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
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 sectionof New Day films.
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.
Know our history and embrace our elders. Learning about our
legacy helps us understand who we are. For example, the film Reporter Zerotells 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 Itoffers a loving portrait of gay elders, their wisdom and at times alienation from the culture they helped create, while Beauty Before Agelooks at the emphasis on youth and beauty in gay male culture. The CampaignandOne Wedding and a Revolutionboth share histories of the battle for gay marriage, and the trailblazers who paved the way.
Don’t forget the “T.” Trans people have been here since the
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.
Be Intersectional. When we talk about the liberation of LGBTQ
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.
Look beyond the U.S. The layers of identity, experience,
oppression and resilience are mirrored and contrasted when we look beyond the borders of the United States. City of Bordersis 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 Wariahighlights 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.
Honor our youth. Queer youth are some of the most vulnerable
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 Annekeeach 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.
Bear witness to the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ
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 Outwrestles with the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s murder, while Puzzlesteases out contributing factors of a violent hate crime in Massachusetts. Out at Workillustrates 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.
Encourage students to examine their own homophobia. It’s
The U.S. Department of Education hosted a special screeningof 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.
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.”
A researching team at Notre Dame University published a study
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.”
In New York’s Nassau County, over 50 matrimonial lawyers were
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.
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.
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.
The West Virginia Foundation for Rape and Information Services began using Debra Chasnoff‘sStraightlaced—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.
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.”
Hospitals, medical schools, and rehab facilities across the country
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.”
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.
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.
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.
My film Prodigal Sons is an autobiographical documentary about my first trip back to my Montana home after coming out as transgender. I set out to make the film because I felt a responsibility to introduce viewers to what would likely be the first trans person they would “meet.” Frankly, with so much misunderstanding of trans issues, I knew nobody else could get the story right. I also felt a responsibility to make viewers forget I was trans, because only then could the big “TRANS” label on my forehead disappear and allow viewers to humanize someone they’d always seen as different.
I thought the story of my homecoming would be “the film.” But what happened, especially regarding my relationship to my older adopted brother who suffers from a brain injury and mental illness, was much more interesting! Basically, our film is about family, and the love that can hold a family together despite great challenges.
I’m currently completing Dark Money, a documentary about Citizens United and the political nonprofit groups it enabled. More recently, in addition to my filmmaking, I’ve stretched my aesthetic wings and started working in the world of opera, writing libretti and creating films to replace sets.
“It’s not unusual for me to be the first transgender person someone has known. I’m happy to be in that position, because the best way to dispel misunderstanding and increase empathy for The Other is to simply get to know someone,” says Kimberly Reed, the director of New Day’s Prodigal Sons. “That’s how we’ve made progress in the LGB communities, and now it’s time for the T.”
New Day Films has been at the forefront of distribution of films on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual topics as they play out at home, in the workplace and in academia. As society expands its look at transgender identities, we at New Day have also been expanding our collection of films with transgender stories from around the world. LGBT Pride month seems a perfect time to profile four films that explore transgender identities.
In Prodigal Sons, filmmaker Kimberly Reed takes us on a personal journey back to her Montana hometown where family histories are revealed in many surprising ways. Kim is an articulate and ardent spokeswoman for trans people. She has appeared in a wide variety of media outlets, from Oprah to The Moth, and recently released this “Day in the Life” video as part of the New York Times web series “Transgender Today.”
PJ Raval’sTrinidadfollows the journeys of three transwomen whose paths cross in the unassuming town of Trinidad, Colorado– “sex change capital of the world.” With a compassionate eye, the film shows us the passion, commitment, and bravery it takes to align one’s external body with one’s internal gender identity. Thanks to Caitlyn Jenner’s recent media debut alongside the popularity of the Emmy award-winning showTransparent as well many notable outspoken figures such as Laverne Cox entering the media, Trinidad has garnered new attention and is currently broadcasting on SHOWTIME.
In the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, we find a different take on gender identity. Kathy Huang uses an observational, ethnographic approach to profile the lives of warias, or transgender women, in her award-winning PBS film Tales of The Waria. Unlike the characters in Raval’s Trinidad, the warias in Huang’s film are not interested in sex reassignment surgeries because of religious reasons. As one waria explains, “We were born as men and must return to God as men.” Perhaps the most striking difference about transgender women in Indonesia is their visibility in daily life. While many Indonesians are still unfamiliar with the term “gay,” they commonly recognize “waria.” One of Indonesia’s biggest celebrities—on a scale comparable to Oprah—is a waria who started off as a young boy in show business and transitioned into her waria identity as a teenager in front of millions of Indonesians.
Three siblings aged 6, 9 and 11 are the stars of No Dumb Questions – an early entry into the burgeoning field of transgender studies. While the first three feature documentaries are rather serious, director Melissa Regan uses humor to tackle some big questions about identity and gender. This makes an excellent introduction to the subject for high school students in particular as the family setting is non- threatening and inclusive for younger audiences.
Finally, Jonathan Skurnik’s short films revolve around kids who don’t conform to conventional gender roles. I’m Just Anneke tells the story of a gender fluid twelve-year-old girl who’s taking hormone blockers that delay puberty so she can decide if she wants to be male, female, or somewhere in-between, when she grows up. In The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children, parents and siblings of children in transition relate their experiences. Maria Jose and Pam, for instance, talk about boys who longed to wear dresses, and Jeannine relates the hostile reactions to her son’s going to school in girls’ attire. All of the adults find acceptance of their children’s differences difficult but necessary, with one saying “You have to get over yourself, and get over your own fear.” The Youth & Gender Media Project has recently received grants from The Arcus Foundation and The Fledgling Fund to complete the third and fourth films in the series, Becoming Johanna & Creating Safe Schools and to create curriculum for teachers and administrators to use in the classroom.
You can explore New Day’s full collection of films on LGBTQ issues here.