Tag Archives: Making Noise in Silence

Top Ten Tips for Teaching Disability Themes in the Classroom

By Nomy Lamm

October is Disability Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to make sure that Disability Studies, Art, Culture and Politics are

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Mimi and Dona

integrated into any topic you are teaching. Whether you’re teaching Social Work, Medicine, Gender Studies, Black History, Performance Studies, or Early Childhood Development, examining and learning from a disabled experience will provide a fuller and deeper understanding of the course materials for your students. Below are some guidelines to help integrate the perspectives of people with disabilities into your classroom.

 

  1. DON’T perpetuate the myth of the “tragic cripple.” You know, the story where someone is disabled and miserable, and everything they do is so hard, and everyone around them is brought down by their struggle, and then maybe they almost achieve happiness but then… they die. Learn to identify this trope so you can call it out when you see it.  DO offer stories and examples of people with
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    The Key of G

    disabilities who are living complex, full lives, who are in reciprocal relationships, who make choices and have life journeys. Mimi and Dona, one of New Day’s recent acquisitions, documents the symbiotic relationship between an aging mother and her disabled daughter, offering a useful jumping off point for analyzing dynamics of inter/dependence. The Key of G is another film that shows a disabled person growing and changing in the context of a community who loves them.                                 

  2. DON’T teach our stories solely through the lens of the medical establishment, or assume that all people with disabilities want a cure. DO examine complexities of access to health care,
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    Fixed

    allocation of resources, and how these privileges break down along race/class/age/gender lines. Fixed is a useful documentary for examining the politics of “human enhancement” and the impetus toward “fixing” people’s bodies rather than taking care of people’s basic needs.

  3. DON’T succumb to the false-positive messaging of ‘inspiration porn’ – you know, the story about the amazing disabled person who, despite all their hardship
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    Who Am I to Stop It

    s is still able to rise above and overcome their circumstances, inspiring able-bodied people to say, “If they can do it, what’s my excuse?” This narrative centers the able-bodied experience and perpetuates competitive, ableist constructions of “success” and “failure.” DO share materials created by people with disabilities where we frame our own experiences. Who Am I to Stop It is a compelling documentary about three artists with traumatic brain injuries, made by a filmmaker with disabilities from brain injury.

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    Michael and His Dragon
  4. DON’T hold up one type of disability as the “true” disability.  Disability is an intentionally broad category that includes people with mobility impairments, people who belong to sensory minorities, people with psychiatric disabilities, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities, cognitive challenges, chronic pain, and more. DO
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    When I Came Home

    encourage awareness of the ways our society disables us by stigmatizing the ways we show up in the world. Michael and His Dragon and When I Came Home both follow soldiers who return from Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Twitch and Shout is about people with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition that is often misunderstood.

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    Twitch and Shout
  5. DON’T perpetuate unconscious use of ableist language that frames disability as bad.  This includes words like “crazy” when you mean abusive, “lame” when you mean uncool, or “blind” when you mean ignorant, or even words like “weak” or “stupid” that imply ableist hierarchies. DO examine the use of identity labels, including “disability” itself – how are these words used by people who identify with them? Identify nuances of language that differentiate between what we want others to call us, and what we call ourselves. In
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    Mind Game

    Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, the most powerful opportunities for healing come when Chamique is able to connect with others who share similar circumstances, to release the shame and isolation associated with words like “crazy.”

  6. DON’T feed into stereotypes of disabled people as sexless and childlike. People with disabilities have desires, are desired by other people, enjoy sex (solo, partnered, in groups…), have relationships, and experience all the ups and downs and ins and outs that come with being an embodied being. People with disabilities are also at high risk of sexual assault, so sex education is crucial to understanding what is happening and knowing that we have a choice. DO promote work by disabled people that explores sexuality. Sins Invalid follows the eponymous Disability Justice performance project and movement-building organization that creates work around disability and sexuality, centralizing artists of col
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    Makind Noise in Silence

    or and queer and gender-variant artists with disabilities.

  7. DON’T isolate disability from other identities, or play ableism against other forms of oppression. There are disabled people in every demographic, so any struggle for justice and liberation also affects people with disabilities.  DO share examples of people navigating simultaneous experiences of racism, ableism, sexism, and more. Making Noise in Silence looks at intersections of deafness, youth, immigration, and race in the lives of two young deaf Korean students. E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name
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    E Haku Inoa

    looks at the impact of colonization on a mother’s mental health.

