Category Archives: Features

A Report from Paris: New Day Films take on climate change

by Briar March

Climate Change Conf
Paris climate talks

In December 2015, I had the rare opportunity to screen my film There Once Was an Island at the Paris climate talks and it got me thinking about the role films can play at environmental conferences and festivals. As international delegates work around the clock to secure a new climate deal and activists lobby furiously on the streets, it’s easy to lose sight of those smaller voices; the communities and individuals who are the first victims of climate change but often the last to be heard. Films can be a powerful and effective way to keep our priorities in focus, and to remember what is actually at stake.

There Once Was an Island
There Once Was an Island

There Once Was an Island was one of two documentaries invited to screen at the COP21 Climate Change Summit as part of an exhibition entitled “Entwined Destinies: Migration, Environment and Climate Change.” The feature documentary tells the story of three Pacific islanders living on an atoll only one meter above sea level and who face the threat of becoming some of the world’s first environmental refugees. Following its screening, a panel of four experts discussed issues related to migration and climate change. Event organizer Daria Mokhnacheva remarked,“The audience was very moved by the message that the film conveyed. The screening also led to a very interesting discussion about how climate change is perceived by local communities, and how we can all act individually to help mitigate climate change.” As a filmmaker who wants to have the greatest impact possible and inspire social change, I can’t think of a better place to screen my film. I also know that for my characters it will mean a great deal to learn that their story is being shared among powerful government officials who have the ability to change the course of their future.

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The Marion Lake Story

Other New Day films have also been having a powerful impact at environmental conferences around the world. Greta Schiller’s film, The Marion Lake Story: Defeating the Mighty Phragmite screened at the Justainabilty conference at Franklin Roosevelt University in Lugana, Switzerland. The documentary explores one of the largest citizen-led battles to eradicate the highly invasive phragmite reed in New York State. The film’s screening at the conference sparked a discussion among delegates over local conservation efforts in Switzerland versus government policy, and many questions were asked about how the workers involved in the clean up of the lake were being paid. Reflecting on the screening, Schiller writes:

Screenings in academic conferences are important because too often the academics who see my film understand the theoretical principles of biodiversity but have little idea of what cleaning up invasive weeds entails and how much maintenance is involved.

Schiller’s ability to show a more holistic picture of this issue impressed one German professor so much that he invited her to apply for a prestigious fellowship at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich and now, as a Carson Center Fellow, Schiller is furthering her conservation work through the production of a new documentary called Earth Repair which explores three distinct ecological restoration projects in Europe, India and Australia.

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White Earth

One of New Day’s most recent releases White Earth, an Oscar-nominated film about the oil boom in North Dakota, is currently gaining significant attention at environmental festivals. In the past few months, director Christian Jensen has screened the short documentary at three notable environmental film festivals: The Great Lakes Environmental Film Festival, The American Conservation Film Festival, and Telluride Mountain Film Festival. In an email conversation with Jensen, we discussed the ways in which festivals– much like academic and political conferences– allow filmmakers to engage with audiences in a deeper, more proactive way. Jensen noted that the current plunge in oil prices has made his film a jumping point for further conversations on what has happened in North Dakota now that fracking operations have become unprofitable. He also added that while many of his audience members were already involved in activism and familiar with issues of land development and resource management, his film offered them an alternative point of view:

In focusing primarily on the perspective of children living in the oil boom, White Earth has encouraged audiences to shift from the major dialogues about big oil, oil worker safety, and industrial environmental degradation, to the often overlooked inner landscapes of the children whose lives and communities are undergoing dramatic change.

Now that the Paris climate talks have wrapped up and governmental officials have gone home, it seems that world leaders are finally embracing the fact that climate change is a very real global issue that affects all of us. After personally witnessing the power film has to connect audiences and inspire change, I am so grateful that there are so many New Day films leaving a lasting impact across the globe.

To find out more about There Once Was an Island, The Marion Lake Story, White Earth, and other New Day documentaries that explore issues of climate change and conservation, please visit our rich collection of environmental films here.

Caught Between Worlds: Migration from a Child’s Perspective

By Greta Schiller

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Sin Pais

At a time when Europe is reeling from record numbers of refugees, renewed attention has been cast on the issue of migration. The term “refugee” has come to encompass individuals fleeing environmental change, food insecurity, and generalized violence—such as Syrian civilians fleeing drought and the onslaught of ISIS. Those who fall outside the internationally recognized definition of a refugee but are nevertheless fleeing very serious socio-economic rights deprivations are termed  “survival migrants.” Many of the other Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian immigrants featured nightly on our television screens fall under this category. They are running for their lives, seeking to find a new home where they can become productive citizens and raise their children safely.

