On November 11th, Working Films, Chicken & Egg Pictures and The Fledgling Fund screened The Fence (La Barda) for November’s Story Leads to Action. Natalie Difford of Chicken & Egg gives us some highlights on how activism and art are working together:
A new HBO film by Rory Kennedy, The Fence (La Barda), was screened and followed by an invigorating discussion with guest panelists Andre Segura, Staff Attorney, Immigrants’ Rights Project, The American Civil Liberties Union and Christina Baal, LMSW, Immigration Advocacy Field Coordinator, The New York Immigration Coalition and the audience members, moderated by Judith Helfand. Viewers came together with strategic advocates and educators to brainstorm and “design” on-the-spot community/audience engagement strategies for the films.
In October 2006, the United States government decided to build a fence along its troubled border with Mexico. 3 years, 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers, tens of thousands of tons of metal and more than $3 billion later – was it all worth it? That’s the question posed in Rory Kennedy’s latest HBO Documentary The Fence (La Barda) as it investigates the impact of the project, revealing how the fence’s stated goals – containing illegal immigration, cracking down on drug trafficking and protecting America from terrorists – have given way to unforeseen consequences.
The takeaway from the night was how important action is in order to change policies and get results. As Judith said, “A documentary is not a silver bullet” and an audience member expressed feelings of helplessness, “What do I do with all this disgust I feel?” We know the fence is already up, but that does not mean that everything is said and done. There are still issues on the table, like Arizona law, that can literally be changed by people getting involved and working to fight for legislation they believe in. How can this film be used in order to enable real change?
–> Target the audience members; congresspeople, journalists, editorial boards, conservative citizens.
–> Address some of the major issues; what is behind the actual crossing of the border, and what corporations are making money off of anti-immigration policies.
Judith & Molly facilitate a discussion after the screening
When doing outreach for a film like this, audience and panelists agreed that it is important to have a geographic focus, and to organize around a political landscape. For example, creating a campaign targeted around specific states where legislation is still subject to change or could seriously effect the lives of the citizens who live there.
The film manages to have a comedic affect, largely because of the absurdity and inefficiency of the policies in place. However, for the panelists, Andre Segura and Christina Baal, the issues are very pertinent and painful.
The discussion was greatly focused on the relationship between activism and art. Interestingly, Christina stated how important it was for these issues to be presented by artists, because it is hard for activists and lawmakers to present the issues in new ways.
Be sure to mark your calendar for next month’s Story Leads to Action featuring A Small Act by Jennifer Arnold on Thursday, December 16th at 7:30pm at 92YTribeca. Check out the trailer below:
We all know that coal is dirty. We know that burning coal releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. We also know that coal mining is a dangerous business, whether people get trapped under ground or the tops of mountains are blown to shreds.
It is less widely known that coal burning actually creates poison – in the form of “coal ash,” a by-product that contains chemicals like mercury, lead, and arsenic, known to cause birth defects and premature death. Bit by bit, as coal ash settles, it poisons our waterways, our fish, and the people who depend on these resources. Bit by bit, more people are getting sick. But you can do something about it.
The Obama Administration needs to regulate coal ash as “hazardous waste.” This classification would go a long way toward restoring the protections that the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act were meant to guarantee all Americans: The right to breathe air and drink water that will not poison us. The deadline for comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about toxic coal ash is today, Nov. 19th at 6PM. Tell the EPA you support cracking down on dangerous coal ash with this easy online form from 1Sky.
And – if you aren’t already involved, this is a great opportunity to use film to educate and inspire friends, family, or your colleagues. Screen Dirty Business: “Clean Coal” and the Battle for Our Energy Future in your home or community. The film is a major work of investigation into the ‘Clean Coal’ PR campaign waged by coal companies. Can coal ever be made clean? And, if more people knew the full environmental and human costs of this outdated fossil fuel, would we continue to make the same investments? Can we truly move toward a clean energy future? The film asks these questions and more.
Working Films’ hometown, Wilmington NC, is gearing up today for the Cucalorus Film Festival. Named one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals” by Movie Maker Magazine, Cucalorus is always a great time with an incredible lineup of films. We’re especially excited that a film we have done some strategy development with, A New Kind of Listening, is going to be at the festival.