  8. DON’T assume that people with disabilities are always in the position of receiving but not giving. Many of us who are disabled are also caregivers, therapists, parents, medical professionals, teachers, and healers. DO look at the ways our lives change over time and how the amount and type of care we receive and offer fluctuates at different moments. States of Grace follows the story
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    States of Grace

    of Dr. Grace Dammann, a pioneering AIDS specialist whose near-fatal car accident changes her perception of self and relationship to her body and family.

  9. DON’T assume that nobody in the classroom has the disability you’re discussing. Disabled people are not a separate group – “they” are part of the “we” that you’re speaking to. DO model accessibility in the classroom by providing opportunities for access needs to be identified, including bio breaks, seating options, lighting changes, large print, captions, audio description, scent-free space, or whatever the individuals in your class might need in order to participate. Most New Day Films are closed captioned, and a number of them including Fixed, Sins Invalid, The Key of G, and Who Am I to Stop It are audio described fo
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    Read Me Differently

    r blind audiences. For more thoughts about classroom accessibility issues, Read Me Differently is a powerful New Day film about a young woman’s learning differences.

  10. DON’T imagine that you will always be able-bodied!  Everybody experiences some type of disability in their life, whether it’s a temporary injury or surgery, a chronic illness, an accident, or just getting old and losing abilities over time. DO co-create a world that recognizes and respects the many ways we live in our minds and bodies.  

Explore New Day’s rich collection of films on Disability here.  

Commemorative Months in May

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Mind/Game

Mental Health Month raises awareness about mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. New Day has a rich collection of films that lift the veil of silence over mental health issues. In Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw, the WNBA’s “female Michael Jordan” battles personal setbacks and stigma to become an outspoken mental health advocate. In Splitchildren weigh in on the emotional and psychological impact of living through their parents’ divorce. View New Day’s entire collection of mental health films here.

 

States of Grace
States of Grace

Older Americans Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of older adults to our nation. Several new additions to the New Day catalogue highlight such achievements. In Nine To Ninety, a family’s matriarch boldly leads her family in making difficult end-of-life decisions. In States of Grace, a celebrated doctor recovers from a devastating accident to create a holistic pain clinic. Tracing Roots follows the adventures of a native elder as she strives to find the origins of a curious relic in a retreating glacier. For more New Day films on aging and gerontology, click here.

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Top Spin

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month honors the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Two new films in the New Day collection shed new perspective on the Asian-American experience. In Top Spin, Chinese-American ping-pong prodigies set their eyes on Olympic gold. In Making Noise in Silence, two high school students must balance being both Korean immigrants and members of the Deaf community. For more titles exploring Asian-American and Pacific Islander life, click here.

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.

New Day Films for October

National Child Awareness Month

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Top Spin

During National Child Awareness Month, we address the growing challenges and needs of children. New Day is proud to host a collection of award-winning films on youth, including our latest acquisitions The Land, a short documentary about an unusual “adventure” playground, Top Spin, a feature documentary about three teenagers coming of age in the competitive world of table tennis, and The Year We Thought About Love, a diverse theater troupe of LGBTQ youth.

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Making Noise in Silence

Disability Awareness Month

Disability Awareness Month is a time to foster a greater understanding of disability in society, and to dismantle stereotypes and stigma.  New Day Films has a wide range of films about disability that offer diverse perspectives challenging ableism and redefining “normal.” New additions to the New Day catalogue, such as E Haku Inoa: To Weave a Name, a filmmaker’s personal exploration of mental illness in her family, and Making Noise in Silence, a short documentary about Deaf immigrant teens, expand the dominant narrative of disability.  

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.   

I Am New Day: Mina T. Son

minatson-fb-photoI gravitate towards making films in different languages and cultures, which poses numerous challenges but ultimately is an incredibly fulfilling experience, which is probably why I keep making them.

My documentary Making Noise in Silence is about Korean and Deaf culture from the perspective of two teens. Growing up as a Korean American, I definitely struggled with my ethnic and cultural identity. When you’re young, it’s harder to see that being different can be a good thing and instead, you just focus on how different you are from your friends and wish to be more like everyone else. So I naturally became curious about these two teenagers and their experiences being Korean American, as well as being Deaf.

