pilgrimage. Director Indira S. Somani’s beautiful imagery and vivid portrayal of devotion give the viewer a rare look at why people from all over India and the world, travel to Varanasi to wash away their sins and purify their souls.
Man on Fire takes place in Grand Saline, Texas– a sleepy, unremarkable town that finds itself the center of a media storm in 2014 when a white preacher Charles Moore lights himself on fire to protest the town’s racism. A deep investigation into the human spirit, the film explores the life and death of Moore while examining the theme of racism in rural America. Catch Joel Fendelman’s award-winning film before it premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens, December 17, 2018!
America I Too is the portrayal of three arrested and detained, undocumented immigrants that must navigate the legal system to fight impending deportation. Based on actual testimonies and true experiences, Anike Tourse’s film gives a real sense of what undocumented immigrant families and detainees are struggling with in the United States.
New Day offers a variety of streaming licenses, from our popular 1 and 3 year licenses to licenses that run anywhere from 14 days to 7 years. Colleges and universities can access films through their library website, and professors can simply provide a link to their students. Most films are also available via a digital 3-day license should a customer prefer to stream from their own server. In addition to the 40% discount we’re offering throughout September, there are substantial discounts available throughout the year on multiple-title purchases. Stay tuned for more exciting features as we continue to grow our service!
To read more about our streaming options, please click here.
Conversations about power, ownership and representation in the documentary field are as old as the documentary tradition itself. Ours is a history rooted in a patriarchal society defined by cultural, racial, and class-based colonialism. Recently, these conversations have left the confines of the classroom or the backroom of a festival cocktail party and are now taking place under a spotlight at festivals, conferences, and most importantly, they are beginning to have a real impact on who tells what stories and how. New Day Films, a distribution coop created by and for independent documentary filmmakers in 1971, has recently been grappling with what it means to be truly representative of the broad spectrum of filmmakers that exist including filmmakers of color, working class filmmakers, trans and gender non-binary filmmakers and those with disabilities – groups that have historically been underrepresented or poorly portrayed in the industry.
At our Annual Meeting in upstate New York this past June, a panel was convened to discuss the findings of an Equity and Representation task force, and to open up the conversation to all member-owners of the co-op.
“Very often in the documentary space, I’m the only person of color,” remarked Michael Premo. Premo is the director of Water Warriors, the story of a community’s successful fight to protect their water from the oil and natural gas industry. “This is also sort of dually equated with poverty which is equally as racist as being the token black guy.”
Cheryl Green, the director of Who Am I To Stop It – a documentary about individuals with traumatic brain injuries – shared her perspective as a filmmaker with acquired disabilities herself, saying, “There is no one disability community. What is a film about disability? What is a person with a disability? We’re not a monolith. There’s not one way to talk about it; there’s not one way to present it. The main way disability is represented is non-disabled people parachuting in and filming a medical story. Usually it’s one that starts off as ‘That’s gross or scary or painful! Phew! They got better.’”
This formulaic narrative is problematic. One solution Cheryl offers is that non-disabled filmmakers consider co-authorship, “Or, when you can, just put it in the hands of the disability community.”
These tropes of tragedy and triumph are not exclusive to representations of those with disabilities – they are embedded in stories about every underrepresented community. Co-authorship is a concept that has been practiced by a number of filmmakers within New Day, though it’s not nearly as widespread as we would like it to be. Not only does it aim to address the inequity of ownership that has plagued our field for so long, but frequently it results in more nuanced filmmaking.
Brenda Avila, the director of Vida Diferida (Life deferred), a six-year journey into the life of a young, undocumented woman before and after DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) spoke about being born and raised in Mexico City and coming to the US as an adult. “I didn’t grow up used to being a minority per se.” She described the transition after moving to the U.S. “It was hard to just make myself heard: as a woman, as a woman of color, as someone whose second language is English. I was constantly second-guessed… sometimes it’s hard to navigate circles in [the film industry] where there are so many things taken for granted.”
Avila shared some of the organizations that have supported her journey as a filmmaker and as a woman of color. “I’m really happy about this equity task force,” she said. “I’ve been working a lot with Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM), and with the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NAILP).” BGDM is working to ensure that directors and producers have access to collaborators that are also members of the communities being filmed. She added, “There’s no excuse [not to hire us]. Here’s a list of talented POC ready to work.”
Samantha Farinella, the director of Hunting in Wartime, which profiles Tlingit veterans from Hoonah, Alaska, made a light-hearted interjection, “I’m sure you’re all wondering why the white lesbian from the East Coast [is commenting on this topic]. I’m the first person in my family to get my Bachelor’s and I will be the first person in my family to get my Master’s. I remember in my late 20s, finding out that a lot of filmmakers are really rich and privileged.” Becoming increasingly emotional, Samantha added, “Being working class, I think I devalue my work. If we really want to make the New Day experience diverse economically or racially, that’s a big ask.”
Filmmaker and panel moderator Kathy Huang echoed the sentiments of many New Day members in the room who were visibly moved. “That was really powerful,” she said. “It’s so important that you shared that, and it goes back to issue that Michael raised, that people often equate race with class. What we think we know about someone may not be true. If you don’t come into this world with a certain amount of social capital – it can be very hard to access the gates of power.”
She then posed the question, “Are there other ways that we can make the coop more welcoming?”
