All posts by Ronit Bezalel

March 2020 Meet New Day

by Jon Osaki

As a long-time community activist and descendant of two former World War ll Japanese American incarcerees, making ALTERNATIVE FACTS: The Lies of Executive Order 9066 was a deeply personal project. This film tells the untold story of false information and political influences which led to the World War ll incarceration of my mother, father and nearly 120,000 Americans.  While there have been many outstanding films on the WWll incarceration of Japanese Americans, ALTERNATIVE FACTS explores forgotten chapters of this tragic tale that have informed, shocked, and inspired audiences.  

New Day Director Jon Osaki, a Japanese American, stares directly into the camera in this black and white headshot.
Jon Osaki

My goal for ALTERNATIVE FACTS is to reveal the true events and influences behind the WWll incarceration of Japanese Americans to encourage a truly informed national discussion about how this country treats immigrant and religious groups today. Through the vital lessons of the Japanese American incarceration story, I hope to promote healthy dialogue about race, religion, and the importance of speaking out when our democracy falters.  Today, as our country repeats many of the same tragic mistakes made in 1942, I have and will continue to use this film to speak out for those voiceless young souls who are being scapegoated and imprisoned at the US border.

This is a multi-layered promotional black and white image set in the early 1940s for the movie Alternative Facts. A Japanese American child and a Caucasian middle-aged American officer both stare into the camera. Their images have been taken from two separate photos and combined into one. Barbed wire is layered between them. The outside of the United States' Supreme Court Building is in the background, with the text "Equal Justice Under" visible.
ALTERNATIVE FACTS

I truly believe that film and storytelling can influence hearts and minds in this country and around the world. I am so grateful that this film has spoken to a wide, diverse audience and am honored that I have been invited to Washington DC to screen it on Capitol Hill before members of Congress.  I will use this opportunity to remind our Congressional Representatives that the imprisonment of my parents is a cautionary tale about this country’s democracy and hopefully inspire some to prioritize compassion over politics.

Five Films for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

by Isabel Hill

April 1 begins Sexual Assault Awareness Month—a time when New Day joins organizations all across the country to raise public awareness about sexual assault and exploitation. Community groups, universities, libraries, and individuals use films in our collection to deepen understanding of sexual violence as well as to provide helpful information to support survivors.  New Day is proud to feature 5 relevant films that bring sexual assault and exploitation into the light for broad discussion.

A still image from the film Wrestling Ghosts. A young mother and her child are lying in bed in opposite directions. The mother is underneath the blanket, and the child is on top, lying on the mother. The mother holds the child's feet. A black and white cat is also on the bed.
Wrestling Ghosts

The intergenerational impact of childhood abuse is the subject of Wrestling Ghosts, Ana Joanes’ recent documentary. In this intimate portrait, Joanes allows us to be with the main character, Kim, as she learns how the very damage that she was subjected to as a child plays out now in her relationships with her own children.  Kim shares deeply personal moments and invites us into her counseling sessions to witness her journey towards healing.

Filmmaker Joanne Hershfeld delves into the global issue of violence against women in her powerful and sensitive documentary, Men are Human, Women Are Buffalo. While the stories of 5 women in the film are culturally-specific to Thailand, the commonality with experiences of other women throughout the world raises awareness of this pervasive and underground concern.

This is a drawing to illustrate the film Men are Human, Women are Buffalo. A Thai man is pulling long black objects from a Thai woman's backpack. She watches him pull out the objects. She is holding a walking stick.
Men are Human, Women Are Buffalo

Break the Silence: Reproductive & Sexual Health Stories, a film by Willow O’Feral, challenges social taboos and activates important conversations about sexual education, health, and human rights.  Eighteen individuals share their diverse experiences to help us re-examine our beliefs and explore unexamined ones.

Peter Cohn’s documentary about domestic violence, Power and Control, gives us a first-hand look at the experience of Kim Mosher, mother of three children and a victim of physical and emotional abuse. Through Kim’s personal story, the film explores the deep causes of domestic abuse and the shocking persistence of gender violence while also highlighting certain solutions that can help victims. Peter has two additional films in the New Day collection that deal with domestic violence issues:  Domestic Violence in Law Enforcement and Violence and Health Care.

In Sita, A Girl from Jambu, filmmaker Kathleen Gyllenhaal offers an empowering message to survivors of the sex trade and encourages them to share their stories and speak out for the voiceless victims. An innovative blend of documentary and street theater, the film tells the brutal story of how uneducated, rural Nepalese girls are lured into sexual slavery and explores the root causes of child exploitation.

Earth Day Turns 50

By Lisa Merton

April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In addition to celebrating life on Earth, Earth Day was founded to alert humanity to the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balances upon which all life depends. For me, Earth Day has taken on new meaning as I witness (and feel) the overwhelming evidence that atmospheric, geologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now being drastically altered by our human activity. 

Perhaps I would not be as profoundly affected by this planetary crisis had I and my life and filmmaking partner, Alan Dater, not had the good fortune to meet the late, great Kenyan environmental and women’s rights activist and planter of trees, Professor Wangari Muta Maathai. A year after we started working on our film Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, Professor Maathai became the first environmentalist and first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She recognized that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible. She knew from experience that conflict was mostly rooted in inequitable distribution of resources. April 1st this year would have been her 80th birthday. 

“Prof,” as she was lovingly known, became a mentor and great friend during the decade that we knew her. She grew up in a small, rural village in the Central Highlands of Kenya and had a deep understanding of the delicate balance of the natural world, made stronger by her work as a biologist. She loved the Earth for its nurturing of life and communicated her passionate care for it in everything she did whether she was with presidents and royalty, or the women from her village. She knew that without a healthy and vital planet, political power and material wealth meant nothing. 

A headshot of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She stares directly in the camera and is smiling. She is wearing a colorful blue top and scarf and a blue head covering.
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai

As we as a species come face to face with the climate crisis and the ramifications for the future of all life on Earth, Wangari Maathai is a prophet for our time. Her holistic vision of a whole and healthy planet is ours to embrace and live up to.  

