Category Archives: Feature Stories

Thought-Provoking Ways to Engage with Gender Equality for Women’s History Month

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?

Amalie Rothschild
Filmmaker/New Day co-founder Amalie R. Rothschild (right) films a women’s clinic in “It Happens to Us.”

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’s It 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 Jane Gillooly, tells the dramatic story of Gerri Santoro, a mother of two and the “real person” in the now famous photo of an anonymous woman on a 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 the HeForShe 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 documentary in 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.

Bob Richter
Renu’s family meets with anthropologist Michael Mahar in “Leaving Home.”

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 & Hands look 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!

A New Take on High School: Voices from the New Day collection

by Isabel Hill

High school years are a difficult period to navigate and if you’re a new immigrant, a person who is deaf, or a member of the LGBTQ community, your journey may be even more fraught….or maybe not! In the New Day Films collection, a variety of award-winning films highlight untraditional high school experiences and reframe the coming-of-age story in surprising ways.

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The Year We Thought About Love

“I’ve heard that people had no idea that there were out queer youth in Boston’s public schools,” relates filmmaker Ellen Brodsky. Her film, The Year We Thought About Love, makes clear that the
re are! Each year, the theater troupe, True Colors, creates an original play that performs for hundreds of youth in Boston-area schools. Students in the audience laugh, cry out, and even cover their faces when they see two boys kiss. Afterwards, students engage in a lively, honest, and impactful Q&A about sexuality. These performances are empowering and life-changing for the young members of the troupe. And for the audience, the plays offer a deep and meaningful look at the different incarnations of love. One of the main characters in the film, Trae, explains: “When we go to True Colors, labels are gone. They are just taken away. Your name, everything is just gone and you’re just you.” This is a potent antidote to the pressure to conform that underpins most high school journeys!

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I Learn America
Another angle on high school life is seen in I Learn America, a feature documentary about the International High School at Lafayette, a specialized high school in Brooklyn, New York, where all 300 students are immigrants from over 50 countries. Filmmakers Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng take us into the lives of 5 students over the course of a school year, documenting their struggles to learn a new language, adjust to a new culture, and develop friendships. Filmed at school and in the students’ homes, the film delves into the students’ backgrounds, families, friends, their interactions with each other, and the community that they themselves have created within the school.

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Top Spin

Top Spin, a new feature-length film by Mina T. Son and Sara Newens, follows three teenagers who embrace the challenges of competitive ping pong while balancing the pressures of high school. In their pursuit of Olympic gold, they must juggle homework, training sessions, and social obligations. Son explains, “Though all three athletes share the same goals of competing in the Olympics, they have very different high school experiences. Lily maintains the closest semblance to a traditional high school student, attending public school. Michael, on the other hand, decides to forego his senior year, only taking online classes so that he can train all over the U.S. and in China. Ariel goes to a private high school and is somewhere in between.” Waking up at dawn to practice serves before school, missing classes because of overseas tournaments, foregoing senior prom—these choices become the norm for these extraordinary athletes whose dedication and passion are off the charts.

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Making Noise in Silence

The short documentary Making Noise in Silence is another work by Mina T. Son that follows two Korean-American teenagers adapting to life at the California School of the Deaf, Fremont.  Small class size and an overall intimate feeling of the school are key components to their success. Son remarks, “I don’t want to over idealize the school, but I got the sense that students were really given the attention they deserved, which should be the standard of education for all students, not just for students who are deaf.” It’s an environment that embraces not only their language but their culture—atypical to the mainstream high school trajectory, where nonconformity can be a one-way street to social isolation.

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Deaf Jam

Judy Lieff’s Deaf Jam provides a different look at the experiences of deaf teenagers—this time at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York. The film draws a vivid portrait of Aneta, a passionate young Israeli-born deaf student who ventures out of the familiar world of her deaf peers through her discovery of American Sign Language poetry. Aneta’s poetry becomes a vehicle for her meeting and eventual collaboration with Tahani, a Palestinian spoken word slam poet. Poetry, friendship, and respect transcend politics as the two young women create a form of poetry that communicates to both hearing and deaf in ways the audience might never have imagined. The power and reception of this medium of communication is a riveting testimony to the importance of listening in all modalities.

Adolescence is perhaps the hardest time to find and project our true selves. But for the teen protagonists of these five films, it is a challenge they are willing to tackle. Each, with their distinct personalities and particular set of circumstances, finds a path to self-awareness and self-actualization. They represent a new, bolder generation—one that is proud to share its differences instead of conforming to preordained social standards.

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.

10 Ways New Day Films Changed People’s Lives in 2015

  1. The U.S. Department of Education hosted a special screening
    I LEARN AMERICA [1]
    I Learn America
    of 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.                                                    
  2. 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.”
  3. A researching team at Notre Dame University published a study
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    Fixed

    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.”

  4. In New York’s Nassau County, over 50 matrimonial lawyers were
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    Split

    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.

  5. 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.
  6. Disruption, Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates’s feature documentary
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    Disruption

    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.

  7. The West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services began using Debra Chasnoff‘s Straightlaced—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.
  8. 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.”
  9. Hospitals, medical schools, and rehab facilities across the country
    States of Grace
    States of Grace

    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.”

  10. 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.

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.

Children in No Man's Land
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.

New Day Films is now on Kanopy!

logoNew 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.

To browse the New Day Collection on Kanopy, visit https://www.kanopystreaming.com/category/supplier/new-day-films. For more info about New Day Digital, visit newdaydigital.com. Information about New Day can be found at www.newday.com.

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.   

Breaking News

Luis Argueta (photo by Bea Gallardo)
Luis Argueta (photo by Bea Gallardo)

New Day Filmmakers have been busy breaking ground in August! On August 4, our very own Luis Argueta was 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 Raid and ABRAZOS.

David Alvarado
David Alvarado

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.