A New Kind of Listening is the story of a visionary director, a one-of-a-kind theater group, and a young man who could not speak, yet found the voice he had been looking for all his life. A New Kind of Listening is both an advocacy call for the right of self-expression and a celebration of inclusive arts communities.
Director Kenny Dalsheimer and Producer Polly Medlicott, who is also the mother of Chris – the central character in the film, will be in town for the festival and are bringing their Inclusive Arts Campaign and Polly’s nifty pop-up teardrop camper to Cucalorus. Polly (and her trailer) have been promoting inclusive arts as she tours with the film across North Carolina and other parts of the country.
Look for the camper and Polly on Saturday morning in front of Thalian Hall in downtown Wilmington. At 9:30am at Thalian, before the screening of their film, Polly and Kenny are hosting a breakfast and conversation open to all about how to make the arts in Wilmington more inclusive for people with disabilities. The film screens at 10:45.
Following the film there will also be another half-hour panel discussion with community leaders from the arts and disability advocacy on next steps for more inclusive and accessible arts in Wilmington!
We’re delighted to see great audience engagement strategy unfolding on our doorstep, especially when it’s going to help make our community more inclusive.
Last week, Working Films enjoyed a banquet of good stuff at the Sheffield Doc-Fest, hosting a highly interactive Story Leads to Action on Friday afternoon, and participating in a lively panel discussion on Saturday.
Story Leads to Action, coordinated by our UK staffer Sarah Mosses, brought together the production company Submarine from The Netherlands, a team of NGOs working on key environmental issues, and the Sheffield Doc-Fest audience together for a very robust discussion about potential community engagement ideas and target audiences. To kick it off, I shared some case studies of Working Films campaigns; and Diana Barrett of The Fledgling Fund shared the Working Films/Fledgling Fund Impact video on the No Impact Man campaign as an example to of how to take what’s unique in a film and apply to enagement so audiences can interact with the issues.
We may not be holding a rally like Jon Stewart did, but we do hope that our newly revised curriculum New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina will bring more sanity to conversations about culture, identity, immigration and globalization in classrooms and communities across North Carolina. With laws like the one passed this spring in Arizona and politicians running ads saying things like “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” it’s clear that anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States certainly isn’t diminishing. There is clearly a lot of education that we need to do.
New Faces Video: From Latin America to North Carolina
Here’s a sample of one of the videos from the New Faces curriculum explaining why a diverse range of Latinos have moved to North Craolina from Latin America.
Unfortunately Latinos are the primary targets of this backlash. When I listen to media reports or even participate in conversations with friends and acquaintances I realize that often this sentiment is fueled by a lack of factual information related to Latino communities and to the subset of Latino immigrants. We need more opportunities to get the facts and to have civil dialogues about these important issues. Our multimedia curriculum, New Faces: Latinos in North Carolina uses documentary film clips, discussion and engaging learning activities to help learners understand more about themselves and about the Latino community in North Carolina. Ithas been re-designed to spark meaningful conversations and consciousness-raising on issues such as the roots causes of migration, the immigration system, the breakdown of stereotypes and prejudice, characteristics of Latino cultures, and struggles for workers rights. New Faces is a multimedia curriculum for use in middle and high schools classroom and for adults in professional development or popular education settings.
We’ve worked hard to revamp New Faces so that it encourages learners of all backgrounds to reflect on their own cultural identities and immigration histories, giving them important context for learning more about North Carolina’s multifaceted Latino communities. The curriculum was first released in 2007 and well received by educators, human service professionals, and community groups alike. We’ve expanded the curriculum to include 5 units and better indexed the lesson plans so that teachers and community leaders can pick lessons that will be most useful for their particular purposes. We’ve also added new content and shifted the framing of some of the original content to make it more approachable for learners from all walks of life. All the New Faces lesson plans and documentary films clips are available for free at www.workingfilms.org/newfaces, and a DVD of the films clips is available at no charge for teachers and non-profits in North Carolina
Working Films is proud to be sponsoring a Story Leads to Action panel, part of the Doc Convergence Symposium: Nov. 5th, 11:15am to 12:30pm, at the IFC Center.
I will be leading an interactive discussion with the filmmakers, invited NGO’s, activists, policy shapers, educators, funders and the audience. The goal: filmmakers walk out with the “bones” of an engagement strategy, a “pilot” project ready to test in Gotham and beyond, and/or a better understanding of what “impact” could look like.
