In a recent interview in the New York Times, President Obama, quoting an unnamed source, stated, “Every man is either trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes.” As we celebrate Father’s Day this month, we call attention to award-winning New Day Films that pay homage to the strong influence fathers have played in our lives. They are guardians of memory, carriers of our culture, inventors and innovators, and front line players in redefining gender roles. And they are also deeply complicated individuals struggling to balance personal issues with the responsibilities of fatherhood.
Eva Ilona Brzesk’s haunting and lyrical film This Unfamiliar Place chronicles the story of her father, a child survivor of the Holocaust who kept his memories hidden for fifty years. As Eva asks her father to speak of his experiences, we witness the terrible inadequacy of words. Reflecting upon the film years later, Eva says, “I set out to understand something about my father’s history and this film taught me that there were things I could not understand.” The film celebrates the commitment to life and family as a father unlocks his pain to connect to his daughter.
FilmmakerIndira Somaniandco-producer Leena Jayaswal confront loss in their film, Crossing Lines. After the death of her father, Indira travels to India where she comes to terms with her bi-cultural identity as an Indian-American. She writes, “My father had a big impact on me in understanding Indian culture, Hinduism, and maintaining our immigrant culture while living in the U.S.” By traveling back to his motherland, she finds a way to honor her father’s memory, family, and traditions.
Grief, memory, and identity form the foundation of Mark Lipman’s intimate film Fatherʻs Day. Through home movies and interviews with relatives, Mark tries to make sense of what caused his fatherʻs apparent suicide when he was only 17 years old. Mark reflects, “Father’s Day was over 20 years in the making, part of a very long effort to come to terms with the sudden death of my father when I was a teenager. Filmmaking gave me a tool to explore hidden areas of my life and an excuse to ask questions that might never have found the light of day.”
Filmmaker Susan Stern also explores the issue of suicide from a different perspective. Her film The Self-Made Man examines the death of her father through the right-to-die, “rational” suicide movement and the concept of manhood. “My father was a real tough guy,” Susan writes. “He chose to take his own life rather than be dependent in old age and disease. It is, arguably, the curse of maleness.”
Gender roles, interracial adoption, and the redefinition of the family are at the heart of Johnny Symons’s candid, first-person film Daddy and Papa, an exploration of, in Johnny’s words, “why and how gay men are choosing to parent.” As Johnny and his partner navigate the joys and struggles of raising two adopted African-American sons, he shows us gay fatherhood in three other families, shedding light on foster care, surrogacy, and the complexities of gay divorce. “Ultimately,” says Johnny, “it’s a film about the universal desire to raise children, which completely transcends sexual orientation.”
As Father’s Day approaches, these five films not only pay tribute to fathers but also invite us to think about the complex role they play in our lives, and how our understanding of that role often changes over time. For more on these films and others that challenge and enrich our notions of family, please visit New Day’s collection here.
The demographics of the United States are changing rapidly; research shows that the number of people who are 65 or over will double by 2050. As with any major shift, this will have major implications for our society, our economy, and our personal lives. This May, as we celebrate Older Americans Month, New Day Films is proud to showcase six films that raise awareness about important issues facing older adults and their loved ones. These films transform our culture’s myopic fascination with youth by featuring stories of those on the frontier of the aging boom– older Americans who are breaking taboos by advocating for themselves, their peers, and their communities.
One of the newest additions to New Day’s collection isNine To Ninety, a short film I directed on the difficult choices older Americans are forced to make as they near the end of their lives. At the heart of the film is my producer Juli Vizza’s 89-year-old grandmother Phyllis, a vivacious petite woman who finds herself having to part from her husband of 62 years in order to ease the caretaking burden on their daughter. In a time of crisis magnified by limited finances, Phyllis bravely tackles the taboo of talking about death with her tightly knit family and begins the emotional-spiritual process of saying goodbye to her loved ones. This powerful story inspired Juli and me to develop an engagement campaign with partners like The Conversation Project, Caring Across Generations and AARP. Since launching the film on PBS at the beginning of the year, we have been working to connect classrooms, communities, and families with resources to ensure that we, and those who care for us, can live (and die) well.