A photo from the film Water Warriors. The middle of the frame is comprised of burning tires and orange fire. A person stands to the right of the frame facing away from the fire. There is snow in the background and a white, cloudy sky.
Water Warriors

New Day Films has a collection of compelling, personal films that explore the environment and sustainability. They will support you and your students in celebrating Earth Day this year and help probe the difficult questions that this 50th anniversary brings forth. Some you might consider using are:

Sun Come Up by Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger follows the relocation of some of the world’s first climate refugees; Bag It by Suzan Beraza is a wholesale investigation into plastic’s effects on our oceans, environment, and bodies; Water Warriors by Michael Premo is the story of a community’s successful resistance against the oil and gas industry; Eating Alaska by Ellen Frankenstein and Shirley Thompson is a serious and humorous film about connecting to where you live and eating locally; and Rebels Without a Cause by Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly spotlights a battle over land that changed the American landscape forever.

New Day Co-Founder Wins an Oscar!

We are thrilled to congratulate Julia Reichert, the co-founder of New Day Films, on her momentous Academy Award win for the film American Factory with Steve Bognar. Spanning five decades, her work has centered on the American working class, as well as gender and social issues confronting contemporary America. This is a much-deserved recognition for a pioneering filmmaker! Learn more about Julia and her earlier films by visiting NewDay.com.

Three people stand on a stage holding gold Oscar statues. New Day co-founder Julia Reichert is in the middle and is smiling with her eyes shut. She is bald and wears glasses. On her right is co-director Steven Bognar, who is also bald and wears glasses. On her left is producer Jeff Reichert who has short dark hair and a beard, and wears glasses. The two men kiss Julia on either cheek.  
Julia Reichert (center) is kissed by
Co-Director Steven Bognar (right) and Producer Jeff Reichert

Every Month Should be Black History Month

In the face of a long history of white filmmakers telling Black people’s stories, often in damaging ways, Black perspectives offer the potential to restructure American consciousness. For example, artists like Ava DuVerney (The 13th, When They See Us, Queen Sugar, A Wrinkle in Time), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) have changed the cultural landscape over the past few years, bringing Black struggle, Black futurism, Black imagination, and Black desire into the mainstream through distinctly Black voices. 

This February as we celebrate Black History Month, New Day is proud to feature three Black filmmakers whose works have helped to document invaluable chapters in Black history, and in doing so, have helped to reshape the narrative.

Mike Mascoll, On the Line

A headshot of New Day Filmmaker Mike Mascoll, a bald African-American man with a grey goatee. He looks directly at the camera and smiles.

Mike Mascoll is an up-and-coming director, writer and producer who grew up in Boston. He comes from an eclectic background – he became a male model at age 18, became the CEO of a wireless startup at age 28, and later a business development executive for tech companies. He’s now the Creative Director and CEO of LEV Media Group, specializing in media production and documentary film-making. His latest documentary, On the Line, highlights one of the longest running voluntary school desegregation programs in the country, and its historical impact on the city of Boston and those personally involved in the program. The civil rights movement is often taught as a Southern phenomenon, but the struggle for racial justice occurred all over the country, especially in Northern cities. On the Line reminds viewers that we all have a responsibility to dismantle white supremacy. 

In addition to his mother, Mike credits two revolutionary heroes for teaching him how to live with dignity and self-respect. The first is Sidney Poitier, who not only accomplished the impossible feat of becoming an African-American star in Hollywood, but did so without taking on roles that diminished the image of African Americans. The second is Mohammed Ali, whose popularity as a celebrity did not stop him from speaking out against racial discrimination during the fraught times of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Mike became motivated to tell his own story after realizing he did not want to have his success or failure be evaluated by others with an outside and arbitrary set of criteria. He hopes to help future generations lift up their own voices, be present in the reflection of their own stories and decide their own futures. 

He would love to see Black History Month progress to become Black Awareness month, to reflect “our history and contributions, along with a transformative and hard look at our present state and future roadmap.” 

Najma Nuriddin, Not in My Neighborhood

A headshot of New Day Filmmaker Najma Nuriddin, an African-American woman with wavy shoulder length hair and large red earrings. She looks directly at the camera and smiles widely.

Najma Nuriddin is an award-winning filmmaker and producer who received her MFA from Howard University. Originally from California, Najma has traveled and worked in Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia as a freelance filmmaker. Najma created Nsoroma Films in 2010, which is dedicated to telling organic stories that are unique to the human experience from a cultural perspective, striving to be a catalyst for creative revolution. Previously an Emerging Voices Mentee with the New Orleans Films Society, Najma now spends her time in New Orleans as an adjunct film lecturer and is hard at work on her next project. Najma’s film collaboration with Kurt Otabenga Orderson, Not in My Neighborhood, tells intergenerational stories of spatial violence in three different cities: Cape Town, New York, and São Paulo. The film illuminates the tools and approaches used by urban activists to shape and navigate their cities, which have been affected by colonization, architectural apartheid, and gentrification. 

Najma first began to seriously entertain the idea of filmmaking during her last year of undergrad at San Francisco State University when she took an intro to documentary filmmaking course. While studying film at Howard University, she met her professor and mentor, Haile Gerima, who had a significant impact and influence on her as a filmmaker. Through that experience, she learned the power of the personal story that celebrates culture, history, and legacy, as well as the importance of controlling your narrative and being comfortable in yourself and your ideas. Haile continuously inspires Najma as a filmmaker who does not compromise and uses his art form as a storyteller as a weapon. Najma is also very much inspired by Julie Dash, Kathleen Collins, Maya Deren and Ava DuVernay, and hopes to leave behind many powerful and beautiful works of art that speak to the vast diversity of the Black experience, and take an in-depth look into relationships, culture, and history.

“I think Black History Month is a great moment for everyone to learn more about Black History and how it’s a part of World History, and US history in general,” Najma said. “We have much to learn and much to celebrate. There is also much work to be done by everyone to reach equity, justice, and acknowledge our country’s complicated and brutal origins.”

As a Black filmmaker, Najma looks forward to the day when she will be asked to talk more about her craft, instead of only being asked about the subject or topic of her films as they relate to race.

