Category Archives: Meet New Day

Meet New Day: Reid Davenport

Reid Davenport

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.

Reid’s three films can be purchased individually or as a package entitled Concerning Barriers. Learn more about his work here.

MEET NEW DAY: RONIT BEZALEL

Ronit Bezalel

My film 70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green chronicles the fifteen-year demolition of Chicago’s Cabrini Green public housing complex, the subsequent building of mixed-income replacement homes, and the erasure of an African-American community. Cabrini Green was situated on some of the city’s most valuable real estate and was ultimately deemed by land developers to be too valuable for the low-income black community that lived there. The film grapples with questions of urban planning, gentrification, and who has a right to the city. When I arrived in Chicago in 1994 to study film at Columbia College, I was dismayed by the city’s racial divide. As a white woman, I was immediately told to avoid Cabrini Green, a low-income black community next to the city center. I wanted to understand why Chicago was so segregated, and why Cabrini Green was being torn down. People told me this was a land grab, and I sensed that there was a story that needed to be told. I contacted people at Cabrini Green and began learning about the community. I was introduced to Cabrini resident/activist Mark Pratt who was also a film student at Columbia College. We struck up a friendship that has endured over 20 years.

70 Acres in Chicago

I originally made a short film called  Voices of Cabrini  that looked at the initial demolitions. I continued to film for 15 additional years to follow the story through to completion and created 70 Acres in Chicago. While making both films, I tried to stay aware and humble. So many people want to fully “understand” Cabrini Green, and as outsiders we cannot. My role was to learn, listen, and help people share their stories. I cannot claim to “know” Cabrini, but I did my best to create a historical record of a community that no longer exists in the same way.

70 Acres in Chicago has proven a vital instructional tool for urban planners, city officials, and students who are trying to avoid the pitfalls of Chicago’s Plan for Housing Transformation. It has also served as an important catalyst for dialogue on issues of race and class. While the film focuses on Chicago, it has national resonance. Across the United States, communities of color are being disproportionately pushed outside of city centers because the land where they live has become too valuable in the real estate market.    

Learn more about Ronit and her work here.

MEET NEW DAY: CHERYL GREEN

Cheryl Green

Who Am I To Stop It asks hard questions about life with acquired disabilities from traumatic brain injury (TBI). As an artist with traumatic brain injury myself, I wanted to know if other people like me felt isolated and abandoned after brain injury, and whether they felt that people understood their art better than they understood the person. I ask audiences to move away from the usual TBI storyline of tragedy to rehabilitation to inspiration. Instead, I ask them to let go of the urge to indulge in graphic descriptions of injury and impairment and come with me for conversations around identity, sexuality, loneliness, depression, poverty, and stigma. Nothing is cut and dry, nothing purely positive or negative. The film shows how peers with TBI are interdependent, creative, fabulous people with agency and richly complex identities.

Three artists with traumatic brain injury


Making the film was an accident. Back in 2012, I still wasn’t very clear-headed. I signed up for a crowd-funding platform without realizing I had to have a project to fundraise for. When someone called and asked what my proposed project was, words came out of my mouth saying that I would be making a documentary about TBI survivors who use the arts for every reason except art therapy. And then I made it. Because I’m very literal, and I said I would. I wholeheartedly endorse art therapy. But it was important for me, as a member of a proud disability community, to counter the public belief that peers with TBI are all patients for life, and that everything we do is focused on eliminating or avoiding disability.

The most beautiful thing for me is how many people at screenings tell me that they saw themselves on screen or saw their family member shown without any sensationalism or objectification. I’ve had audience members crying, saying they thought they were alone in their experiences of impairment and isolation until the screening. Other TBI survivors have said that just like the people in the film, art saved their lives.

Learn more about Cheryl and her work here.

MEET NEW DAY: COREY TONG AND JAMES Q. CHAN

Our short film Forever, Chinatown follows the story of an unknown, self-taught, 81-year-old artist, Frank Wong, who has spent the past four decades recreating his fading memories by building extraordinarily detailed miniature models of the San Francisco Chinatown rooms of his youth.

Corey Tong

Corey (Producer): The film was the perfect confluence of our interests: romantic, exquisite, emotionally loaded artwork; an eccentric artist; and our unique hometown of San Francisco with its complex historical neighborhood of Chinatown. We were excited to work together, and were also fortunate enough along the way to find partners in the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), California Humanities, and the city of San Francisco.