When I first started making this film, I didn’t realize the unique challenges I would face in communicating with my subjects. Over email, sometimes we’d write in Korean or English. Then in person, we communicated in American Sign Language through an interpreter or wrote words on a piece of paper. When I was filming, I didn’t have simultaneous interpreting, so if there was a conversation happening, the interpreter wouldn’t fill me in until I stopped rolling because I didn’t want her voice in the film. On a few occasions, I filmed without knowing exactly what was happening and had to rely on my instincts. Because of these circumstances, I tried to be even more aware of how my subjects were feeling and tried to check in often to make sure they were comfortable with the filming process.

Learn more about Mina and her work here.

New Day Films Cross the Globe

by Isabel Hill, New Day member

Through the American Film Showcase, New Day members are finding new audiences in countries as varied as the Dominican Republic, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. In the process, they are introducing filmmakers to the documentary genre and expanding understanding of the vital role independent media can have in social change.

Funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, the American Film Showcase (AFS) brings award-winning American documentary and independent narrative films to audiences across the globe. The filmmakers are paired with a local film expert to facilitate activities that go beyond screenings and Q&A sessions to include workshops and master classes.

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Uranium Drive-In

Suzan Beraza, whose New Day film Uranium Drive-In was included in the AFS, just returned from a ten-day stay in the Dominican Republic. Beraza’s favorite part of the experience, aside from the screenings themselves, were the one-on-one workshops. “You could see the wheels turning,” she related. “Making films is a powerful way of telling and keeping stories alive, and it was so exciting to watch the students start to understand this and to look at filmmaking in a very different way.”

Alice Elliott was one of the first New Day members to join the Showcase under its predecessor program, the American Documentary Showcase. She traveled to Uzbekistan, where she spent ten days showing her film Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy and participating in workshops for people with disabilities. It was the first time that the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan had hosted an audience of people in wheelchairs.

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Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy

Modeling a critical concept that is central to the disability rights movement in the United States — “Nothing about us without us” – Elliott included Diana, a main character in her film, in the journey. Showing that people with disabilities can travel and be out in the world stands out in a country like Uzbekistan, where this is far from the usual practice. Alice took note of the many barriers to mobility for disabled individuals in Uzbekistan and came home with a fuller awareness of the rights we have fought to attain in this country.

Deaf Jam, a film by Judy Lieff, was shown in South Korea, Turkey, and Zimbabwe. The venues, approaches, and audiences were radically different in each country.

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Deaf Jam

In South Korea, Judy met with deaf students to screen her film and talk about disability rights. South Korea is a country where disabled people are largely shunned (see Mina Son’s excellent documentary Making Noise in Silence for more on this topic), so it was particularly important to empower this group of students to talk openly about cultural practices and to encourage them to find their individual and collective voices through poetry. Leiff also helped educate independent filmmakers and activists in South Korea about disability rights in the United States, and about how to effectively organize communities of people with disabilities. She also met with broadcast producers to help them understand why it is paramount to include and embrace a diverse audience.

With a backdrop of protests taking place in Turkey, Judy’s participation in the Showcase there was poignant. The U.S. Embassy reached out to schools it had never worked with before because of Judy’s film and her involvement with deaf communities. In Turkey, there is no standardized sign language and, as in South Korea, people with disabilities are often an invisible part of society. In addition, educational distribution for documentaries has not been fully explored, so Leiff met with university students and independent filmmakers, festival organizers, and local producers to discuss New Day’s cooperative structure.

Zimbabwe presented unexpected challenges as well. There, there are no broadcast outlets for filmmakers and no distribution opportunities, so the time there was spent exclusively with independent filmmakers. Leiff offered advice and resources, feedback on rough cuts, information about New Day’s unique model, and encouragement to work together to enhance their power and visibility as agents for disseminating ideas and information, and effecting change.

Judy came away from her participation in the AFS with a clear and potent realization of the intrinsic value of our films as educational tools in a variety of global contexts. “New Day members are real teachers, whether they hold an academic post or not, and it is the educational value of both our films and us as filmmakers that makes this international connection so valuable,” she recounted.

The Showcase focuses on topics that include civil rights, disabilities, social justice, sports, freedom of the press, technology, and the environment—subjects that are the DNA of our cooperative. The organization recognizes the educational value of our films on an international level and the capacity of New Day filmmakers to serve as grassroots educators in areas where films and filmmakers are not part of the mainstream. It is a great fit for New Day Films, and increasingly our members are partnering with this organization to further our mission of reaching diverse audiences with our pressing messages, and collaborating with and teaching other filmmakers in different countries. It offers us, as filmmakers, an opportunity to be international emissaries for our respective causes and issues, and it shows our ability, as a collective, to be a far-reaching force for positive social change.