Faith Pennick, Silent Choices

A headshot of New Day Filmmaker Faith Pennick, an African-American woman with wavy shoulder length hair and a pierced nose. She looks directly at the camera with a neutral expression,

Faith Pennick has written, directed, produced and edited a number of films including two narrative shorts, Running on Eggshells (2007) and Harlem Sistas Double Dutch (2005), and the documentary Weightless (2012), about plus-size female scuba divers. Her first feature-length documentary, Silent Choices, distributed by New Day Films, is about abortion and its impact on the lives of African American women. A “hybrid” documentary, Silent Choices is part historical piece, part social and religious analysis and part first-person narrative. From African Americans’ cautious involvement with Margaret Sanger during the early birth control movement to Black nationalists and civil rights activists who staunchly opposed abortion (or stayed silent on the issue), Silent Choices examines the juxtaposition of racial and reproductive politics. 

Faith was first inspired to be a filmmaker by seeing Hoop Dreams in 1995. She studied film production and business at NYU, originally wanting to be a producer, but went into directing because she didn’t want to wait for someone else to make the films she wanted to see.

Growing up, she knew that figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Robeson, Shirley Chisholm and Sojourner Truth were the collective reason she could pursue her dreams and be true to herself as a Black woman. But it was seeing Roots, Eyes on the Prize, and Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied that expanded her horizons on the power of media to tell stories about African Americans. She also credits her mother, who deserves all the respect in the world for making sacrifices so she could be the person she’s become.

When asked about her current influences, Faith says “I LOVE Steve McQueen! He’s an amazing filmmaker and visual artist who embraces difficult subjects, and doesn’t limit himself to telling stories that fit a narrow perspective of ‘Black life.’” Faith hopes that her legacy will inspire artists to move beyond their comfort zones. She also hopes that her film Silent Choices proves that reproductive rights is 100% a Black woman’s issue.

About Black History month, Faith sums it up: “African Americans (unwillingly) built this country. EVERY month should be Black History Month.”

Other Black filmmakers in the New Day Films collective include Rodney Evans (Vision Portraits), Anike Tourse (America; I Too), Michael Premo (Water Warriors) and Kurt Otabenga Orderson (Not in My Neighborhood), and Patty Berne (Sins Invalid). Their films cover themes of art, disability, racial justice, segregation, colonization, immigration, and resistance. Visit NewDay.com to learn more about their work and that of other filmmakers seeking to disrupt the dominant narrative. 

10 Ways New Day Changed the World in 2019

by Isabel Hill

Schools, libraries, community organizations, and government agencies use New Day films every day to expand awareness on important, relevant issues.  New Day films continue to be catalysts for change, and as 2019 comes to a close, we wanted to highlight a few of the ways our films have had an impact on the world.

1– A young man was encouraged not to seek violent revenge.
Julie Mallozzi’s restorative justice film, Circle Up,  likely prevented at least one act of youth violence this year – possibly even a homicide. A New York City high school teacher asked Clarissa Turner – one of the film’s participants whose own son was murdered – to speak with a young man who was on the verge of committing an act of revenge violence.  After watching the film and talking with Clarissa, the young man’s attitude had begun to shift; “I don’t know what I’m going to do but I know I’m not going to do THAT,” he disclosed.

2– A film concerning the Deaf community reaches out to others with disabilities.
Deaf Jam has had a long run in festivals, broadcasts, and community screenings; however, it was not until receiving an invitation to screen at the Superfest International Disability Film Festival that director Judy Lieff experienced something new and powerful with her film.  Lieff created an audio description track to screen publicly to all audiences.  Following the festival, messages began to roll in: “I saw Deaf Jam at the Superfest Film Festival this past weekend,” wrote Arora Kulvinder, Chair of Inclusion at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival in California, “and I can tell you that everyone was awed at the brilliance of the film. This was the first time I was able to enjoy films together with my husband in a theater. He experiences low vision.” 

3– An advocate for women and minorities is born. 
Beauty in the Bricks – a film by Cynthia Salzman Mondell – captures the lives, hopes and dreams of four African American teenage girls in a West Dallas Housing Project. Watching the film at a homeless shelter when she was only 12 years old inspired Olinka Green to become an advocate for women and minorities in Dallas. Over 30 years later, Green had a showing of the film that brought together the West Dallas community and many of the people who were in the film; the film continues to promote pride in West Dallas residents. 

4– City officials in New York City consider racial and socioeconomic impacts in large-scale real estate rezoning projects.

A full auditorium of people sitting in folding chairs. They watch "My Brooklyn."
My Brooklyn

On May 4 Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean showed My Brooklyn as part of an educational and fundraising event sponsored by a local development organization that was suing the City of New York for passing a 59-block rezoning that did not conduct a proper environmental review. In an unprecedented decision in November, a judge sided with local leaders, saying that the city’s analysis was incomplete because officials did not study its racial and socioeconomic impacts. The film showing was an important educational piece to this decision, which is having ripple effects on rezoning proposals throughout the city.

5– A film providing innovative strategies for people with traumatic brain injuries is reaching broader audiences.
Filmmaker Cheryl Green co-presented at the Oregon Association of Higher Education and Disability (ORAHEAD) state conference with three Disability Services Counselors and was also invited to screen her film, Who Am I to Stop It.  As a consequence, her film is now an integral part of a three-hour seminar for the 2020 national  Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) conference. The film gives a holistic view of students with traumatic brain injury disabilities and offers perspectives for supporting their educational and psychosocial needs.

6– A growing effort to impact mental health public policy, particularly in competitive sports, spreads as the National Basketball Association includes powerful excerpts from a New Day film on this topic on its website.

An African-American female, Chamique Holdsclaw, holds a basketball and smiles widely. She is facing a white, middle aged man with dark hair and a goatee, filmmaker Rick Goldsmith, who smiles back at her.
Mind/Game

In July of 2019 Rick Goldsmith’s Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw joined the National Basketball Association’s “NBA Cares” mindhealth website, which addresses mental health issues in the sports world and beyond. NBA affiliates, as well as sports fans around the world, can now click on the Mind/Game link for excerpts of the film and to engage in online mental health dialogues.   