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Abrazos

New Day Films hosts a collection of films that address the issue of survival migration into the United States, especially from the viewpoint of those most impacted: the children. The feature-length documentary Abrazos follows the transformational journey of 14 children of undocumented immigrants as they travel to Guatemala for the first time to meet their grandparents and other family members.  Their journey highlights the plight of 4.5 million children living in mixed legal status families. Director Luis Argueta was moved to capture this epic experience, noting:

In the process of filming several of my most recent documentaries, I have witnessed the negative consequences of family separation which is caused by a broken immigration system. The ones most affected by the separation are the children.

Sin Pais is an award-winning documentary short that attempts to break through mainstream media’s “talking points” approach to immigration by focusing on the intimate experiences of one family. In the early 90s, Sam and Elida Mejia fled a violent civil war in Guatemala. 17 years later, they have built a new life for themselves and their three children in the San Francisco Bay Area. When immigration agents storm their home in search of another person, however, their lives are torn apart. Sam, Elida, and their oldest son Gilbert are all undocumented and become deeply entangled in the U.S. immigration system. Commenting on the experiences of the Mejia family, filmmaker Theo Rigby writes:

Every parent has the responsibility to clothe, house, and educate his or her children.  Most immigrants want to provide a better life for their families than the one that they were dealt in their home country.  This translates to immigrants being incredibly hard workers and very innovative. More than half of small businesses in the U.S. were started by immigrants, as well as some of the largest businesses.

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Life on the Line

Documentary short Life On The Line tells the story of teenager Kimberly Torrez who lives on the Arizona-Mexico border in a mixed legal status family. Co-directing team Sally Rubin and Jen Giloman set about making a film that would bolster the fight for comprehensive immigration reform and highlight the plight of children and their families who are divided by state and national policies. Filmmaker Sally Rubin explains:

Told entirely from Kimberly’s perspective, our film attempts to draw out themes of socioeconomic adversity, the universal challenges of adolescence, the pursuit of opportunity in our education system, and the real-life effects of immigration policies on the ability of students to succeed.

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Children in No Man’s Land

One of New Day’s earliest films featuring children caught up in the immigration debate is Children in No Man’s Land, a short documentary about two young children, Maria de Jesus and her cousin Rene, who attempt to cross the US/Mexico border by themselves to reunite with their mothers in the Midwest. Filmmaker Anayansi Prado was deeply impacted by the stories she heard of unaccompanied children making the dangerous crossing over the border and wanted to put a human face to the crisis. She writes:

I wanted to understand and convey the struggles of a family separated by necessity and the children’s urges for embarking on such a risk journey. What I found out is that at their core they are not that much different than any of us. They are just families who want to be together and will risk it all to survive and have a chance at a better life.

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I Learn America
I Learn America is a feature-length documentary set in International High School at Lafayette, a Brooklyn public high school dedicated to teaching newly arrived immigrant teenagers from more than 50 countries. Co-directors Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng follow five diverse students over the course of a tumultuous senior year to illuminate the broader issues of how the education system and community groups can work together to embrace students in the USA who are first-generation immigrants. Ultimately, the unique learning environment fostered at International High School at Lafayette provides a blueprint for how other schools and society at large can help to support America’s newest arrivals and provide them a path to realizing their dreams. Filmmaker Jean-Michel Dissard writes:

Today, a quarter of our nation’s children are immigrants or the children of immigrants and nearly one third of our population under the age of 34 fits this demographic. How we fare in welcoming these children will determine the nature of America’s continually emerging identity.

To learn more about New Day’s films on immigration, please click here.

Intersectional and Interdependent: Disability Films that Embody Complexity

Sins Invalid
Sins Invalid

By Nomy Lamm and Regan Brashear

As we celebrate Disability Awareness Month this October, we recognize the many gains the Disability Rights movement has made over the past four decades.  Through grass-roots protests and political campaigns, activists helped put in motion legislation guaranteeing equal access under the law to jobs, schools, transportation, public spaces, housing and attendant care. Later victories included the de-institutionalization of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities under the Olmsted Decision.