Winner of multiple festival audience awards,States of Graceintimately captures the profound transformation of revered physician Dr. Grace Dammann and her family after Grace is involved in a devastating car accident. With dry humor and brave candor, Grace, her partner Nancy “Fu” Schroeder, and their teenage daughter Sabrina recalibrate their lives. FilmmakersHelen Cohen andMark Lipman reflect that, “After screening States of Grace, we’ve had many people comment about the power and honesty of the caregiver/care receiver relationship and thank us for showing the frustrations and challenges that many individuals face as they care for older adults.” Despite her severe disabilities, Grace returns to work as a physician, designing and directing a cutting-edge pain clinic that uses many healing modalities including meditation, acupuncture, music therapy and massage. Her experience managing her own chronic pain leads her to become a strong advocate for non-traditional approaches to pain management and the building of community so patients can support each other in managing their pain.
InTracing Roots: A Weaver’s Journey, 86-year-old Delores Churchill is bolstered by her passion to learn, teach, and literally dig into issues of intellectual property and cultural heritage. A master weaver and elder of the Haida people of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America, Delores sets out on a journey to understand the origins of a spruce root hat found with Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, also known as the Long Ago Person Found, in a retreating glacier in Northern Canada. “I’m continually in awe of how she inspires students and audiences of all ages,” says filmmakerEllen Frankenstein about her collaboration with Delores in making the film and screening it in communities, on campuses, and in museums. “Delores is a role model for what it means to age well and with grace, and her story reflects on the power of connecting with culture, art and community as part of that.”
Women in the arts rarely get serious attention in our culture. Older women in the arts are virtually ignored. FilmmakerPam Walton breaks the mold withTRIPTYCH, a documentary featuring ceramic artist Lana Wilson, best-selling children’s writer Jeanne DuPrau, and painter Nan Golub– three dynamic women who continue to be productive into their 70’s. Walton explores each artist’s creative processes and key relationships that have shaped them. She also delves into how the artists have handled both rejection and success over their lives, and how they see the development of their work over time. “As an older woman myself, I’m more and more fascinated by what happens to us as we age,” says Walton. As Lana, Jeanne, and Nan share their experiences, the film inspires audiences with the revelation that growing older can mean growing deeper and wiser in your artistic craft.
The subjects ofBefore You Know It are go-go booted bar-hoppers, love-struck activists, troublemaking baton twirlers, late night Internet cruisers, seasoned renegades and bold adventurers. They are also among the estimated 2.4 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans over the age of 55 in the United States, many of whom face heightened levels of discrimination, neglect and exclusion. According to recent studies, LGBT seniors are twice as likely to live alone as their heterosexual counterparts and four times less likely to access social services such as healthcare. The film highlights generational trailblazers who have surmounted prejudice and defied expectations to form alternative communities of strength, renewal and camaraderie. As filmmakerPJ Raval points out, “This current LGBT senior generation is the first visible and out community, banding together and creating community organizations, living facilities and much needed support structures for one another, taking the initiative to make change rather than wait for change.”
InOld People Driving, filmmakerShaleece Haasaddresses a vital issue facing older adults that is often ignored until there’s a crisis: driving retirement. Milton and Herbert are men in their late 90s both deeply engaged in decision-making about their own lives. When we meet them at the beginning of film, both are still driving. Herbert, a spry 99, decides it’s time to hang up the keys before someone else makes that decision for him. Milton, 96, who is also Haas’ grandfather, is committed to keep driving until he decides the time has come to move into the passenger seat. The film uses intimate personal stories, humor, and solid reporting to explore issues of older adult autonomy, emotional health, and community safety. “Never in human history have we had this many older people and this many older people on the road,” Haas says. “It’s a discussion that needs to happen – in our family, and probably in yours as well.”
These six films are unflinching, beautiful and comical, and they ignite critical conversations about how to age with dignity. To learn more about them and other films on aging and gerontology, please visit our entire collection here.
Women’s History Month highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Did you know that 40% of the rebel army in Nepal were women? Woman Rebel follows one woman’s story (codename “Silu”), from the jungles to the halls of Parliament. Breaking Silence: The Story of the Sisters of Desales Heights follows twelve elderly nuns preparing to face the outside world for the first time in their adult lives, raising important questions about the changing role of women in society when their roles are no longer valued. Power and Control: Domestic Violence in America is a comprehensive and timely exploration of the shocking persistence of domestic violence in our society. See New Day’s complete Women’s Studies collection here.
National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month calls on us to recognize the mixed-ability world in which we live, and the unique contributions, needs, and desires of every person. What does it mean for us to live in a world where people of all different abilities are supported and recognized? Explore New Day’s collection of excellent films on disability-related topics, including The Collector of Bedford Street, an Academy Award-nominated short documentary about a community activist and fundraiser with an intellectual disability, and the community that came together to support him when he was in crisis. The Key of Gis an award-winning documentary that follows Gannet, a charismatic 22-year-old with physical and developmental disabilities, as he leaves his mother’s home to share an apartment with a close-knit group of artists and musicians who support him as paid caregivers and as friends. See more films about disability here.