7– A film about decommissioning a nuclear power plant in Vermont screened in the Massachusetts statehouse and helped legislators consider that issue in their own state

Robbie Leppzer, the filmmaker, a white middle age man, stands up and addresses an audience in folding chairs. Three more lean against one wall. All are professionally dressed.
Power Struggle

Power Struggle screened before a bi-partisan audience of Massachusetts Democrat and Republican state senators and representatives at the Massachusetts statehouse in July.  Representative Ruth Balser of Newton, Massachusetts, who had viewed the film previously, invited filmmaker Robbie Leppzer to screen Power Struggle as part of the legislature’s process of considering various proposed bills to regulate the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts similar to the Vermont Yankee reactor depicted in Power Struggle.  After viewing the film, Massachusetts State Senator Julian Cyr wrote, “Those of us in the Legislature owe a debt of gratitude to artists and activists like you who help us hold corporations – and ourselves – accountable.”

8– A film is now being screened on three continents, expanding worldwide a critical conversation for a more just and equitable solution to the situation in Palestine.
Hurdle by Michael Rowley has won four Jury Awards and has been covered by publications like the New York Times as it continues to resonate with viewers around the world. Following screenings, engaging and thoughtful Question and Answer Sessions have allowed audiences to engage in full and open discussion on difficult issues from this complex conflict.

9– Important issues of racism shown in Detroit provoke relevant discussions in small towns across the Mid-Atlantic.
In November 2019 Pam Sporn went on the road with her film Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route. The tour, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation gave Sporn the opportunity to go outside of the urban bubble and show Detroit 48202 to audiences in smaller towns and communities that might not get to see a documentary about an African-American worker in a primarily African-American city. A white woman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania summed up the power of the film, “Any white person who sees this film cannot say they don’t understand structural racism.”

10– The death penalty is being reexamined as a consequence of a lobbying campaign which utilizes a New Day title on this controversial issue.
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP) adopted Richard Stack and Maggie Burnette Stogner’s  In the Executioner’s Shadow  as the centerpiece of its 2019 lobbying campaign, showing the film at town hall meetings across the state. The coordinator of OADP’s lobbying strategy credits In the Executioner’s Shadow with providing “the big lift” to help pass legislation to “reduce the use of the death penalty.” 

 


Meet New Day

by Robbie Leppzer

White man with curly brown hair and a grey beard looks at camera with small smile. He is wearing big headphones and is holding a video camera.
Robbie Leppzer

From the environmental protests of the 1970s, to the growing global peace, social justice and environmental movements of the new millennium, I have been documenting grassroots social movements over the last four decades. I film stories of people who stick their necks out to take risks for social change and build bridges across cultures. I live in western Massachusetts.

My latest film, Power Struggle, chronicles a rare victory for community activists – a successful citizens’ effort to protect the environment by shutting down an aging nuclear power plant. It is a timely, inspiring story of democracy in action, the climate justice movement, and the power of citizens’ voices against big moneyed interests.

Protesters walk along a country road in Vermont during the summer time, marching to the Vermont Yankee Power Plant. One person carries a flag with a photo of a globe. Another person carries a flag that says 'rising.' Some people are wearing breathing masks.
A scene from Power Struggle

Filmed over five years, this feature-length documentary portrays a heated political battle to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, located on the banks of the Connecticut River in southern Vermont. The film follows community activists, ordinary citizens, and college students, who – together with their elected representatives in the Vermont Legislature – take on one of the biggest power companies in the United States.  

Power Struggle captures perspectives on all sides of the controversy, including local residents that are both for and against nuclear power, elected officials (including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin), nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, a Vermont Yankee company spokesperson, federal nuclear regulators, and the legendary activist Frances Crowe (who recently died at age 100). 

Eleven people walk in the middle of a country road in Vermont in the summer time. Two people in front hold a banner that says "Nuclear Waste: Our Gift to the Future." It looks hot outside.
A scene from Power Struggle

Power Struggle brings nuclear power and the long-term hazards of radioactive waste back into the public forum for contemporary debates about environmental protection and the ethical impact of technology on our society.  It is also one of the only films that links nuclear power with the climate justice movement. 

I produced Power Struggle as a tool to inspire discussions about environmental justice issues, climate change, renewable energy, and enhanced citizen participation in our democracy. After years of working on the film, I have been quite heartened by the response this documentary has received at community showings, school presentations, television broadcasts, and at a recent special screening at the Massachusetts state legislature.

In this time of political turmoil and despair about the future of our planet, I am pleased to have created a compelling story that gives viewers hope that grassroots activism can be effective at bringing about positive social change. 

Meet New Day

by Willow O’Feral

Willow O’Feral

I am a director, producer, and cinematographer, from Northern California but now living in Southern Vermont. My film Break the Silence: Reproductive & Sexual Health Stories is an intersectional and inclusive portrait of eighteen cis and trans women’s lived experiences in regards to our sexual and reproductive health. This encompasses everything from menstruation, birth control, hormone therapy, relationships, childbirth, gender confirmation surgery, sex, abortions, rape, medical/gyno experiences, STI’s, pregnancy, and more. It’s a very straightforward but powerful format: one woman at a time, framed head-and-shoulders against a white backdrop, speaking with refreshingly frank, direct and sometimes hilarious poignancy about taboo subjects. 

I made the film because these were stories I wanted to hear! I think the shroud of taboo that exists around our sexual and reproductive lives needs to be ripped away in order to create the kind of vibrant, safe, fun and whole sexual/reproductive lives that we all deserve to have. 

Break the Silence

All of the 18 women in the film are from my community, though I didn’t know all of them personally at the time of filming. There were a lot of revelations for me in this process. For example, one of my “ice-breaker” questions, “Tell me about your first sexual experiences,”  revealed that fully HALF of the women I interviewed were raped or molested in their first sexual experiences as children or teens. That was emotionally devastating. 

On a lighter note, one of my other icebreaker questions, “do you remember your first period?”, revealed a funny through-line – many women got their very first period at their grandmother’s house! I am tempted to imagine that it’s a matrilineal kind of thing… 

Adapting to the needs and desires of the women I interviewed was an important part of the process and it lead me to assure that everyone was given the option of having someone they felt particularly safe with interview them. For example, one woman of color asked that she be interviewed by another woman of color. The transgender women in the film all had transgender interviewers, and that was really important in building trust and openness. 

I’m often asked, “How did the women in your film feel so safe and how did you get such honest and vulnerable stories from them!?” I think the incredible intimacy is because the interviews were more like three-way conversations, gab-fests about all the stuff we don’t normally get to talk about with each other. Just get a group of women talking openly about their sexual and reproductive lives, and it gets real REAL fast. 