While these gains have improved the quality of life for many, the Disability Rights movement has left a number of “cliffhangers,” as Patty Berne, a leader in the Disability Justice movement, puts it.  The focus on single-issue rights and highlighting of wheelchairs as the primary symbol of disability have unintentionally left many behind.  By ignoring the influence of race, class, gender, and sexuality on disability, we overlook the complexity and needs of the broader disability community. Similarly, the exclusive focus on mobility impairments has meant that bridges have not always been built with members of our extended communities—such as people with mental health disabilities, or who experience chronic pain, or who are blind or Deaf. In response to these needs, the Disability Justice movement has arisen with people of color at the forefront, articulating a new framework that is intersectional and interdependent.

New Day’s catalogue offers a collection of films that expand our understanding of disability. Five films in particular explore the intricate intersection between disability and race:  Sins Invalid, E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name, Making Noise in Silence, Mind/Game, and When I Came Home.

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty documents a Bay Area performance project that highlights artists with disabilities who are queer, gender non-conforming, and people of color, and who create work around themes of disability, sexuality, and social justice. Director Patty Berne, poet Leroy Moore, and a dozen other artists share their intimate and beautiful process and work, offering an entryway into the absurdly taboo topic of sexuality and disability.   

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E Haku Inoa To Weave A Name

When filmmaker Christen Marquez was born, her mother, a kumu hula (master hula practitioner), gave her a Hawaiian name that was over sixty letters. Eight years later, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and Christen and her siblings were taken away from her. E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name tells of Christen’s return to Hawaii, and is an elegant depiction of how the act of sharing indigenous knowledge can play a healing role in restoring otherwise estranged relationships. Marquez reflects, ”There is a stigma of sickness that is imported into indigenous communities and although there are many health problems that exist in indigenous communities, I wonder if some diagnoses aren’t a fulfillment of an expectation. Many people don’t need a diagnosis; they just need someone to help them heal.”

Director/producer Mina Son explores the richness and complexities of Deaf culture in Making Noise in Silence, through the perspective of two Korean high school students who attend the California School for the Deaf, Fremont. Born and raised in South Korea, Jeongin Mun and Min Wook Cho have strong ties to their Korean heritage and learned Korean as their first language. However, what separates Jeongin and Min Wook from most children of immigrant families is that they are also deaf. Filmmaker Mina Son shares: “Deaf immigrants face many of the same challenges people with multiple identities face. Navigating multiple languages, cultures, and histories can be overwhelming, especially for a young person who is still trying to understand who they are and where they belong.”

Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, by Academy Award-nominated director Rick Goldsmith, is the portrait of a Black woman with a mental illness. Chamique Holdsclaw is a 3-time NCAA champ and No.1 draft pick in the WNBA from Astoria, Queens– sometimes called “the female Michael Jordan.” With the help of narrator Glenn Close, Mind/Game intimately chronicles her athletic accomplishments, personal setbacks, and her decision—despite public stigma— to become an outspoken mental health advocate.

Dan Lohaus’ powerful film, When I Came Home, follows the struggles of Herold Noel, an African-American Iraq war veteran who becomes homeless in New York City after returning from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Focusing on Herold’s struggle with the Veterans Administration and city agencies to find the help he needs, When I Came Home reveals a failing system and exposes the “second war” that many veterans must fight after they return home from war.

These films reveal the multiple layers of struggle that disabled people of color must navigate every day, with insight into the human drive toward beauty, empowerment and connection. What is it like to learn American Sign Language as a new immigrant to the US?  What are the cultural misunderstandings between the western medical model and indigenous ways of knowing?  What does radical embodiment at the intersection of multiple identities look and feel like?  How do people heal from the devastation of war when they come home to find a culture that doesn’t include them?  New Day hopes these films will illuminate the perspectives of those who have typically been at the margins of the Disability Rights movement, whose daily existence is the embodiment of intersectional activism.   

To see our whole collection of disability films, click here.   

New Day Films Look Back at New Orleans

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and led to one of America’s largest humanitarian crises. Katrina’s aftermath exposed shocking truths about America: our woeful unpreparedness in the face of environmental devastation, and the continuing unjust treatment of African-American communitiesAs the 10th anniversary approaches, we turn our attention to commemorating the rebuilding of New Orleans in the face of extreme tragedy. New Day is proud to offer three films– including one new title– that offer special insight into the resilience of New Orleans and its people, as well as larger lessons about rebuilding communities in the face of devastation.

