October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, with the 2019 theme of “The Right Talent, Right now.” This is a great time to highlight films made by disabled filmmakers! New Day’s collection features the work of several disabled filmmakers including:
Concerning Barriers: Three Films on Disability and Society, by Reid Davenport, consists of three short films about disability from the perspective of people with disabilities. The films implicitly and explicitly explores issues such as accessibility, the medical model versus social model, marginalization, societal response to disability and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
These films range from first-person narratives, to investigations of science and ethics, to profiles of artists and movement-builders. They amplify the excellence of disabled culture, and exemplify the disability rights motto that proclaims “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
“Film is a great way to tap into the humanistic aspects of medicine,” says Dr. Monica Lypson, Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Education and Assistant Dean for Graduate Medical Education at the University of Michigan. Dr. Lypson, together with colleagues Dr. Paula Ross, also from the University of Michigan, and Dr. Divy Ravindranath from Stanford University, has created a special curriculum for medical students that utilizes Heather Courtney’s film, Where Soldiers Come From.
Historically, few medical schools have used film in their classes, but this is beginning to change as health educators incorporate documentaries as tools for teaching about psychosocial issues in medicine, psychiatry, nursing and counseling courses. Dr. Ross first saw Where Soldiers Come From at the 2012 American Sociological Association conference and immediately shared the film with Dr. Lypson. “We were looking for a film we could use in a new faculty development workshop on veteran-centered care,” Dr. Lypson says. “We selected this film because it is a documentary (as opposed to a work of fiction) which offers a true depiction of the trajectory of service members—from civilian life to active duty to veteran.” The faculty development workshop that utilizes the film, “Developing Skills in Veteran-Centered Care: Understanding Where Soldiers Really Come From,” combines the film clips with active learning exercises. Recently, Dr. Lypson announced her intent to expand the workshop to target students and faculty from other health care fields. Dr. Lypson emphasizes that health care extends beyond medicine, and she believes the course is relevant for students, residents, and practicing professionals in various disciplines, including nursing, social work and public health.
Courtney’s film challenges students with hard questions, like “What socio-economic circumstances might lead someone to join the military?” In helping the health care practitioner understand the backstory of a patient’s life, she or he comes to the medical work at hand with greater empathy and compassion. “It is a way to get learners to tap into feelings the way they can’t do listening to an impassive lecture,” Dr. Lypson explains. “You want medical students and health professionals to tap into that, because they are dealing with people.” In Courtney’s film, it is the story of Dominic – a young artist turned soldier who uses his art to deal with his PTSC and Traumatic Brain Injury – that particularly affects students. The course is currently available online via MedPortal. Faculty are encouraged to show the entire film, in addition to the clips that are explicitly part of the curriculum. Because of the success of this course, a larger curriculum covering a range of issues related to veteran-centered care is being planned by Dr. Lypson and her colleagues. If approved by the University this will be part of a massive online open course with a reach of upwards of 10,000 students.
Regan Brashear’s film FIXED: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement is another New Day film that has had widespread use and feedback from the medical profession. The documentary explores the social impact of human biotechnologies, prompting audiences to rethink “disability” and “normalcy” by exploring technologies that promise to change our bodies and minds forever. Shown to a crowd of students, nurses, doctors, and medical providers at an event sponsored by the UCSF Committee on Disability Issues, the film set the stage for a lively panel discussion. Plans are currently underway for a large conference sponsored by the Mayo Clinic on neuroethics, disability ethics and technology. Brashear’s film will open the conference and then various lectures will be built out, based on the issues raised in the film.
When the documentary Heart of the Sea, a portrait of Hawaiian surfing legend and breast cancer survivor Rell Sunn came out, it was immediately used by national breast cancer organizations because it provided a positive and empowering image of a woman with breast cancer. Director Charlotte Lagarde, in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Pacific Islanders in Communications, developed an outreach campaign targeting Native Americans and Pacific Islanders all around the US. Heart of the Seawas the first film portraying a Pacific Islander and Asian American woman with breast cancer, and it enabled unprecedented dialogue among Native communities about cancer, a subject that was taboo and often brought shame to a family.
In Hawaii, the American Cancer society, the Suzan G. Komen Foundation, and many local health organizations used the film in their outreach programs to encourage Hawaiians to talk more openly about breast cancer. In Alaska, the South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium still uses it a to engage people in dialogue about cancer and healthy living.