Commemorative Months

NATIVE AMERICAN/ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE MONTH

Badger Creek

November is Native American/Alaska Native Heritage Month, an opportunity to celebrate the rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories of indigenous peoples. Badger Creek, by Jonathan Skurnik and Randy Vasquez, is a portrait of Native resilience as seen through a year in the life of three generations of a Blackfeet (Pikuni) family living on the rez in Montana. A Matter of Respect, by Ellen Frankenstein and Sharon Gmelch, is about the meaning of tradition and change, as explored by a group of people who honor their ancestors’ way of life by teaching language, harvesting and preparing traditional foods, restoring community cemeteries, dancing, carving and weaving. Hunting in Wartime, by Samantha Farinella, profiles Tlingit veterans from Hoonah, Alaska, who saw combat during the Vietnam war; they talk about surviving trauma, relating to Vietnamese civilians, readjusting to civilian life, and serving a government that systematically oppresses native people. Find these films and others that honor Native American/Alaska Native Heritage Month here

TRANS DAY OF REMEMBRANCE

Mezzo

Trans Day of Remembrance, sometimes reframed as Trans Day of Resilience, is a time to honor the memories of trans people we have lost, and to uplift those who are surviving and thriving. Mezzo, by Nicole Opper, celebrates the life and artistic endeavors of Breanna Sinclaire, a Black trans opera singer. Prodigal Sons, by Kimberly Reed, is a complex personal story about the filmmaker’s return to the Montana town where she grew up, and her relationship with her disabled adopted brother, and the life-changing revelation of his birth family. Trinidad, by PJ Raval, introduces viewers to three trans women whose paths cross in the unassuming small town of Trinidad, Colorado, the so-called “sex change capitol of the world.” Find these and more movies about trans people’s lives and stories in the LGBTQ section of New Day films. 


Reimagining Justice

by Richard Stack

As the Justice Department prepares to resume federal executions after a 16-year moratorium, the death penalty debate intensifies. Despite popular opinion with approximately 50% of Americans against capital punishment and two more states (Washington and New Hampshire) abolishing it, five executions are scheduled for December and January.

New Day’s catalogue of criminal justice titles includes films that inspire viewers to reimagine justice, films that give historical context to the system in place, and many intimate stories of the lives impacted by a per-capita incarceration rate that far exceeds other developed nations. These can serve as powerful pedagogical tools for any organization trying to grapple with the issues of the criminal justice system. 

In the Executioner’s Shadow

In the Executioner’s Shadow intertwines three powerful stories depicting capital punishment’s destructive nature. Two narratives represent opposing positions on the death penalty. The third is the rarely revealed insights of a former executioner. The work of Maggie Stogner and Richard Stack is not a polemic. The storytelling takes viewers on personal journeys inspiring forgiveness and social healing.  

Circle Up

Circle Up is the powerful story of Boston mothers seeking justice for their sons’ murders, searching for healing, accountability, and community peace. The film examines reconciliation between a murderer and the survivors of his victim. Inspired by Native-American peacemaking circles, director Julie Mallozzi reframes crime and punishment through restorative justice, accountability, forgiveness.

Concrete, Steel & Paint explores interaction between offenders and victims, through partnership that broke barriers between them. Inmates and victims collaborate on a mural about healing, highlighting differences on punishment, remorse and forgiveness. Mistrust dissolves into personal connection. Collaboration challenges both sides to respect the other’s humanity. Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza raise questions about reconciliation and illustrate art’s power to spark restorative justice. 

A Hard Straight depicts doing time on the outside. The film follows three inmates’ reentry into society. Departing incarceration is ecstatic. Then what? The joys, frustrations and risks of recidivism come into focus. Annually, 500,000 inmates are released, and ask:  What resources are required to survive? Goro Toshima spotlights challenges of serving a sentence and staying straight.

Girl Trouble

Girl Trouble is an intimate documentary in which Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko, chronicle four years in the lives of three teenage girls struggling to break from San Francisco’s complex, flawed juvenile justice system, one that creates “throw-away children.”

Every Mother’s Son profiles three women from different backgrounds who unite to seek justice after their sons are killed by police. Three ordinary mothers become extraordinary activists.  Their stories are tragic, their courage heroic. Their sons’ narratives humanize consequences of police brutality. Kelly Anderson and Tami Gold transform victims into real people making it difficult to be indifferent to authorities’ excessive use of force. 

In Justice for My Sister, Kimberly Bautista examines violence against women in Guatemala, documenting one woman’s three-year struggle to hold her sister’s killer accountable. The film was the centerpiece of a transnational campaign promoting healthy relationships and denouncing gender-based violence.  

What it Means to Serve

As we approach Veteran’s Day, we highlight a handful of films in the New Day collection exploring the psychic wounds of war while also honoring the individuals who serve.

Where Soldiers Come From by Heather Courtney

Winner of an Emmy and the Independent Spirit Award, Where Soldiers Come From is an intimate look at the young men who fight our wars and the families and town they come from. Returning to her hometown, director Heather Courtney gains extraordinary access following these young men as they grow and change from teenagers stuck in their town, to National Guard soldiers looking for roadside bombs in Afghanistan, to 23-year-old veterans dealing with the silent war wounds of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD.

Almost Sunrise by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco,

The award-winning film Almost Sunrise, directed by Michael Collins and produced by Marty Syjuco, follows two friends, who in an attempt to put their haunting combat experiences behind them, embark on an epic 2,700-mile trek by foot across America seeking redemption and healing. A popular companion piece for the classroom is Voices of Resilience, which is a deeper conversation about “moral injury” and society’s role in war.

Award winner at the Tribeca Film Festival, When I Came Home, directed by Dan Lohaus, follows the struggles of Herold Noel, an Iraq war veteran who becomes homeless in New York City after returning from combat with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

A refreshing and poetic insight into the experience of post-traumatic stress disorder, Michael and His Dragon, directed by Briar March, is told from the perspective of a young Iraq war veteran.