We combine real-life vérité footage with a romantic, highly stylized studio shoot to tell Frank’s unique story. In doing so, we pay homage to the artist himself, who describes his work as “half wishing and half memory.”

James Q. Chan

James (Producer, Director): Forever, Chinatown is Frank’s commentary on the encroaching changes to the neighborhood, and it is a love letter to a beloved community and city. The film needed to seamlessly weave together three parts: the contours of the artist’s life, the intimacy of his artwork, and the heart and soul of the film, Chinatown. It also highlights the profound changes wrought by the hyper-gentrification that is sweeping through San Francisco. The voices of those displaced by rising housing costs, conversions, and upscale redevelopment often go unheard, becoming only a statistical number in the harsh realities of Bay Area housing.

We’ve just completed our first year of our festival run and it’s been incredible. Screenings have included San Francisco’s Chinatown, North Carolina, the Philippines and Poland. Audiences have shared their moving personal family stories during Q&A’s, and some have returned to second screenings with their family members. Asian Pacific Islander health professionals who serve their community have said our film is a great visual aid in highlighting the complex dynamics of growing up in an ethnic minority, while local politicians and community organizations have reported that the film invites policy makers to sit through a film about gentrification and redevelopment, and be emotionally moved. The most touching moment was perhaps our packed screening in Vietnam at Hanoi Cinematheque where a tearful Mr. Saadi Salama, Ambassador of the State of Palestine, used our film to illustrate the importance of film in preserving community and culture.

Learn more about the work of Corey and James.

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.

Meet New Day: SAMANTHA FARINELLA

samantha-farinellaI 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

Meet New Day: SOPHIE SARTAIN

Sophie Sartain
Sophie Sartain

I am a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. My film Mimi And Dona is a personal documentary about my grandmother Mimi and my aunt Dona, who was diagnosed with an intellectual disability as a child and lived with my grandmother her entire life. When Mimi was 92, she finally admitted that she could no longer care for Dona, then age 64. This set in motion the events chronicled in Mimi And Dona.

When I first went to Dallas to film Mimi and Dona, I wasn’t sure if I was making a home movie, or a larger film. I mainly wanted to capture their life together. They were sweet and quirky Texas characters. My brothers and I often wondered if Dona could have lived a more independent and potentially “bigger” life away from home; on the other hand, she and Mimi were happy. They had a lot of fun together and were close companions for decades. We wondered if a move away from Mimi was the right thing for Dona. Would Mimi fall apart without her?

Back in Los Angeles, whenever I told people about Mimi and Dona’s situation, they would chime in that they knew someone in the same predicament—a cousin, a neighbor or a friend’s sibling, some with developmental disabilities, others with mental illnesses, all struggling to find appropriate care and housing for a loved one. This was an untold story happening all around us, with aging caregivers like my grandmother facing agonizing decisions, often with little support or guidance.

The response to Mimi And Dona has been amazing. After a national broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens, it was named “One of the Best TV Shows of 2015” by Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times, who called it a “beautiful portrait of parental commitment.” Viewers identify with the characters and say that the film stays with them long after they watch it. Equally gratifying has been the response from professionals who work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They appreciate the film’s intimate and honest look at the dynamics within a family, something they don’t normally see if they interact with individuals outside the home. They are also grateful for the film shining a spotlight on an issue they come across frequently in their work – finding appropriate care and housing for a vulnerable population that is aging, right along with their caregivers.

Learn more about Sophie’s work here.

Meet New Day: Alice Dungan Bouvrie

Alice Bouvrie

I have been working for 25 years in the film industry and am proud to now have two titles in the New Day collection. My newest work is A Chance To Dress, a documentary that explores the complexity of gender expression through the story of MIT Professor Emeritus and open cross-dresser Dr. John “Tephra” Southard.  The film follows the difficulties in coming out to his friends, neighbors and colleagues, but also his sense of liberation after a lifetime of secrecy.

My curiosity motivated me to make this film: I had so many questions about the nature of cross-dressing. When I discovered that many others had the same questions, I set out to find some answers. Few people understand that cross-dressing is not the same as being transgender, so my goal was to explore the phenomenon of cross dressing and bring it into conversation.  Cross-dressing is very much a part of the fabric of our society and it should be understood as yet another way of expressing one’s gender identity.