The changing face of medical education offers great potential for wider use of New Day’s collection of films dealing with physical and mental health, addiction, aging and gerontology, disability, psychology and social work. Visit our website to see the potential for use in your field!
Based in Oakland, California, I’ve been working on social and economic justice issues for over twenty years through documentary film, union organizing, community forums, directing teen theater and grassroots activism.
Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement broadens the bioethical debates around emerging enhancement technologies from brain-machine interfaces to bionics to prenatal screening, and in doing so, stretches our understanding of disability. Who or what exactly needs to be “fixed,” people’s bodies and minds or our society which stigmatizes and prevents full inclusion of disabled people? Who is excluded by these new technologies which promise to give us super-abilities and perfect babies? Who benefits?
As a person with a hidden disability, I wanted to make a film that centers people with disabilities as the experts, as the active agents in this debate, to counter the common narrative of disabled people as passive, helpless and in need of fixing. Fixed strives to represent a range of opinions within and without the disability community. As a filmmaker, this project challenged me in representing tough social questions that don’t fit neatly into good/bad, black/white frameworks, but instead into many shades of gray. This is a film that is about raising better questions and sparking dialogue between communities that don’t often interact. How can we bring a social justice analysis into the fields of science and technology innovation?
Greetings from San Francisco! New Day filmmakers Regan Brashear, Yun Suh, and Vanessa Warheit have been here for the past two days, representing New Day at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The theme of this year’s conference is “Hard Times: The Impact of Economic Inequality on Families and Individuals” – and we’ve got a LOT of relevant material. Some of the sociologists visiting our booth already know about New Day (particularly those who have been working on reproductive sociology since the 70s), but for a lot of them our booth is their first glimpse into the wide array of films we have on offer.
Regan and Yun chatting with sociologists at ASA14.
Regan and Vanessa at the New Day Films Booth #301
For instance – Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, of U.T. Austin, whose work focuses on sexual violence. When she first came by the booth, she looked skeptical, and didn’t even want to put her card in our drawing (we’ll be giving away a free DVD to one lucky winner at the end of the conference). But after talking with us for a while, and learning that we are a collective formed out of the feminist movement, and learning about the range of films we have on offer, her whole demeanor changed – and we’ve now got a new fan.“I’m so glad you guys exist!” she told us. “And yes, you can quote me on that.” We are super glad that Gloria exists, too!
Yun Suh, Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, and Regan Brashear at Booth #301
The hours have flown by, talking with a lot of really interesting people like Gloria, who are teaching and researching a wide variety of social topics. In addition to inequality, visitors to Booth 301 have shared their interests in race, climate change, deviance, families, addiction, healthcare, and transnational movements – as well as the ever-evolving “social problems.” Sociology is an incredibly rich and diverse field, and we’ve had fascinating conversations with a diverse range of people – from grad students to tenured faculty, coming from institutions right here in the Bay Area and places as far-flung as Australia and Portugal. (“Do you have any films that are subtitled in Portuguese?” asked a woman visiting our booth this morning. Vanessa and Yun started to shake their heads in dismay, when Regan piped up with “Oh, yeah, my film is subtitled in Portuguese – the science museum in Lisbon provided it when they screened it.” Who knew?)
Which brings up an interesting dilemma for those of us representing the collection as a whole. We made a huge effort to see as many New Day films as possible prior to the conference – and to spread the viewing out so at lease one of us would have seen any given title – but with so many titles, and more arriving every day, it’s hard to keep up. Nevertheless, we’ve managed to get a pretty good handle on the collection – and it’s exciting to come up with films that satisfy a particular need. (Disability & sexuality? How about Sins Invalid?! Environment and development? Try Taking Root! Families and disabilities? Read Me Differently! and more!)
We also got a visit from the Deputy Editor of the Teaching Sociology journal, Michele Kozimor-King, who was interested in finding films to review. The journal often pairs films with books on a relevant topic. We sent her away with a catalogue, postcards, and a few DVDs – but other New Day filmmakers should contact her if they are interested in having a specific new title reviewed!
The smallest visitor to our booth was Goby Greene, a Chihuahua service dog. Her mom – sociologist Dana Greene – told us that Goby is on Facebook (she is), and gave us one of her cards. We dutifully entered her into our drawing to win one free New Day film. If she wins, what will she pick? The Shrimp? Eating Alaska? Or maybe Bag It?