Hunting in Wartime by Samantha Farinella,

Hunting in Wartime, directed by Samantha Farinella, profiles Tlingit veterans from Hoonah, Alaska, who saw combat during the Vietnam War. The veterans talk about surviving trauma, relating to Vietnamese civilians, readjusting to civilian life, and serving a government that systematically oppresses native people. Their stories give an important human face to the combat soldier and show the lasting effects of war on individuals, families and communities.

For more information on these films and others dealing with Peace and Conflict, please visit: https://www.newday.com.

Meet New Day – Kurt Orderson and Najma Nuriddin

Najma Nuriddin and Kurt Orderson

We are both filmmakers from different parts of the world who periodically come together to collaborate. Kurt Orderson is the founder of Azania Rizing Productions, a company that was formed as a direct response to the exclusion of marginalized voices from mainstream film and television. Najma Nuriddin is a filmmaker who directs and produces. She has traveled and worked in Africa, Europe, and South East Asia as a freelance filmmaker. Currently, we are both filmmakers in residence at Johns Hopkins University, developing an online archive of our film, Not in My Neighbourhood.  

Not in My Neighbourhood tells the intergenerational stories of spatial violence in three self-professed world-class cities: Cape Town, New York, and São Paulo. The film aims to build solidarity among active urban citizens by illuminating the tools and approaches used by urban activists to shape and navigate their cities, which have been affected by colonization, architectural apartheid, and gentrification. Not in My Neigbourhood explores the effects of various forms of spatial violence on the spirit and social-psyche of city dwellers. We follow the daily struggles, trials and triumphant moments of active citizens who are fighting for the right to their cities.

Not in My Neighbourhood

Kurt grew up on the Cape Flats of Cape Town, a strip of townships built by the architects of Apartheid in the 1960’s. Both his parents and extended family were victims of racially motivated forced removals from areas like District Six and Woodstock. The experience of spatial violence and architectural Apartheid has affected Kurt’s life in deep and profound ways, which inspired this film. Najma came on board this project as a co-producer because of her passion for telling stories of people around the world that connect us to one another. This film, in particular, connects grassroots activists who can inspire, build and unite one another and also everyday people around the world who are coming together in the name of community-based activism for housing, equity, and empowerment. 

Despite this new focus on gentrification, general discourse on the topic has failed to make the link between new and old forms of spatial violence, geographical exclusion and the legacies of architectural Apartheid. The ways in which spaces are used are always changing. We must ask ourselves; what kind of spaces are we moving towards with our current plans? Changing, controlling, privatizing these spatial assets can have incredibly adverse effects on the people who use it.

October 2019: Commemorative Month

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

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.

Who Am I to Stop It, by Cheryl Green, is a documentary about isolation, art, and transformation after traumatic brain injury. 

Read Me Differently, by Sarah Entine, explores how undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD have impacted three generations in Sarah’s family, starting with her own struggles. 

Fixed, by Regan Brashear, explores disability and the promise and perils of human enhancement technologies.

Sins Invalid: An Unashamed Claim to Beauty by Patty Berne.

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty by Patty Berne, witnesses a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists. 

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.”


Latinx Heritage Month

Vida Diferida (Life, Deferred)

Latinx Heritage Month (also called Hispanic Heritage Month) is from September 15-October 15. This is an opportunity to learn and reflect on Latinx & Hispanic cultures, languages, traditions, and forms of resistance. 

The U Turn, the third documentary of Luis Arugueta’s immigration trilogy, tells the story of a group of Guatemalan immigrant women who broke the silence about abuses committed against them at the Agriprocessors, Inc. plant in Postville, Iowa. These women are precursors of the #MeToo movement, and were supported by the U Visa, part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA 2000) created to protect unauthorized immigrant victims of crimes of violence. 

Vida Diferida (Life, Deferred) by Brenda Avila-Hanna, tells the story of Vanessa, a teenager born in Mexico who has lived in the US since she was six years old. This film highlights the uncertainties haunting undocumented youth and their families in the United States, including the promise that DACA has offered to students like Vanessa, and the fears that come with increasingly harsh immigration policies.

Our Disappeared / Nuestros Desaparacidos begins its story when filmmaker Juan Mandelbaum learns that a long-lost girlfriend from Argentina is among the thousands who were kidnapped, tortured and “disappeared” during the 1976-1983 dictatorship. Juan documented his journey to find out what happened to Patricia and others he knew who disappeared, including the stories of parents, siblings, friends and children, and his own reflections on the losses endured by generations of Argentinos.

You can find these and more in New Day’s collection of Latinx Studies films, here

Meet New Day: Maggie Stogner and Rick Stack

Maggie Stogner and Rick Stack

We are the filmmaking team who created In the Executioner’s Shadow. Maggie has been making documentary films on environmental and social issues for over 30 years. In 2018, she became the director for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University in Washington, D.C. Rick has been researching and writing about the death penalty and criminal justice reform for several decades. He is a professor emeritus at American University’s School of Communication.

In the Executioner’s Shadow takes a deep dive into the criminal justice system through three narratives depicting personal stories of how the death penalty affects people in different and destructive ways. One is the heart-wrenching story of Vicki and Syl Sylvester who fight to spare the life of their daughter’s killer. Another is that of Karen Brassard, who struggles to define what justice means in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing where she, her husband, daughter and best friend were all seriously injured. She wants the bomber to pay for what he did, yet she has a 19-year-old son the same age. The fulcrum of the film is the rarely heard story of an executioner, Jerry Givens. He was Virginia’s former chief executioner for 17 years and executed 62 inmates. Jerry discovers that he came within days of executing death row prisoner Earl Washington, when Earl was exonerated. Jerry remains haunted by having nearly taken the life of an innocent man. Interviews with experts such as Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, and key information about the death penalty are woven in throughout the film.

In the Executioner’s Shadow is not a polemic. By showing multiple facets of the issue, we hope to encourage constructive dialogue and engage people who might not otherwise be open to discussion. Our approach is a model for bringing people who have vastly different perspectives together to discuss and resolve society’s most polarizing issues. It’s a catalyst for meaningful discussion about criminal justice reform that ultimately can move society toward a more compassionate place. Though few people have experienced the extremes of our criminal justice system, its consequences affect us all and define us as a society. Audiences are deeply moved by the film’s personal stories, and thought-provoking discussions follow every screening. The film has also played a key role in grassroots campaigns for criminal justice reform. 