The newest addition to New Day’s collection, Faubourg Treme: The Untold History of Black New Orleans, is the fascinating story of America’s oldest African-American neighborhood, Faubourg Treme—where jazz and our country’s first civil rights movement were born. Years before Hurricane Katrina hit, two New Orleans natives, white filmmaker Dawn Logsdon and black writer Lolis Eric Elie, began a unique collaboration documenting the rich culture of Faubourg Treme, then a little known neighborhood overshadowed by the adjacent French Quarter. Their tapes miraculously survived the flooding that devastated the city. Now, ten years later, the award-winning film brings alive Treme’s hidden history and situates it within three centuries of African-American struggle—from slavery to Reconstruction and the Jim Crow laws, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the ongoing struggle for equal justice in communities of color.

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Land of Opportunity

While Faubourg Treme turns to history to understand the present, Luisa Dantas and Rebecca Snedeker’s film Land of Opportunity immerses itself in the tumultuous reconstruction of New Orleans through the eyes of those working on the frontlines. Even before its release, local and national community organizations were using the film to educate their constituents about the pressing issues occurring on the ground in Katrina’s aftermath, including the fight for affordable housing and the equitable rebuilding of neighborhoods. Since its release in 2011, the film has helped to stir and steer important conversations around post-crisis community building, including issues of housing, urban planning and the environment, and civic engagement. Dantas explains:  

The tagline of our film is ‘Happening to a city near you.’ As communities around the world grapple with the effects of natural and man-made disasters, the lessons of New Orleans have never been more relevant. Land of Opportunity has helped foster dialogue and action around a vital question:  What kinds of cities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century?

In addition to the film, Dantas has built an interactive video player (beta.landofopportunityinteractive.com) featuring stories from six US cities trying to rebuild their communities in the wake of a crisis.

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A Village Called Versailles

Finally, Leo Chiang’s A Village Called Versailles brings viewers into a little known corner of New Orleans society. The film chronicles the struggles of a Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans as they fight a government-driven toxic landfill proposal and restore their ravaged neighborhood following Hurricane Katrina. The Emmy-nominated documentary presents a unique and thought-provoking perspective on community resiliency, disaster preparedness, urban planning, race & class relations, and the political empowerment of underserved groups. The film’s story is powerful and significant because it shows so vividly how a previously disenfranchised community can find its voice and fight for social and environmental justice. Chiang puts his film in a broader context: “Katrina stories document an important event in our country and are a growing resource for people not only in the United States but also in countries all over the world dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters.”

In these three films, compelling stories are drawn from all walks of life, including musicians, civil rights leaders, public housing residents, urban planners, and immigrants. Filmmaker Rebecca Snedeker reflects on the synergistic nature of the collection:

Paired together, Faubourg Treme, looking mostly to the past, and Land of Opportunity, looking toward the future, reveal a powerful narrative of Black New Orleans that is critical to American History and Urban Studies. A Village Called Versailles, as it foregrounds the Vietnamese-American community, and Land of Opportunity, which follows Brazilian workers and a Cuban-born urban planner, among others, together challenge the traditional Black/white race spectrum so often assumed for New Orleans and the South and give voice to other communities integral to our region.

Watch these films at one of these upcoming events listed below, or purchase a copy for your collection off our website.

  • Land of Opportunity will screen at the University of New Orleans (August 16), the Gulf Coast for the NAACP’s Sunshine After the Storm Conference (August 25), and Georgetown University’s “Katrina @10 Symposium” in Washington DC (October 23).
  • A Village Called Versailles will screen at the National Association for Multicultural Education Conference in New Orleans (October 1-4). It will also be part of Georgetown University’s “Katrina @10 Symposium” (October 23).
  • Faubourg Treme co-directors Lolis Eric Elie and Dawn Logsdon will discuss their film at The Atlantic and Urban Institutes’s “New Orleans: 10 Years Later” event in New Orleans (August 24) and at Georgetown University’s “Katrina @ 10 Symposium” (October 23).

Putting the “T” in LGBT

By Greta Schiller

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Prodigal Sons

“It’s not unusual for me to be the first transgender person someone has known. I’m happy to be in that position, because the best way to dispel misunderstanding and increase empathy for The Other is to simply get to know someone,” says Kimberly Reed, the director of New Day’s Prodigal Sons. “That’s how we’ve made progress in the LGB communities, and now it’s time for the T.”

New Day Films has been at the forefront of distribution of films on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual topics as they play out at home, in the workplace and in academia. As society expands its look at transgender identities, we at New Day have also been expanding our collection of films with transgender stories from around the world. LGBT Pride month seems a perfect time to profile four films that explore transgender identities.