National Criminal Justice Month calls attention to the need for an effective criminal justice system. A Sentence Apartfollows three families as they cope with the infinite ripple effects of incarceration in the U.S. AbUSed: The Postville Raidexposes the devastating effects of U.S. immigration enforcement policies on children, families and communities. Every Mother’s Sonhighlights three women who have lost their sons to police brutality, as they unite to fight for change. See the rest of our Law and Criminal Justice collection here.
My short filmThe Land is set in a Welsh junkyard playground where kids can play with fire, hammers and nails. Their play makes us cringe with fear, while simultaneously reminding us of our own favorite childhood memories. Most of what you see in the film are scenes of children immersed in deep, sometimes risky, play.
I was born in 1981 and was fortunate to have a very playful childhood. I roamed the neighborhood with kids of all different ages and headed home only when the streetlights came on. In the subsequent decades since my youth, I have seen children’s culture diminish dramatically. It is a troubling trend. As a new parent (my baby Asa was born last December), I feel even more strongly about advocating for a child’s right to play with fire, climb trees, and swear (just during playtime… not ALL of the time).
One step onto The Land playground left me dizzy with inspiration. It is a beautiful contradiction. Though it looks like the LAST place you’d want to release a crew of kids – with its loose saws, tires, broken bikes, mud and more – The Land is the most child-centric environment I’ve ever experienced. Adult aesthetics, norms and rules simply do not apply. And it is completely liberating!
What I hear from adult viewers is that The Land portrays childhood as they remember it. That is to say The Land portrays childhood with humor and delight but also grit and darkness. Play is not always nice or pleasing to adults. I did my best to have adults speaking as LITTLE as possible which is unusual for media about play and childhood. Usually films about this are packed with developmental experts reinforcing the benefits of play. I wanted the actions of the children in the film to speak for themselves.
The Land is a really effective tool for organizing. It’s short enough to view and have a solid discussion during a lunch break or staff meeting. It has some good buzz among its core audience so when one person gets their hands on it, others will make a point to attend events to see it.One of my favorite screenings so far was at the Providence Children’s Museum in Providence, Rhode Island. The room was packed with parents and teachers who were fed up with the diminishment of free play and children’s culture. The Landreally blew the conversation open because it shows what is possible. It shows that the spectrum of possibility for what we can let children do is much wider than we think. At that screening, parents were able to meet, mingle and commiserate. Even more exciting for me was that teachers met other teachers and swapped strategies about how to support play in their classrooms despite strict curriculum and protocol. I’m really proud of the film’s impact so far, and we’re just getting started!
Just in time for Women’s History Month this March, New Day member Briar March interviews four filmmakers whose collective body of work on gender equality span the past 45 years. Just how far do they think we’ve progressed and what is the relevance of their films today?
The history of New Day Films is very much entwined with that of the women’s movement. In 1971, our documentary cooperative was born when a small group of feminist filmmakers decided to band together to distribute their films—films that had been deemed too controversial for traditional distributors. One of the original three films to be included in New Day’s groundbreaking collection was Amalie R. Rothschild’sIt Happens to Us. Shot by an entirely female crew in 1971, the documentary explored women’s legal right to choose. Rothschild explains that her strong desire to make the film arose out of her own experience with abortion and the prejudices she had towards women who chose to abort. She writes:
Until it happened to me I basically thought that any woman who found herself with an unwanted pregnancy was somehow personally responsible. When I had an unplanned pregnancy myself I realized through my own circumstances that it certainly was not the case, and I had to confront my own unsuspected attitudes.
A year after Rothschild’s film was released, the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision made abortion legal throughout the U.S. and Rothschild was both relieved and overjoyed to see the issues she had been campaigning for finally being taken seriously. But looking back in 2016, she is not so sure how far women’s rights and access to abortion have really progressed. She points out how attacks against Planned Parenthood in Congress and an increase in closures of pro-choice clinics throughout America have made abortion and birth control services practically impossible for some women. She explains:
While on paper many things have changed, and many educated young women of today take for granted that they have equal rights, the reality is actually quite different. I think most young women are not aware of how many of their rights have actually been taken away with arcane laws enacted at the state level.