New Day: Breaking the Distribution Mold

In the competitive world of film distribution, it can be easy to forget that there is a more personal and direct way of operating. National Co-op Month in October is a good time to celebrate our rare and unique status as a distribution co-op. We have banded together as engaged filmmakers and activists to collectively market and sell our films. By purchasing or licensing titles from our collection you not only gain access to thought-provoking educational materials, but you also support a unique model that empowers New Day filmmakers to maintain ownership of our films and to use our earnings in sustaining careers devoted to education, activism, and change-making.

New Day was initially formed in 1971 because the women’s movement had arrived and a group of independent filmmakers couldn’t find distribution for their feminist films. “The whole idea of distribution,” explains co-founder Julia Reichert, “was to help the women’s movement grow. Films could do that; they could get the ideas out. We could watch the women’s movement spread across the country just by who was ordering our films. First it was Cambridge and Berkeley. I remember the first showing in the deep South.”

Central to our co-op’s identity is the democratic way that we self-govern. Each voice is valued and decisions about how to grow and improve our service is done collectively. Major efforts are guided by a volunteer Steering Committee drawn from the pool of members-owners in the co-op. A biennial transfer of governance to other members assures that leadership is broadly shared and frequently infused with new ideas and perspectives.

Being a part of New Day Films is such a breath of fresh air which makes me feel inspired and energized. New Day is filled with experienced and powerful storytellers, there to help and support you, making you not only a better filmmaker, but also thrive as an individual and as a collective.
Najma Nuriddin, Not in My Neighbourhood



As a Latina filmmaker, I have been welcomed into the New Day community with open arms. It’s been amazing to be a part of such a supportive and engaged group of storytellers whose powerful films are having a real impact in the world.
Luisa Dantas, Land of Opportunity

Our collection includes award-winning films that investigate global concerns like criminal justice, environmental issues, gender & sexuality, and immigration. New Day films have challenged and inspired audiences everywhere, from high school classrooms to Capitol Hill. We continue to be sustained by the ideas that inspired our formation: collaboration, hope and social change.

Thank you for your continued support of the longest-running distribution cooperative for independent filmmakers in the US!

Stream Forever! Own the Whole Collection!

New Day Films is excited to announce that we now offer two new streaming options through the New Day Digital streaming platform.  Customers can now purchase a film stream for the “Life Of File” through New Day and can also buy the New Day Collection as a whole.  It couldn’t be easier. No special equipment or software is needed, other than a high-speed internet connection.  

With a “Life of File” stream, your New Day title is available to stream in perpetuity – the license will never expire. New Day provides a link based on your IP address or IP address range. After your purchase, simply add this data to your account profile. Your New Day film will be available on demand to anyone at your institution.

The “New Day Collection” stream gives you access to over 200 social issue documentary films curated for their quality and usefulness in the educational sphere. With a Collection Stream, professors and students have unlimited access to award-winning and discussion-starting teaching tools on-demand without the friction of coordinating individual purchases. New Day offers the Collection Stream for a flat fee in 1 year and 3 year licenses. As our collection grows, so does yours. With a Collection Stream you have instant, on-demand access to our complete collection as it grows so institutions are up-to-date and constantly expanding their educational video repertoire. 

For more information about these great new offers, contact Karen Knox at New Day Films  (orders@newday.com).

Meet New Day: Harleen Singh

by Harleen Singh

Harleen Singh

I was born in Wellington, India, and raised in 17 cities across India and the U.S, as my father was in the Army. I have a Masters in Strategy and an MBA from Indian School of Business. I have been fascinated with the art of storytelling since the beginning of my career at The History Channel and National Geographic Channel, and my intention is to create thought-provoking films that inspire viewers to look beyond their limitations and achieve their goals. 

My film Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes traces the fascinating journey of three comic creators who challenge notions of race, appearance, and gender stereotypes through cartoons, comics, and cosplay. The documentary encourages viewers to unlearn stereotyping, look beyond the obvious, and confront media prejudices—all through an inherently engaging, accessible source. The film has screened at 47 international film festivals and won 7 prestigious awards.

Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes

I have three very distinct lead protagonists in the film: Eileen is a white American woman, Vishavjit is a Sikh American man and Keith Knights is an African American man. On the face of it they are distinct in their upbringing, looks and also skin color. However, when you look closer you realize that they have a lot in common – they have all faced similar challenges during their childhoods, their teenage years, and even now on a day-to-day basis. They have also used comics as a medium to challenge those biases.

As a woman, a brown woman, and a brown mother I have been “stereotyped” at various levels. Some blatant, others hidden. I always wanted to make a film on the subject of stereotyping, but instead of just showcasing a problem, I wanted to showcase solutions. Since people from all age groups, income levels, nationalities, etc., could connect with the issue of bias, I wanted to create a film that was universal in its appeal. Comics offered the perfect medium to deliver the story in a manner that makes you think and smile at the same time. Comics span generations, religions, and cultures. They are entertaining, and have the capacity to evolve with a changing society that keeps them fresh, fun, and socially relevant. 

Like Eileen says in the film, “You can focus on the commonalities or you can focus on the differences,” and when we focus on what draws us together as human beings, the world becomes a lot more peaceful and loving.

Recognizing New Day’s Honored Academy Members

By J. Christian Jensen

Since its inception, New Day Films has been known for thought-provoking and critically acclaimed films dealing with social issues. Many members of our distribution co-op are also looked to as leaders in the film and television industry. In the past several years, a slew of New Day filmmakers have been inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). “The Academy” is recognized as one of the most respected and longest-standing institutions for preserving the history of cinema, and most famously for its role in selecting the annual Oscar winners. Induction into The Academy is an honor that lasts for life and is extended to filmmakers with a history of successful, influential, or critically acclaimed films.

We proudly recognize our recently-inducted AMPAS members, many of whose abilities we’ve valued here at New Day since long before their Academy membership. Here is a little about them and some of their films within New Day starting with the most recent inductees:

Carrie Lozano – Carrie Lozano is journalist and documentary filmmaker who, through her association with the International Documentary Association, also helps mid-career filmmakers tell journalistic stories. She has produced several acclaimed films as well as directing the award-winning Reporter Zero about the first openly gay journalist in mainstream media and his contributions to covering the early AIDS crisis.