To Be Heard and Lost Bohemia will be having their world premieres at the festival this weekend and will receive the “story leads to action” treatment. TO BE HEARD: Karina, Pearl and Anthony are three New York teenagers in a radical poetry workshop called Power Writing that has a profound affect on their lives. Putting pen to paper they’re able to imagine a future where fathers aren’t in jail, mothers aren’t abusive and college isn’t something you only see on TV. Can their words turn dreams into reality? Their lives are closely tracked by a dedicated filmmaking team who celebrate the value of great teachers, poetry, and the empowerment of writing your own life story
Panelists include: Rolan Legiardi-Laura (Co-Director, TO BE HEARD), Regina Bain (Director of Training and Evaluation, the Posse Foundation) Martha Diaz (Founder of the new Hip—Hop Education Center, in collaboration with NYU’s Metro Center) Dana Bennis (Research and Policy Director for IDEA: Institute for Democratic Education in America), Chris Shoemaker (Young Adult Programming Specialist, New York Public Library, responsible for programs across the boroughs) and Emily Verellen (Director of Programs and Communications, The Fledgling Fund).
LOST BOHEMIA: For over a century, Carnegie Hall rented affordable studio apartments atop the famous music hall to artistic tenants such as Marlon Brando, Paddy Chayefsky and Isadora Duncan. As a privileged tenant, director Josef Birdman Astor began to videotape his neighbors whose lives intersected with decades of artistic history. But his project changed when the landlord served everyone with eviction notices for a conversion to offices. Astor chronicles the protracted battle to save the apartments and pays homage to their rich heritage.
Panelists include: Josef Birdman Astor (Director, LOST BOHEMIA), Esther Robinson (Founder, ArtHome) Scott Weiner (President & CEO, The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation), Emily Verellen (Director of Programs and Communications, The Fledgling Fund).
About Deep Down Deep Down is a feature-length documentary by directors Sally Rubin and Jen Gilomen that explores the true cost of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Central Appalachian Mountains. The film follows Beverly May and Terry Ratliff, friends who grew up together on opposite sides of a mountain ridge in eastern Kentucky, as they find themselves in a contentious struggle dividing their community and the world: who controls, consumes, and beneﬁts from our planet’s shrinking supply of natural resources? While Beverly organizes her neighbors to stop a looming mountaintop removal coal mining operation, Terry considers leasing his family’s land — a decision that could destroy both of their homes. Through a complex human story that cuts across environment, economics, community, and culture, Deep Down ties us to our own choices, and reveals the devastating impact of our energy consumption on local communities trapped at the nexus of fossil fuel economies and politics. In the face of extraordinary environmental and human injustices faced by many communities in Appalachia, the film ultimately unfolds as a hopeful story about our nation’s most profound source of power- the power of citizens to create a sustainable, democratic and just future.
Deep Down and Reel Power at Appalachia Rising
In September, Reel Power filmmakers joined with communities like those you’ll meet in Deep Down at Appalachia Rising, a conference and day of action organized by grassroots leaders from the Appalachian coalfields calling for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. The conference included a weekend of workshops on energy issues and organizing skills. Working Films and Reel Power filmmakers participated in a media training for activists and joined with other filmmakers at the event to promote the role of documentary films in the climate justice movement.
Part of the Reel Power team with Filmmakers Rising
On Monday September 27th, Deep Down’s co-director Jen Gilomen joined in solidarity with Beverly May, the film’s protagonist, and thousands of Appalachian community members and activists during a peaceful protest and march through the D.C. streets that passed by the offices of the E.P.A. and PNC Bank, a leading financier of mountaintop removal, before arriving at the White House. Beverly and Jen were arrested along with over 100 other patriotic citizens during a planned non-violent sit-in outside of the White House calling on our government to end mountaintop removal mining. All arrested were released that day but the message was loud and clear- mountaintop removal and the destruction of Appalachian watersheds, land and communities must end and solutions to the problem must be found.
Filmmaker Jen Gilomen participates in direct action at Appalachia Rising
Join the makers of Deep Down and community members in Appalachia like Beverly May taking action for a just energy and climate future by bringing the Reel Power Film series to your community.