Michael Premo weighed in. “It’s complicated. There are ways to invite broader conversation related to meeting design. It’s such a delicate balance between equity and tokenism… I’m glad we’re having this conversation around freedom of movement and language access… We could have more group design where people are in smaller groups. We could think about reorganizing all the relationships.”
Kathy Huang, whose film Tales of the Waria features four transgender women searching for love and intimacy in Indonesia, offered some information about the task force’s process, which all of the panelists were a part of. “When we met for the task force, one of the things I did was make cold calls to our members of color, and we asked for ways that the coop might become more welcoming to all types of members.”
She also pointed out the potentially exploitative practice of hiring interns to work for free. “Who does that automatically eliminate from our roster of people who can work for us?”
Mike Mascoll, the director of On the Line, which highlights one of the longest running voluntary school desegregation programs in the country, stood up in the audience to share his thoughts: “I grew up in poverty, but through the years gained access to privilege… snippets of it. I think what we’re all looking for at the end of the day is access to the resources to be independently successful.” The room broke into applause.
As a co-op, we’ve unanimously voted to pursue the following goals this year:
Promote a culture of Equity and Representation within New Day where diverse stories, storytellers and storytelling practices are represented and uplifted.
Provide opportunities for conversations with members from underrepresented groups about their experiences in New Day and the industry in general.
Create and support sustainable financial, professional and New Day culture strategies for recruitment and retention of filmmakers from underrepresented groups.
We have a long way to go in this industry when it comes to access, equitable funding, implicit bias and ownership over the stories of underrepresented and marginalized people and communities. There is still much work to be done, but the meeting was a big step in the right direction for the member-owners of New Day Films – resulting in actionable steps that we hope will have real, positive impact.
In the 1800s, it was known as “Decoration Day,” when soldiers’ graves would be decorated with flowers. Today we know it as Memorial Day, a time to remember the fallen men and women of our armed forces. They made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for this country, and each one had a story and a past, with unique struggles and triumphs. This Memorial Day, as we honor these men and women, consider these New Day films that depict the complexity and diversity, as well as the humanity and heroism, of our service members.
In Almost Sunrise, two veterans embark on an epic 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption and healing as a way to close the moral chasm opened by war. Their odyssey inspires an inner journey that culminates in a spiritual transformation. Filmmaker Michael Collins began the film after hearing that twenty veterans commit suicide every day. “I realized right then and there that there was a crisis in our country,” says Collins. He teamed with producer Marty Syjuco to present a story about “moral injury” – lasting wounds to the soul caused by participation in events that go against one’s sense of right and wrong. Almost Sunrise and its 15-minute companion film Voices of Resilience shine a light on a condition that is as old as the dawn of battle. The goal is to help those who have seen war make meaning of their experience and reclaim their lives.
Filmmaker Heather Courtney followed a similar path in making her Emmy Award-winning film Where Soldiers Come From. She returned to her hometown in Michigan to film two teenagers in a National Guard unit as they embarked on service in Afghanistan. “I spent nearly two years filming them as regular 19- and 20-year-olds before they became active duty soldiers,” she says. “I spent a lot of time with their families, friends and girlfriends.” By the time their deployment ended, the soldiers were no longer the carefree friends they were before enlisting; repeated bombs blowing up around their convoys had led to TBI (traumatic brain injury) symptoms. As Courtney documented the challenges once they returned home, she says her film became a story about how war affects families and communities. “But,” she adds, “at its heart it is still a film about growing up.”
Patriot Guard Riders by Ellen Frick takes us on a solemn ride to funerals of soldiers killed in action. Our guides are a 250,000-strong motorcycle group that formed to protect grieving families from harassment by a Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group. The riders escort fallen soldiers from airfield to grave, and form a protective shield of honor and respect. Soldiers are dying and families are suffering. The film reveals an unlikely but powerful bond between the riders, the grieving families and the military. Their stories chronicle a new kind of patriotism in America, where we honor the troops even if we don’t believe in war.
In New American Soldier, directors Anna Belle Peevey and Emma Cott tackled two hot-button issues in US politics: immigration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They captured the stories of three immigrant soldiers through training and deployment, as they took steps towards US citizenship. For each soldier, the Army provided an opportunity. Clarissa Calderón emigrated from Peru as a young girl and didn’t think of enlisting until a recruiter told her the Army would pay for medical school. Seth Donkor won the visa lottery in Ghana and was able to live out his Rambo fantasy as a private in the US Army. And for Victor Toledo Pulido, whose family walked across the US-Mexico border when he was seven, the Army offered a way out of the farmlands of California’s Central Valley.
Finally, in her film Hunting in Wartime, Samantha Farinella documented the longer lasting effects of war, profiling Tlingit Native Americans from the village of Hoonah, Alaska, who served in the Vietnam War. Their stories capture the complexity of serving a country that systematically oppressed them — a government that prohibited the Tlingit language, over-logged their forests, and established laws that robbed returning vets of their ancestral trade as fishermen. Many of the vets succumbed to the horrors of alcoholism, PTSD and suicide. Some were able to climb back out to lead the next generation back to their Tlingit heritage. “It was my privilege that the veterans on the island entrusted me with their experiences,” Farinella says. “Their unique stories offer a new perspective on the Vietnam War — and war in general — from a group that is rarely heard, much less seen.”
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 Invalidwitnesses 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.