In Prodigal Sons, filmmaker Kimberly Reed takes us on a personal journey back to her Montana hometown where family histories are revealed in many surprising ways. Kim is an articulate and ardent spokeswoman for trans people. She has appeared in a wide variety of media outlets, from Oprah to The Moth, and recently released this “Day in the Life” video as part of the New York Times web series “Transgender Today.”

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Trinidad

PJ Raval’s Trinidad follows the journeys of three transwomen whose paths cross in the unassuming town of Trinidad, Colorado– “sex change capital of the world.” With a compassionate eye, the film shows us the passion, commitment, and bravery it takes to align one’s external body with one’s internal gender identity. Thanks to Caitlyn Jenner’s recent media debut alongside the popularity of the Emmy award-winning showTransparent as well many notable outspoken figures such as Laverne Cox entering the media, Trinidad has garnered new attention and is currently broadcasting on SHOWTIME.

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Tales of the Waria

In the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, we find a different take on gender identity. Kathy Huang uses an observational, ethnographic approach to profile the lives of warias, or transgender women, in her award-winning PBS film Tales of The Waria. Unlike the characters in Raval’s Trinidad, the warias in Huang’s film are not interested in sex reassignment surgeries because of religious reasons. As one waria explains, “We were born as men and must return to God as men.” Perhaps the most striking difference about transgender women in Indonesia is their visibility in daily life. While many Indonesians are still unfamiliar with the term “gay,” they commonly recognize “waria.” One of Indonesia’s biggest celebrities—on a scale comparable to Oprah—is a waria who started off as a young boy in show business and transitioned into her waria identity as a teenager in front of millions of Indonesians.

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No Dumb Questions

Three siblings aged 6, 9 and 11 are the stars of No Dumb Questions – an early entry into the burgeoning field of transgender studies. While the first three feature documentaries are rather serious, director Melissa Regan uses humor to tackle some big questions about identity and gender.  This makes an excellent introduction to the subject for high school students in particular as the family setting is non- threatening and inclusive for younger audiences.

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I’m Just Anneke

Finally, Jonathan Skurnik’s short films revolve around kids who don’t conform to conventional gender roles. I’m Just Anneke tells the story of a gender fluid twelve-year-old girl who’s taking hormone blockers that delay puberty so she can decide if she wants to be male, female, or somewhere in-between, when she grows up. In The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children, parents and siblings of children in transition relate their experiences. Maria Jose and Pam, for instance, talk about boys who longed to wear dresses, and Jeannine relates the hostile reactions to her son’s going to school in girls’ attire. All of the adults find acceptance of their children’s differences difficult but necessary, with one saying “You have to get over yourself, and get over your own fear.” The Youth & Gender Media Project has recently received grants from The Arcus Foundation and The Fledgling Fund to complete the third and fourth films in the series, Becoming Johanna & Creating Safe Schools and to create curriculum for teachers and administrators to use in the classroom.

You can explore New Day’s full collection of films on LGBTQ issues here.

 

 

Active Voice Profiles Two New Day Films as Changemakers

Active Voice is a San Francisco based organization that helps filmmakers devise and implement engagement strategies for social issue films. They recently launched a new website to help filmmakers, funders, and social change agents measure the impact of their strategies. The site, howdoweknow.net, presents a set of horticultural metaphors to help categorize the various ways films contribute to change. Two New Day films — Granito and Ask Not — are profiled on the site as “Trellis Films.” According to Active Voice founder Ellen Schneider,

Whether the story of an unlikely hero, an extraordinary leader, or a group of people working together to solve social problems, Trellises provide a hopeful structure whereby challenges can be overcome and solutions — big and small — can be celebrated. Trellises are distinct because they support an ongoing, already established solution to a social or policy problem.

FYmaUhNpGJohnny Symons, the director of Ask Not, an exploration of the history and effects of the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, says the production was designed with outreach goals in mind. “The impact I was striving for was very specific,” he says. “We wanted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and that infused the creative process. The choice of subjects and their narrative storylines, as well as the use of statistics throughout the film, all underscored the need for repeal.”

