All posts by Heather Courtney

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month

Becoming Johanna

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

 

Out Run

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

 

ASIAN/PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Forever Chinatown

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

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee

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

BREAKING NEWS

Kelly Anderson

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

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

MOTHERHOOD IS…

By Sophie Sartain

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

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

Every Mothers Son

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

Sunshine

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

E Haku Inoa

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

Wo Ai Ni Mommy

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

Mimi and Dona

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

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

Earth Day

A Drop of Life
White Earth

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, and New Day has a great collection of films to help teach about the environment and sustainability.  A Drop of Life, by Shalini Kantayya, is the story of two women whose lives intersect when they are both confronted with lack of access to clean drinking water. White Earth, by J. Christian Jensen, tells the tale of an oil boom in America’s Northern Plains, as seen through the eyes of three children.

 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Who Am I To Stop It
Mimi and Dona

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month also falls during March and calls on us to recognize the mixed-ability world in which we live, and the unique contributions, needs, and desires of every person. Explore New Day’s collection of excellent films on disability-related topics.  Who Am I To Stop It is a documentary about the traumatic brain injury community, made by Cheryl Green, a filmmaker with disabilities from brain injury. Mimi and Dona, by Sophie Sartain, spotlights a mother-daughter relationship profoundly impacted by aging and disability.

Women’s History Month

Mezzo
Silent Choices

March is Women’s History Month, an opportunity to recognize the lives and stories of women, and to draw to the center those who have been marginalized. Mezzo, by Nicole Opper, celebrates the life and artistic endeavors of Breanna Sinclaire, an African American opera singer and openly trans woman. Silent Choices, by Faith Pennick, is about abortion and its impact on the lives of African American women. See these and other films relevant to Women’s History Month here.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet New Day: Emily Abt

Emily Abt

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.

Finding Common Ground in a Time of Division

By Sophie Sartain

My So-Called Enemy

Filmmaker Lisa Gossels calls it “The Explosion” – the moment when people from two sides of a conflict can no longer hide behind small talk. Pain roars to the surface and reconciliation seems impossible. Gossels witnessed that moment in making her film My So-Called Enemy, about Palestinian and Israeli girls engaged in dialogue through a leadership program in the United States. “There’s a trigger or a meltdown, a point of no return,” she says. “And that is when real change can occur.”

In these complex and uncertain times, when our country seems more polarized than ever and many of us are walled off in separate political camps, three New Day Films point to another way of being. They profile individuals acting against instinct to reach across a divide, engage with the “other” and even reconcile with an entrenched enemy. They offer hope in our current climate of fear, anger and misunderstanding.

Concrete, Steel & Paint

In Concrete, Steel & Paint, the conflicts aren’t political. They are deeply personal. Filmmakers Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza tell the story of men in prison, victims of crime, and an artistic partnership that helps break down barriers between them. As prisoners, victims, and victim advocates collaborate on a mural about healing from crime, their views collide, sometimes harshly. Most challenging, says Burstein, was for “each side to listen with empathy to the pain of the other side.” But as the project progresses, mistrust gives way to surprising moments of human connection and common purpose. “People got to know each other more as individuals and engaged as human beings,” she recalls. “We learned that most people, despite their differences, have the capacity to connect.”

Another Side of Peace

Ellen Frick’s Another Side of Peace spotlights the transformative efforts of Roni Hirshenzon, a 60-year-old Israeli man who has suffered as much as any parent can imagine. Both of his sons died at the age of 19 as a direct result of the conflict in the region. Putting hatred and anger aside, Roni co-founded the Parents Circle, a support group for bereaved families, Israelis and Palestinians alike. The film follows Roni’s efforts to reach reconciliation and come to terms with the deaths of his sons. He works with Palestinian partners to connect with other bereaved families in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Their message is simple: No More Death. As Frick notes, Another Side of Peace “reminds us that humanity can supersede politics.”

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is also the backdrop of My So-Called Enemy, but Lisa Gossels’s subjects are at a very different stage of life. As teenagers, six Palestinian and Israeli girls meet in the United States in a leadership program called Building Bridges for Peace. The film then follows them for seven years as they return to their homes. Through the girls’ coming-of-age narratives, audiences see how creating relationships across emotional, political, cultural, religious, and physical divides are first steps towards resolving conflict. “I truly believe you can’t meet the ‘enemy,’ the ‘other’ or someone you don’t know and not change,” says Gossels. “All it takes is asking a few questions. When you do, you will find that no one wants to, or deserves to be stereotyped, and that we often have more in common than what divides us.”