The community of cross-dressers is still hidden – trying to locate cross-dressers isn’t as easy as, for example, finding the gay and lesbian community, or even now the transgender community.  They tend to want to remain “stealth” as much as possible. So the fact that we were able to film inside the Tiffany Club (a private club for cross-dressers and transgender people) was a big deal, and I think we were able to do so on the strength of my previous film, Thy Will Be Done: a transsexual woman’s journey through family and faith. It was the first time the Club allowed filming inside – ever – so that was a great opportunity that really enriched the film.

The film has made an impact by validating the desire of men who occasionally enjoy dressing in women’s clothing. But to my great delight, it has also had an unexpected impact on the wives of cross-dressers. The film profiles John Southard’s wife Jean, an “A+ wife,” who is caring, understanding, and a “willing accomplice.” She is a role model and inspiration to those who may be having a hard time embracing the lifestyles of their partners or aren’t sure how best to support them.

Learn more about Alice’s work here.

 

Meet New Day: blair dorosh-walther

B&WBlair_Doroshwalther_OUTINTHENIGHT_imgbyLyricCabral

My film Out In The Night tells the true story of a group of young African-American lesbians who are out one night in 2006, in New York City’s gay-friendly neighborhood of Greenwich Village, when they are sexually confronted by an older man. After they brush off his advances and state that they are gay, the man becomes violent and threatens to “f**k them straight.” He spits and throws a lit cigarette at one of the women, causing a fight to break out. The women are subsequently arrested, charged and convicted with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. Out in the Night reveals how race, gender identity and sexuality are criminalized in the mainstream news media and in the criminal legal system.

Immediately following their arrest, I became interested in the case. I read the many salacious headlines like “Attack of the Killer Lesbians,” “Gal Gang,” “I’m a man, lesbian growled” and on and on. However, it was the first of many New York Times articles that really gave me pause: “Man is stabbed after admiring a stranger.” I was outraged. I didn’t think the journalists from the NYT would have written the article from the harasser’s point of view had the women been white. A man does not ‘admire’ teenage girls on the street at midnight. At best, that is harassment.

Originally, I believed that this was a story that shouldn’t be told by a white director. After two years of advocacy, however, as their appeals were approaching, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. I was still just as passionate, but the media attention had severely died down. I didn’t want it to be swept under the rug. I wrote to each of the women in prison and asked if I could come visit to discuss the possibility of a documentary. I spoke with their family members to see if they were also interested. From there we began a long interview process, seeing whether we were a good fit. After many months of getting to know each other, we began filming.

Out in the Night has now screened in close to 150 film festivals, winning over a dozen awards, and kicked off the 2015-2016 season of POV on PBS with a simultaneous broadcast on the Logo Network. Out in the Night continues its partnership with the United Nations’ Free and Equal Campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide. According to RogerEbert.com, “This film could help influence the ongoing LGBT civil rights struggle. Everyone should see it.”

Learn more about blair’s work here.

Meet New Day – Shalini Kantayya

Shalini_highres_rectangle
Shalini Kantayya

I’m a filmmaker, eco-activist, and futurist. My film Catching the Sun follow the stories of an unemployed American worker, a Tea Party activist, and a Chinese solar entrepreneur as they race to lead the largest economic opportunity of our times—clean energy. Their successes and failures speak to one of the biggest questions of our time:  who will win and who will lose the battle for power in the 21st century?

The journey to make Catching the Sun began because I was looking for hope. In post-industrial cities like Richmond, California, the dream of upward mobility is eroding. The oil economy has created monopolies and concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the few. I was fascinated by the idea that solar power could democratize and decentralize energy in a way that rebuilds the ladder of economic opportunity for workers and entrepreneurs.

This is not a gloom and doom climate change film. Catching the Sun focuses on the human stories of workers and entrepreneurs who are remaking our energy system with their own hands. The film builds on the transformative idea that what is good for the polar bears can also be good for the middle class. Solving climate change can unleash innovation and transform an inefficient, polluting energy system into something radically better for our economy. Filmed over five years, Catching The Sun will leave audiences encouraged by the hope and possibility of a clean energy future, and inspired to bring that future into being.

Learn more about Shalini’s work here.