Symons partnered early on with the Palm Center, a university think tank focusing on military issues, and they collaborated throughout production. “I think the PBS broadcast, and our community screenings at more than 50 venues, definitely contributed to the lifting of DADT,” Symons says. “The evidence for that is that I was invited to the White House ceremony where the act was repealed.”

itunes_granitoThe other film profiled on howdoweknow.net as a “Trellis” is New Day’s Granito: How to Nail a Dictator. This film is about another kind of war crime: the massacre of Mayan peoples in Guatemala during the 1980s. In a stunning milestone for justice in Central America, a Guatemalan court recently charged former dictator Efraín Rios Montt with genocide. Pamela Yates’ 1983 documentary, When the Mountains Tremble, provided key evidence for bringing the indictment. Granito tells the extraordinary story of how a film, aiding a new generation of human rights activists, became a “granito” — a tiny grain of sand — that helped tip the scales of justice. “I’m not sure why Ellen classified us as a Trellis rather than a Trowel or something else,” Producer Paco de Onis says. “It’s fine with us, though, and seems like a good fit – we do work in the long term after all!”

Granito is used across the world to inspire and convince people, including the children of those massacred, that it is possible to seek justice – even after 30 years. The filmmaking team also followed the trial and appeal of General Montt and have created learning modules available online at their website.

These examples are just two of many New Day Films that work – whether as rakes, trowels, wheelbarrows, trellises, or shovels (to use the metaphors offered by howdoweknow.net) – to raise awareness, inspire and create social change. Visit our website and click on a film page’s “Study Resources” section to find out what is available for a particular film. New study guides and additional resources are available for:

  • Sins Invalid, about a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists
  • Rebels With a Cause, which documents how a ragtag group of disparate citizens banded together to protect and preserve open spaces near urban areas from rampant development
  • TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives, which follows an 18 year-old Hondureña who, with the help of a troupe of immigrant teenage actors, courageously leaves behind the sexual and cultural violence of her past and creates a bright future for herself
  • The Marion Lake Story: Defeating the Mighty Phragmite, which follows one woman who rallies her skeptical community to undertake the largest citizen led invasive species eradication and habitat restoration project in New York State
  • Choosing Children, the 1984 film that helped start the lesbian baby boom, has just released The Back Story, a 20-minute piece that tells the story of the making of the film, invaluable for anyone interested in the history of LGBT filmmaking and the lesbian parenting movement
  • My Brooklyn, which follows director Kelly Anderson’s journey, as a Brooklyn gentrifier, to understand the forces reshaping her neighborhood

Many other New Day Films have free engagement materials and bonus features available. Explore our website to discover the rich collection of resources available there.

New Day Films Humanize Health Care

“Film is a great way to tap into the humanistic aspects of medicine,” says Dr. Monica Lypson, Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education and Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education at the University of Michigan.  Dr. Lypson, together with colleagues Dr. Paula Ross, also from the University of Michigan, and Dr. Divy Ravindranath from Stanford University, has created a special curriculum for medical students that utilizes Heather Courtney’s film, Where Soldiers Come From.

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Where Soldiers Come From

Historically, few medical schools have used film in their classes, but this is beginning to change as health educators incorporate documentaries as tools for teaching about psychosocial issues in medicine, psychiatry, nursing and counseling courses. Dr. Ross first saw Where Soldiers Come From at the 2012 American Sociological Association conference and immediately shared the film with Dr. Lypson. “We were looking for a film we could use in a new faculty development workshop on veteran-centered care,” Dr. Lypson says. “We selected this film because it is a documentary (as opposed to a work of fiction) which offers a true depiction of the trajectory of service members—from civilian life to active duty to veteran.”  The faculty development workshop that utilizes the film, “Developing Skills in Veteran-Centered Care: Understanding Where Soldiers Really Come From,” combines the film clips with active learning exercises. Recently, Dr. Lypson announced her intent to expand the workshop to target students and faculty from other health care fields. Dr. Lypson emphasizes that health care extends beyond medicine, and she believes the course is relevant for students, residents, and practicing professionals in various disciplines, including nursing, social work and public health.

Courtney’s film challenges students with hard questions, like “What socio-economic circumstances might lead someone to join the military?” In helping the health care practitioner understand the backstory of a patient’s life, she or he comes to the medical work at hand with greater empathy and compassion. “It is a way to get learners to tap into feelings the way they can’t do listening to an impassive lecture,” Dr. Lypson explains. “You want medical students and health professionals to tap into that, because they are dealing with people.”  In Courtney’s film, it is the story of Dominic – a young artist turned soldier who uses his art to deal with his PTSC and Traumatic Brain Injury – that particularly affects students. The course is currently available online via MedPortal. Faculty are encouraged to show the entire film, in addition to the clips that are explicitly part of the curriculum.  Because of the success of this course, a larger curriculum covering a range of issues related to veteran-centered care is being planned by Dr. Lypson and her colleagues. If approved by the University this will be part of a massive online open course with a reach of upwards of 10,000 students.