It Happened to Us is not the only film from New Day that explores these issues. Leona’s Sister Gerri, made 23 years later by JaneGillooly, 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 hotel floor, dead from an illegal abortion. Reflecting on the use of her film during Women’s History Month, Gillooly says she is often frustrated by how the documentary is solely marketed towards women, and that she would really like to see more men access the story:
Abortion affects men as well as women… I was just struck by how empathetic (and clueless actually) many men are about abortion. I’m not the first to say women’s films should be seen 12 months a year.
Gillooly’s desire to engage with male audiences got me thinking about Emma Watson’s inspiring speech at the UN recently in which she launched theHeForShe campaign. Watched by millions on social media, the young British actress investigates why the feminist movement has been mostly dominated by women and asks, “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feels welcome to participate in the conversation?” Interestingly at New Day Films there are a number of male filmmakers who have already chosen to join this important discussion, making films about gender equality both inside and outside America.
Leaving Home, a documentary by Robert Richter, tells the story of Renu, a bright teenage girl in a small northern village in India who planned and dreamed of becoming a teacher in the big city, only to be thwarted by traditions that force her into an arranged marriage. Richter tells me that he had planned to show “progress” in the village, but while he could see evidence of material progress in many ways, he found the lack of social progress for women even more significant. When I asked Richter how much he felt things have developed since filming his documentaryin 2011 he remarks,
There has been increasing attention in India to the abuse of women, particularly after a gang rape and death of a woman riding a bus in Delhi. But I doubt that much has changed about gender roles, other than the terrible event bringing briefly to public awareness an awful symptom of an entrenched societal disorder.
Thanks to films like Leaving Home, we are able to access a personal and direct insight into issues facing women outside America. And as Richter adds, it also allows for a point of comparison when thinking about the issue of gender inequality at home:
In contrast, gender inequality in America is a widely recognized issue and is increasingly challenged — a challenge that as the father of four daughters I strongly support. In classrooms, Leaving Home does more than illuminate the coming of age of one girl. It challenges students to examine and compare gender roles where they live and how those roles are, or are not, changing. Our hope is that the film will inspire positive action.
Instead of focusing directly on gender equality, Pat Ferrero’s two films Quilts in Women’s Lives and Hearts & Handslook at the act of quilting, a pastime specific to women that reveals unique insights into the female experience. Quilts in Women’s Lives, first released in 1981, presents a series of portraits of female quilt makers, including a Mennonite, a Bulgarian immigrant, an African American, and two Midwestern sisters. Made a few years later, Hearts & Hands uses women’s quilts to chronicle the lives of women through significant events of the 19th century, including industrialization, the Civil War, and the suffrage movement. By using quilts to speak the language of politics and social justice, or by simply celebrating the artistic process of women quilters, these two films form a visual anthropology reflecting on the diversity of women’s culture. Speaking of the relevance and potential use of her work, Ferrero says,
The film’s issues are as alive and relevant today as when they were first made. As long as people use the needle to make quilts to reflect the issues of the day such as the Aids Quilt project did, or the quilts that raised money to fight apartheid in South Africa, or the disappeared son and daughters in Latin America, quilts will continue to reflect the most pressing issues.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this year, there is no better time to contemplate some of the issues Ferrero and the other filmmakers have raised. How can we best engage men in the feminist movement? And how can we educate young people about not only the rich history of past women’s movements but also the current issues still facing us in America and abroad? These films and others in the New Day collection offer us creative and inspiring ways to engage with these timely conversations. Through screenings of our collection on campuses and throughout our community, stories about gender equality and women’s issues are getting the attention they deserve. To find out more about these films and other critically-acclaimed works such as Growing Up Female, Betty Tells Her Story, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, and TRIPTYCH: 3 Women Making Art, visit our collection today!
The U.S. Department of Education hosted a special screeningof Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng’s documentary I Learn America, during which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared, “The students represented in the film need to be seen and supported as national assets in our schools.” This fall, the New York State Department of Education started using the film to train teachers to work with immigrant youth, and is now looking to make the project available to all of its middle and high schools.
2015 was the year TIME magazine declared the “Transgender Tipping Point,” and director Kimberly Reed was invited to make appearances on NBC, MSNBC, and ABC due to her autobiographical film Prodigal Sons(the first theatrically-released film by a trans director). The film has continued to move audiences, leading one transgender viewer to say, “Thank you for choosing to be so visible about yourself, your life, and your identities — your film certainly helped me in my process of transitioning,” and another to add, “Your film Prodigal Sons was instrumental in helping me by bringing understanding to my family. Thank you.”
