Tag Archives: The Year We Thought About Love

How to Teach LGBTQ Themes in the Classroom

In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month this upcoming June, queer New Day filmmaker Nomy Lamm offers up a list of suggestions on how best to approach queer and gender-variant issues in the classroom.

  1. Know our history and embrace our elders. Learning about our
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    Reporter Zero

    legacy helps us understand who we are. For example, the film Reporter Zero tells the story of Randy Shilts, the first openly gay journalist in the mainstream media, who covered the AIDS crisis when few others would. Before You Know It offers a loving portrait of gay elders, their wisdom and at times alienation from the culture they helped create, while Beauty Before Age looks at the emphasis on youth and beauty in gay male culture. The Campaign and One Wedding and a Revolution both share histories of the battle for gay marriage, and the trailblazers who paved the way.  

  2. Don’t forget the “T.” Trans people have been here since the
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    Trinidad

    beginning, yet are often left out of the conversation about LGBT communities. Currently, anti-trans legislation is sweeping the country, making the world that much less safe for those of us whose existence lies outside the binary. Learn more about the lives, perspectives, and unique experiences of trans people in New Day films including Trinidad, Prodigal Sons, and The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children.  

  3. Be Intersectional. When we talk about the liberation of LGBTQ
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    Sins Invalid

    people, we must center the perspectives and experiences of LGBT people of color, queers with disabilities, and those of us who are living at the crossroads of multiple identities, and therefore are most impacted by systems of oppression. Pariah, Sins Invalid, and Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw each tell stories of the often overlapping gifts and struggles of being queer, black, brown, and disabled.

  4. Look beyond the U.S. The layers of identity, experience,
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    Tales of the Waria

    oppression and resilience are mirrored and contrasted when we look beyond the borders of the United States. City of Borders is set in the only gay bar in the city of Jerusalem, exposing the homophobia faced in a conservative religious city, as well as power dynamics and alliances between Israeli and Palestinian queers. Tales of the Waria highlights trans women in Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population, and the pressures of family, religion, money, and aging, as they strive to be true to themselves and find love.

  5. Honor our youth. Queer youth are some of the most vulnerable
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    Gay Youth

    and most dynamic members of our community, and they have much to teach us. While homophobia and bullying can isolate our youth and make them believe they have no options, the empowerment of queer youth voices is a balm for our collective spirit. The Year We Thought About Love, Gay Youth, and I’m Just Anneke each reveal some of the hardships faced by queer youth, including the threat of violence, homelessness, and suicide, as well as the healing that is possible through storytelling, community, art, activism, and belief in oneself.

  6. Bear witness to the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ
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    Puzzles

    people are subjected to. The LGBTQ community has earned hard-won advances and a sense of pride, but often these victories come in the face of devastating loss and violence. Laramie Inside Out wrestles with the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s murder, while Puzzles teases out contributing factors of a violent hate crime in Massachusetts. Out at Work illustrates what happens when LGBTQ people are not protected from workplace discrimination. Out In The Night shows how interpersonal and institutional homophobia and racism compound each other, when four Black lesbian youth end up serving time in prison and facing assault charges for fighting back against an assailant. 

  7. Encourage students to examine their own homophobia. It’s
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    Straightlaced

    important to explore the connections between homophobia and gender boxes, the ways we sometimes force ourselves and our children into prescribed versions of masculinity and femininity, and punish those who don’t conform in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. These underlying biases fuel the bullying epidemic, and reinforce fear around fitting in. Check out The Boy Game, Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, and It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School as jumping-off places for these conversations.  

  8. Examine how we define “family” today.  The “ideal family” is a
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    Daddy and Papa

    cultural construct which is in the process of expanding and becoming more inclusive.  Films like That’s a Family!, Daddy & Papa, and Choosing Children show the joys and complexities of chosen family, while No Dumb Questions, Bubbeh Lee and Me, and The Smith Family show what happens when people in our families defy our expectations.  We can all learn from each other on our individual pathways to meaningful and fulfilling family life.

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.

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

  1. The U.S. Department of Education hosted a special screening
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    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
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    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.

New Day Films for November

Native American Heritage Month

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Tracing Roots

November is Native American Heritage Month, and New Day has many films that celebrate the cultures and histories of those who were here before the colonization of Turtle Island (aka North America), and those who survive and continue to build futures for themselves and their children.  Tracing Roots follows master weaver and Haida elder Delores Churchill on a journey to understand the origins of a spruce root hat discovered alongside a 300-year-old traveler in a retreating glacier.  Shellmound is the story of how one Bay Area location changed from a sacred burial ground to a toxic late-stage capitalist consumer zone.  In Whose Honor? follows the story of Charlene Teters, a mother and activist who went up against the University of Illinois to ban the use of a racist mascot.  Check out these films and more here.  

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Trinidad

Transgender Awareness Month

November is also Transgender Awareness Month, a time to celebrate, raise the visibility of, and expose the challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people.  New Day’s catalogue includes a number of films about trans people. Prodigal Sons reveals a surprisingly universal story about identity, gender, adoption, and mental illness. Trinidad acquaints viewers with three trans women whose paths cross in Trinidad, Colorado, the “sex-change capital of the world.”  The Year We Thought About Love is a story about a queer youth theater project, and includes the coming out process of a young black trans woman.  Check out these films and more here.

Meet New Day: Ellen Brodsky

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Ellen Brodsky

My film The Year We Thought About Love chronicles an LGBTQ youth theater troupe creating a play about love based on their personal experiences. I have always been drawn to the intimacy, vulnerability, and security of the rehearsal room, where I spent a lot of time working on plays in high school and college.

In the midst of production, the film took an unexpected turn when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred in 2013. The troupe had been holding their rehearsals in a room near the Marathon’s finish line. Some members had been present at the marathon, while others made last-minute decisions not to attend. Badly shaken, the troupe and our camera crew gathered for a support meeting the day after the bombing, just a few blocks away from the fatal scene. In the end, the troupe members rallied for one another, and decided to use their performance tour as part of the city’s and their own healing process.

It’s been amazing to travel with the film. Audiences from Seoul to San Francisco, from Missoula to Mumbai have all found some point of connection with the troupe members, most of whom are youth of color. Likewise, audiences react with more laughter and positive energy to the film than they do to other films about LGBTQ youth—perhaps because the film portrays the troupe members as individual artists and activists rather than starting with a mainstream media frame of LGBTQ victimhood. It’s been moving to hear straight kids and adults say it gave them a new way to relate to their friends and family members; professors telling us that the film opened up discussions about culture and policy issues; and LGBTQ viewers saying it captured a view of themselves that they are seeing on the screen for the first time.

Learn more about Ellen’s work here.

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.