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FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement

Regan Brashear’s film FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement is another New Day film that has had widespread use and feedback from the medical profession. The documentary explores the social impact of human biotechnologies, prompting audiences to rethink “disability” and “normalcy” by exploring technologies that promise to change our bodies and minds forever. Shown to a crowd of students, nurses, doctors, and medical providers at an event sponsored by the UCSF Committee on Disability Issues, the film set the stage for a lively panel discussion. Plans are currently underway for a large conference sponsored by the Mayo Clinic on neuroethics, disability ethics and technology. Brashear’s film will open the conference and then various lectures will be built out, based on the issues raised in the film.

When the documentary Heart of the Sea, a portrait of Hawaiian surfing legend and breast cancer survivor Rell Sunn came out, it was immediately used by national breast cancer organizations because it provided a positive and empowering image of a woman with breast cancer. Director Charlotte Lagarde, in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Pacific Islanders in Communications, developed an outreach campaign targeting Native Americans and Pacific Islanders all around the US. Heart of the Sea was the first film portraying a Pacific Islander and Asian American woman with breast cancer, and it enabled unprecedented dialogue among Native communities about cancer, a subject that was taboo and often brought shame to a family.

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Heart of the Sea

In Hawaii, the American Cancer society, the Suzan G. Komen Foundation, and many local health organizations used the film in their outreach programs to encourage Hawaiians to talk more openly about breast cancer. In Alaska, the South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium still uses it a to engage people in dialogue about cancer and healthy living.

The changing face of medical education offers great potential for wider use of New Day’s collection of films dealing with physical and mental health, addiction, aging and gerontology, disability, psychology and social work. Visit our website to see the potential for use in your field!

New Day Filmmakers Advocate for Indie Voices on PBS

New Day filmmakers are joining colleagues across the country urging educators, librarians and organizers to tell PBS why they need independent social issue films.

PBS, recently accused of lessening their commitment to independent film, is now holding a “National Listening Tour,” soliciting input on the place of indie film on public television.

PBS tours the country to discuss the role of independent docs in public media
PBS’s National Listening Tour stops off in NYC

The tour’s first stop was in San Francisco on January 17, where about 200 filmmakers, educators, organizers and documentary lovers let PBS know they are upset about the recent attempt by New York’s WNET to push POV and Independent Lens — the two indie documentary shows — onto WLIW, its smaller, secondary station. The shows would also continue on WNET, but in a late-night time slot.

After filmmakers protested the decision, WNET postponed it, and organized the Listening Tour.  While PBS officials repeatedly told the audience they support independent film, many of the filmmakers were skeptical. They insisted that losing support from WNET — public television’s flagship station — would make it increasingly impossible for them to make films. Furthermore, they suggested that by going along with WNET’s plan, PBS tacitly supported it.

At the January 23 New York stop on the listening tour, New Day Films member Tami Gold told PBS officials:

What is at stake by PBS decreasing its commitment to independent documentary films is the loss of one of the last remaining outlets for alternative views and independent thinking on American television. Primetime programs like POV and Independent Lens are more important now than ever.  Most documentaries bring to light widespread injustices, their human consequences and underlying causes. They tell stories that are all too often hidden among the thousands of vacuous TV stations and programs.

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New Day filmmaker TAMI GOLD takes center stage

Many filmmakers are calling on PBS to require primetime “common carriage” for Independent Lens and POV — meaning that major stations in each market would have to run the shows at the same time. They argue that only common carriage can attract national media — and a national audience — to a film.

In San Francisco, New Day Films member Susan Stern said, “What we’ve been hearing from our members and other documentary makers is that common carriage in prime time is the baseline. We need that. We want to work with you, because we think the audience is there. We think that’s what people want.”

Gold also made the point that while PBS is expanding its offerings on digital platforms, millions of people can’t access their programming that way. “Some of the people in our documentary Every Mother’s Son wanted to join us today to talk about what it has meant to have their stories broadcast on national primetime PBS, but they couldn’t rsvp for this very meeting because they don’t have internet acccess,” she said.

While the exchange between filmmakers and PBS was pointed, some of the most poignant testimony came from people who use independent film. In San Francisco Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence, one of the world’s leading violence prevention agencies, said at-risk youth are inspired when they see films about incarcerated low-income people of color who turn their lives around. “If you want to see students engaged — put on a documentary,” Soler said.