A researching team at Notre Dame University published a study
in the Journal of Responsible Innovation on how Regan Brashear’s documentary Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement shifted the viewpoints of scientists and bioengineering researchers on the ethical and social implications of their work. The research cited how the film’s varying perspectives of disability caused viewers to reconsider “profound personal and societal questions.”
In New York’s Nassau County, over 50 matrimonial lawyers were
treated to a screening of Split, Ellen Bruno‘s short documentary on divorce, shot entirely from the perspective of children. The film received glowing reviews, with many lawyers declaring their intention to show the film to their clients and others making plans to share it more widely with child advocate attorneys and family court judges.
Greta Schiller’s The Marion Lake Story inspired several community ecological restoration projects, including the clean-up of a phragmite-overgrown wetland in Groton, Connecticut, and the creation of a rain garden by students at Timber Creek High School, a service learning school in Orlando, Florida. Wendy Doromal, a supervising teacher at Timber Creek High, wrote that the “moving story exemplifies environmental stewardship and beautifully shows how a united effort can positively impact a community.
about a cutting-edge group of Latin American social entrepreneurs, played widely across Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru as the centerpiece of the Disrupt Poverty Tour. Following screenings of the film in town centers, local youth and women were trained to design and administer digital surveys analyzing the level of women’s financial inclusion in their communities for eventual presentation to NGOs and governments.
The West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services began using Debra Chasnoff‘sStraightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up in statewide rape crisis centers to help with its mission to prevent and address sexual violence, stalking and dating violence. The film has been instrumental in helping to create understanding around how gender norm pressures can lead to unhealthy decision-making– a key to preventing future violence.
After a screening of Tracing Roots: A Weaver’s Journey at Yale University, a student and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma told filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein how important the film was to affirming her identity: “A lot of Yale students have never been around Native Americans before and it feels strange when I’m trying to explain where I come from.”
Hospitals, medical schools, and rehab facilities across the country
held screenings of States of Grace. After a screening at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, the Senior Vice-President & Chief Nursing Officer wrote to filmmakers Mark Lipman and Helen Cohen, “The response for days following your presentation was nothing short of overwhelming…Many people said that they felt it could make a difference in the way we care for patients.” Others added: “You have nourished my spirit as a bedside nurse” and “Reminds us all why we became health care professionals.”
Ellen Brodsky traveled to Seoul, South Korea, with The Year We Thought About Love, her award-winning film about a LGBTQ youth theater troupe. After the screening, a young woman shyly raised her hand and said, “I have two friends who came out to me. After watching your film, I think I can now be a better friend. Thank you.
New Day Films is proud to announce our partnership with the Kanopy streaming service. Through this collaboration, students and faculty at more than 800 universities and colleges worldwide are already streaming all or part of New Day’s collection, and the list continues to grow.
“We are incredibly excited about this partnership because it will extend the reach of our collection, which has been a trusted resource for educators across a wide range of subject areas for over four decades,” said New Day Co-Chairs Leo Chiang and Kelly Anderson. “We are particularly enthusiastic about Kanopy’s innovative Patron-Driven-Acquisition (PDA) program, which allows institutions to make licensing decisions based on what students and faculty are actively watching.”
Kanopy augments our existing streaming platform, New Day Digital, which continues to provide a variety of digital streaming licenses for New Day titles. New Day and Kanopy will be at the National Media Market together and look forward to talking with librarians and educators about our new partnership and streaming our films on your campus.
New Day Filmmakers have been busy breaking ground in August! On August 4, our very own Luis Arguetawas awarded the Order of Quetzal following the premiere of his latest documentary ABRAZOS in Guatemala City. Argueta, whose 1994 fiction film The Silence of Neto set a precedent in the Guatemalan film industry, became the first-ever filmmaker to receive Guatemala’s highest national medal for his passionate stories about migrants. In a moving acceptance speech, Argueta said “I dedicate this award to the millions of migrants who’ve left their homes, risked everything and who toil every day without knowing if they will return home that night.” Learn more about his important works abUSed: The Postville Raidand ABRAZOS.
And on August 13, New Day filmmaker David Alvarado and filmmaking partner Jason Sussberg made history when their documentary-in-progress on Bill Nye the Science Guy became the highest grossing documentary ever on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. With an initial goal of $650,000, their campaign raised nearly $860,000 thanks to the help of 16,850 backers. Their new film follows Bill Nye the Science Guy, host of the popular children’s science show, in his “epic quest to change the world.” Both filmmakers cite Bill Nye as a large influence in their decision to start making films about science and technology. Learn more about Alvarado’s previous short film Indelible Mark.