From now until May 1, receive 20% off your purchase of Concrete, Steel and Paint, Another Side of Peace, and My So-Called Enemy with the promo code PEACE20.

Visit New Day’s full collection of films on Peace and Conflict Studies here.

10 Ways New Day Films Changed People’s Lives in 2016

by Alicia Dwyer

  1. Kristy Guevara-Flanagan’s Wonder Women! screened in Mumbai,
    wonderwomen-class
    New York youth watch Wonder Women! and workshop the superheroines in their own lives

    India, in partnership with PBS’s Women and Girls Lead Global to engage men and boys as champions for gender equality. Using a film-based gender sensitization curriculum, the ‘Hero Academy’ engaged young men in the mission to make communities and homes safer for women and girls across India.

  2. Shalini Kantayya’s Catching the Sun was named a 2016 New York Times Critics’ Pick and won Best Feature at the San Francisco Green Film Festival. It is the part of the American Film Showcase to be screened at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the word. Actor Mark Ruffalo called it “a must-see film. An eye-opening look at workers and entrepreneurs on the forefront of the clean energy movement that will transform, and enliven the way you see the future. What is clear is the wonderful opportunity the transition to clean energy represents.”                                                                                                                                       
  3. This year, public school districts in Florida, New Jersey, Missouri, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as France and Guatemala, connected the stories of the five young new Americans in I Learn America to their students and community. With director Jean-Michel Dissard, they worked to trigger “homegrown” in-school events to amplify the voices of immigrant youth in our schools and to increase empathy and welcoming for young immigrants through personal storytelling/exchange of shared experiences.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  4. Emily Abt’s Daddy Don’t Go is on a winning streak, recently
    emilyabt_qna
    Emily Abt takes questions after a Daddy Don’t Go community screening

    nabbing Best Documentary Awards from UrbanWorld, ABFF and eight other film festivals. The film also has been connecting with audiences through outreach screenings. At the Osborne Association, one of the participants shared, “I see myself in all these men and it inspired me to really step up for my son. I think every father, and every parent, should see this film because it moved me to tears.”

  5. Filmmaker Alice Elliott was invited to the Orange County, North Carolina Human Rights celebration to show her film, The Collector of Bedford Street. Over two days she screened the film and then met with educators, designers and advocates to envision what it would take to make the Raleigh-Durham area the most accessible place in the United States to people with disabilities. The first step in the action plan was incorporating a curriculum on disability rights into the grade schools.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  6. At the International Documentary Association’s recent Getting Real Conference, Ann Kaneko was approached by a visiting filmmaker from Perú, who described her admiration for Against the Grain: An Artist’s Survival Guide to Perú. She said that she often refers to the film and that it continues to impact the country–it is an important reference for Peruvians about their history.                                          
  7. California’s Glendale Unified School District bought more than
    gender-youth-project-class
    Skurnik’s Youth & Gender Media Project screens at California’s Glendale Unified School District

    25 DVDs of Jonathan Skurnik’s Youth & Gender Media Project series on trans youth inclusion to train their entire school district on how to create inclusive schools for trans and gender nonconforming students. They also brought in the filmmaker to screen the films for district personnel to launch the initiative.

  8. Following a standing-room only public screening at the University of Hawai‘i of Marlene Booth‘s Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i, an audience member was moved to speak about his experience growing up speaking Pidgin English in Hawai‘i. Though he was taught to be ashamed of his mother tongue, he told the filmmakers, “Your film gave our language respect.”                                                                                                                                                                               
  9. After Nine to Ninety, a short film about producer Juli Vizza‘s
    nine-to-ninety-qna
    Over 100 people participated in an interactive screening of Nine To Ninety, posing questions to the family in the film

    grandmother Phyllis, premiered on PBS this year, AARP declared, “An 89-year-old starlet is born!” Juli and director Alicia Dwyer and worked with partners to host about 90 community and educational screenings around the country. While the story of fierce Phyllis and the tough decisions faced by a family struggling to care for older loved ones hit home for many viewers, 75% of respondents to post-screening surveys said they were more optimistic about discussing their wishes for end-of-life care. As one woman wrote, “It’s something that has to be talked about. I’ll be sharing this screening with my family tonight for sure!”

  10. Directly after the passage of North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom bill, Out Run had its World Premiere at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC. Filmmakers S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons used the screening to educate the crowd about the injustices of the new law and mobilize the audience to take action against it through social media. Out Run continues to screen at film festivals around the world, inspiring viewers to join the fight for LGBTQ rights and representation in international politics.