Chris Armes, a young public health student, agreed. Armes suffered a childhood disability that rendered him mute, and isolated in front of the TV.  He said he was saved by documentaries. “Don’t take away the voice of the voiceless,” Armes said.

The next listening tour will be in Chicago in March (date TBD). To attend or contact PBS on behalf of independent film, go to the website to preserve indie film on PBS: http://www.indiecaucus.org/

 

10 Ways New Day Films Changed People’s Lives in 2014

Luis Argueta and Pope

400 copies of Bag It, Suzan Beraza’s film about the impact of plastic on our environment, were given away to schools throughout the U.S. and abroad. The effort was funded by Patagonia and the Johnson O’Hana Charitable Foundation.

Luis Argueta personally handed Pope Francis a copy of his film abUSed: The PostVille Raid, which highlights the devastating effects of US immigration enforcement policies on children, families and communities. Read the full story here.

Gaza Ghetto: Portrait of a Palestinian Family, Joan Mandell’s 1984 film about the Israel-Palestine conflict, was used to raise funds for direct aid to children in Gaza.

Debra Chasnoff presented Straightlaced – How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up to a standing-room-only audience at Shantou University in southern China. Hundreds of students came to the first ever public lecture and screening on that campus to focus on gender and queer sexuality issues. Afterwards students shared their own concerns, fears, and questions: “I am the only girl to go to the gym to lift weights and everyone makes fun of me”; “Aren’t gay people the reason there is a population decline in the west?”; and, “I think I might be lesbian. How do you know if you are a lesbian?”

The University of North Carolina in Charlotte used Lisa Gossels’ film My So-Called Enemy to bring together students from Hillel, the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. The night after the screening, the Multicultural Resource Center organized a “Civil Discourse” dinner where student leaders from these groups (and others!) bonded and made a commitment to work together.

At Parsons School of Design, a student told My Brooklyn director Kelly Anderson that seeing her film about gentrification and redevelopment in Downtown Brooklyn made him drop his career and go to graduate school in Urban Ecology.

44 years after it was made, Anything You Want To Be opened the first major conference on the early history of the Women’s Movement (Boston University’s “A Revolutionary Moment: Women’s Liberation in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s”). One participant who saw the film in the 1970s told director Liane Brandon, “That was the film that made me a feminist!”

Andrea Leland‘s film Yurumein screened for Garifuna audiences in Belize. The Garifuna (Black Caribs) are the indigenous people of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, who were nearly exterminated and most were exiled to Central America by the British 200 years ago.  The screenings sparked a desire in Central American Garifuna to reach out to their brethren in St. Vincent,  in an effort to re-establish their culture and history, lost to those living on St. Vincent.

Pat Goudvis has launched an interactive media project exploring the aftermath of wars in Guatemala and Central America by revisiting the same characters from her 1992 documentary If the Mango Tree Could Speak and weaving together “then and now” footage with other elements.

Clips from Alice Elliott’s documentary Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy appear in a new training video, ACTIVATE HERE!, designed to help disabled people advocate for themselves (funded by The Fledgling Fund and the Arc of the United States and available free online with closed captioning and audio description).

Granito wins 2014 BritDoc Impact Award

itunes_granitoNew Day is proud to announce that Granito, by Pamela Yates, Paco de Onis and Peter Kinoy, has received a 2014 BRITDOC Impact Award. Granito tells the extraordinary story of how the filmmakers’ 1982 film When The Mountains Tremble aided a new generation of human rights activists and helped tip the scales of justice in Guatemala. Ultimately, dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt was pronounced guilty of committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Maya Ixil people, and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

“Granito serves as a vital reminder that courageous documentary filmmakers can profoundly impact the cause of justice in the world,” said Jury Member Amy Goodman, who is also the Host & Executive Producer of Democracy Now!. “This film helped the Maya people of Guatemala hold the perpetrators of their genocide accountable. It poignantly portrays their suffering, their resistance and their hope for the future.”

The BRITDOC Impact Award celebrates “the documentary films that have made the greatest impact on society.” Granito shares the award with American Promise, Blackfish, The House I Live In and No Fire Zone. Each film receives $15,000 to reward their commitment, passion and achievements in using storytelling to provoke change.

Since 2005, BRITDOC has been developing expertise around impact and evaluation in documentary film. The organization’s Impact Field Guide & Toolkit is a new free online curriculum designed to help those who are working with film improve their impact.  For more information about BRITDOC’s impact reports and educational tools visit britdoc.org.