PJ Raval – Named one of Out Magazine’s “Out 100” and Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” PJ Raval is an award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer whose credits include TRINIDAD and BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, which follows the lives of three gay senior men and has been described as “a crucial new addition to the LGBT doc canon.”

Wo Ani Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy)

Stephanie Wang-Breal – Stephanie Wang-Breal is an award-winning independent filmmaker living in Brooklyn, New York. Stephanie’s debut film, Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy) was nominated for an Emmy® and has garnered numerous festival awards as well as being broadcast nationally on PBS.

Kimberly Reed – Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” OUT Magazine’s “Out 100,” and Towleroad’s “LGBT Film Character Of The Year,” Kimberly Reed uses her position as the first commercially-released transgender filmmaker to tell compelling stories such as in her film Prodigal Sons, which reveals a surprisingly universal story about identity, gender, adoption, & mental illness.

Almost Sunrise

Marty Syjuco – Marty Syjuco is an Emmy® Award-nominated documentary filmmaker. Originally from the Philippines, he moved to NYC to pursue his passion in documentary filmmaking. He has since co-directed several award-winning documentaries with Michael Collins that are part of the New Day catalogue including Almost Sunrise, which tells the true story of two friends, ex-soldiers, who embark on an epic journey to heal from their time at war.

Paco de Onís – Paco de Onís grew up in several Latin American countries and is multilingual. A long-standing member of New Day, Paco has 10 titles in our collection – each one dealing with a different facet of Latin American history, culture, and change. His latest is 500 YEARS, which tells the sweeping story of mounting resistance in Guatemala’s recent history through the eyes of the majority indigenous Mayan population. 

Mr. Cao Goes to Washington

S. Leo Chiang – S. Leo Chiang is an Emmy® Award-nominated documentary filmmaker whose film contributions to the New Day catalogue are numerous and include Mr. Cao Goes to Washington and Out Run, about a historic grass-roots quest to elect a trans woman to the Philippine Congress. 

Mirra Bank – Mirra Bank has a long career of directing films, television, and theatre. Her films have garnered numerous festival awards and broad screenings via outlets like PBS and Netflix. Her film Yudie is hosted by New Day and concerns independence, aging, and the immigration experience.

Janet Cole – Janet Cole’s producing or executive producing credits garnered her two Emmy awards, a Peabody Award and an Oscar nomination. Her film Freedom Machines is hosted by New Day and dramatically explores the concept of “disability” through the intimate stories of adults and children who are using modern technologies to change their lives.  

Julia Reichert – Julia Reichert has received three Academy Award nominations for her documentary work and is a winner of the Primetime Emmy Award. She has directed both documentary and fiction features. She is a founder of New Day and her film Growing Up Female – the very first film of the modern women’s movement — is among her three titles in the collection.

Robert Richter – Robert Richter’s documentaries have been honored with many major awards, ranging from three Academy Award nominations for best documentary short to three Dupont Columbia Broadcast Journalism awards, National Emmys, Peabodys and many U.S. and overseas film festival prizes. He has four films in the New Day catalog including Father Roy: Inside the School of Assasins about the daring actions and personal sacrifices of a Vietnam war hero turned priest, who struggles to find and reveal the truth about a CIA/Pentagon secret torture training school.

Tell the Truth and Run

Rick Goldsmith– Rick Goldsmith is a two-time Oscar nominee whose mission as a filmmaker is to tell stories that encourage social engagement and active participation in community life and democratic process, and to stimulate young minds to question the world around them. His four films in the New Day catalogue include the Oscar-nominated Tell the Truth and Run – the dramatic story of muckraking journalist George Seldes, and a piercing look at censorship and suppression in America’s news media.

We are proud of the leadership role that many of our members play in the art and industry of cinema!

Meet New Day – Lauren Knapp

by Lauren Knapp

Lauren Knapp

I’m a documentary filmmaker and video journalist interested in shedding light on touchstone issues through intimate storytelling. The Sandman is a short documentary that profiles the doctor leading Georgia’s lethal injection team. The film unpacks why a doctor would defy medical ethics to participate in executions, highlighting the significance a white coat lends to executions, and how the public perception of lethal injection might perpetuate the practice of capital punishment.

Over the past decade, a series of botched executions have revealed the violence inherent in the lethal injection process – a method of execution that many consider to be the most humane form of capital punishment. In 2015, a group of Oklahoma death-row inmates challenged their planned executions arguing that one of the drugs in the state’s three-drug protocol would lead to an unconstitutional amount of suffering. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the execution method stating that the inmates needed to offer a viable alternative form of execution. For me, this case highlighted the contradictory nature of using medicine for executions. As I looked into it, I discovered that while lethal injections use the tools of medicine, the procedures vary from state to state and the methods are fairly unscientific. I wanted to understand how medicine came to be used in this way, and why a medical professional would assist in state executions.

Dr. Musso is one of the only medical professionals willing to publicly discuss his participation. For him, the death sentence is akin to a terminal illness. He sees his role as simply ensuring that the execution is done properly to avoid the unbearable pain of a lethal injection gone wrong. However, in our conversations, he also conceded that the mere practice of lethal injection gives the public a sense of humaneness that other forms of execution do not. By bringing doctors and nurses into the execution chamber, executions become sanitized in a way.

While I did not set out to make an advocacy film, I do hope that The Sandman encourages viewers to think critically about lethal injections and state-sanctioned executions. More than anything, I want to lay bare a criminal punishment that is too often shrouded in secrecy.

While there are several films that focus on the death sentence and questions surrounding guilt and innocence, there are few that deal directly with the protocol itself. In fact, I have not yet seen a film that explores the use of medicine as an executioner’s tool.

This was an extremely difficult film for me to make. The subject matter was clearly dark and it was a real challenge to engage with it in such a deep way for a year. As a filmmaker, I had to juggle my obligation to the person I was filming, to the audience, and to the truth as best as I could see it. As filmmakers, we wield a great deal of power in the edit room. I cut 5 or 6 different versions of this film before I felt that I had the right balance — allowing Dr. Musso’s point of view to clearly come through, but also creating a space where viewers can question the larger system.