Story Leads to Action is a monthly series featuring Chicken & Egg and Working Films’ documentary makers coming together with strategic advocates, educators and YOU, the audience, to brainstorm the design of audience engagement strategies for the featured social issue films.
Our new season launches this Thursday, October 27th with the powerful documentary Semper Fi: Always Faithful, the story of a retired Marine’s fight for justice on behalf of U.S. soldiers and their families exposed to toxic drinking water while stationed at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. Directed by Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon, the film won the 2011 Best Documentary award at both the Woodstock Film Festival and the San Diego Film Festival. After the screening, the filmmakers will be joined by organizers from Environmental Working Group, Blue Green Alliance and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.
On Tuesday, October 11th, Women, War & Peace, a 5-part PBS series, will premiere at 10pm (in New York City, but please check your local listings.) The series continues every Tuesday night ending on November 8th with a final overview hour written and produced by Peter Bull (of Dirty Business), titled War Redefined. Watch the clip below:
In the second week, October 18th, the series will spotlight Pray the Devil Back to Hell which features Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leyman Gbowee who won the award jointly with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Tawakkul Karman. The three women won this years Nobel Peace Prize award “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Working Films led Pray the Devil Back to Hell’s community engagement efforts in select cities during their theatrical release.
Here is the full schedule of the series with descriptions on each week’s feature:
Tues 10/11: Bosnia:I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned and raped by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foca broke silence and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. Their remarkable courage resulted in a triumphant verdict that led to new international laws about sexual violence in war.
Tues 10/18: Liberia:Pray the Devil Back to Hell is the astonishing story of the Liberian women who took on the warlords and regime of dictator Charles Taylor in the midst of a brutal civil war, and won a once unimaginable peace for their shattered country in 2003.
Tues 10/25: Afghanistan: When the U.S. troop surge was announced in late 2009, women in Afghanistan knew that the ground was being laid for peace talks with the Taliban. Peace Unveiled follows three women in Afghanistan who are risking their lives to make sure that women’s rights don’t get traded away in the deal.
Tues 11/1: Colombia:The War We Are Living travels to Cauca, a mountainous region in Colombia’s Pacific southwest, where two extraordinary Afro-Colombian women are braving a violent struggle over their gold-rich lands. They are standing up for a generation of Colombians who have been terrorized and forcibly displaced as a deliberate strategy of war.
Tues 11/8: Overview:War Redefined, the capstone of Women, War & Peace, challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are mens’ domain through incisive interviews with leading thinkers, Secretaries of State and seasoned survivors of war and peace-making. Interviewees include Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Liberian peace activist (and just-awarded Nobel laureate) Leymah Gbowee; Bosnian war crimes investigator Fadila Memisevic; and globalization expert Moisés Naím.
We brought together a stellar group of filmmakers, community organizers, and experts in the field of audience engagement. Led by Molly Murphy and Judith Helfand of Working Films and Emily Verellen of The Fledgling Fund, guest instructors included Gillian Caldwell, former director of 1Sky and WITNESS; Sonya Childress, Community Engagement Specialist at Firelight Media; Jen Gilomen, Director of Public Media Strategies at Bay Area Video Coalition; Andy Moore, Distribution Coordinator at Patchworks Films; Jim Miller, Executive Director at Brave New Foundation; and Shaady Salehi, Deputy Director at Active Voice.
Out of 23 participant evaluations, every single one said they recommend this workshop to others.
Some of the rave feedback we’ve received from attendees include:
• I have deepened my understanding of both the theory and practice of creating community engagement campaigns.
• I gained important new relationships and connections.
• I’m motivated and excited to push forward with tangible ideas and strategies for my engagement efforts. This was a great environment for sharing.
• I loved meeting the other participants. I now have a sense of purpose and vision!
• I am feeling excited, pumped, and inspired that I’m not the only one doing this work and it can be done!
• Thank you for sharing your knowledge, for your commitment to social change, for your energy, and your patience!
• It has been invaluable & comes at the perfect time for me. You hit so many issues we are wrestling with. Thanks!!!
• This is a wonderful opportunity for filmmakers and I greatly appreciate all the thought and work presented to us.
Stay tuned for information about our next Reel Change training, expected to take place on the East Coast in early 2012.
Reel Change participants included: Ada McMahon, Agi Orsi, Andrew Lowenthal, Carol Duffy Clay , Cary McQueen Morrow, Chelo Alvarez-Stehle, Chelsea Matter, Chuck Schultz, Danielle Beverly , Emily Davis, Hadley Dynak, Hannah Rosenzweig, Janis Astor del Valle, Jenne Turner, Judy Branfman, Kate Trumbull, Kathryn Pyle, Kimberly Bautista, Leah Warshawski, Luis Argueta, Nancy Kelly, Nicole Karsin, Patricia Benabe, Rachel Antell, Shannon Carroll, Sheila E. Schroeder, Tricia Creason-Valencia, Wen Lee, Win-Sie Tow
On Saturday, November 12, Working Films is hosting a celebration of two films that are part of the line up in the hip local indie film fest Cucalorus.
Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon’s SEMPER FI: ALWAYS FAITHFUL is an award-winning film that tells a story of particular urgency for NC. Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger devoted 25 years of service to the U.S. Marines, whose motto, “Semper Fidelis,” means “Always Faithful.” When stationed at Camp Lejeune, his 9-year-old daughter died from a rare form of leukemia and Ensminger wants to know why. His exhaustive search for answers leads him to a shocking discovery: the very organization that was supposed to protect its own – the Marine Corps – has been covering up one of the worst cases of toxic water contamination in US history. Demonstrating remarkable dedication and perseverance, Ensminger spearheads a lengthy battle to hold the Marine Corps accountable for its actions and make this information public. Semper Fi won Best Editing Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and Best Documentary and Audience Award at the Woodstock Film Festival.
Working Films is partnering with Semper Fi on NC screenings, including its first “non-festival” premiere in Jacksonville, home of Camp Lejeune, immediately following the Cucalorus screening. We are developing and coordinating a national community engagement campaign with the film in 2012.
Presented as a work-in-progress at Cucalorus, AN AMERICAN PROMISE follows the education of two African American boys. Co-directed by Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster, the film documents their son, Idris, and his best friend Seun, from the time they are accepted to the Dalton School in New York City, as part of a diversity program. Both families are eager for their sons to get “the best education possible.” Following both boys from kindergarten through their divergent paths to high school graduation in 2012 the film reveals a complex picture of racial identity, education, privilege, and parenting in this groundbreaking personal verité film.
An American Promise is part of Reel Education, Working Films’ collaborative initiative between filmmakers, non-profits, and educators that embeds a collection of powerful documentaries into the work of those leading the charge for education reform.
Festival pass holders, board members, and filmmakers are invited to join us Saturday, November 12, 6pm – 8pm, at the Working Films firehouse on Castle Street and Fifth Avenue. Buy a Cucalorus pass here.
“This was about keeping hope alive – the past is not who we are.”
“This event allowed us to see successful strategies (from other cities) that can translate to our own community.”
“I feel confident our community can change and make strength in diversity a reality.”
These were just a few out of 180 positive comments from over 200+ audience members at the Reimagining the Region: Building a New Detroit Metropolis forum, centered around Andrea Torrice’s documentary series The New Metropolis, hosted at the Emagine Royal Oak Theater on September 15.
“Detroit has been deteriorating for over 40 years because of disinvestment,” said Ponsella Hardaway, Executive Director of Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), one of the sponsors of the event. “The suburbs had been secure, but over the last 15 years they’ve been experiencing the same decline as the urban core. There’s also been a lot of competition between municipalities. I hope this event starts to break down the barriers so that all communities, suburban and urban, can cooperate rather then compete. But the question is: how do we cooperate? This event gives community leaders the opportunity to come together and discuss how to do this.”
Award-winning filmmaker Andrea Torrice launched the evening dialogue with some clips from her recent documentary, The New Metropolis, which highlights issues facing America’s first suburbs to examine U.S. land use and transportation policy. “The film series is called The New Metropolis because old policies which separated cities and suburbs are no longer in our economic self-interest,” said Torrice. “We need a new vision for our regions in the future.”
Stephen Henderson, an editor for the Detroit Free Press and host of Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal moderated a panel discussion and dialogue with the audience, which was filmed and streamed live by Detroit Public TV. (Watch the event via streaming video on The New Metropolis website here.) “Detroit is the home of the original idea of the suburbs. The highway system here, which is more complex and over-developed than any place in the country, made it possible since the 1950s for people to leave the city. So, we have more decaying infrastructure, especially in the inner-ring suburbs because they’re older,” said Henderson.
Conan Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, which also co-sponsored the event, said, “Suburban communities were created to drive segregation in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. These films (The New Metropolis) speak about strategies to overcome important stuff for us. Overcoming segregation to realize its promise, as seen in The New Metropolis framework – that is the hope of this experience.”
108 evaluations were collected from the audience, when asked if they believed the Forum highlighted critical issues facing Detroit and the surrounding region, 99 said they agreed or strongly agreed. 101 said they thought the films highlighted stories that will be use in developing strategies in Detroit. 83 audience members said they are feeling more positive about finding new strategies to work together.
The sponsors and organizers are now putting into action many of the suggestions for follow up by the audience, including opportunities for future screenings hosted by partnerships of local organizations as well as a listserv that will allow us to stay connected to the attendees – 160+ of whom shared their contact information. Nineteen different organizations immediately committed to hosting additional screenings, from churches and synagogues to inner city youth groups to district libraries to Eastern Michigan University.
This event was part of The New Metropolis civic engagement dialogue series taking place across the country on revitalizing America’s older communities and is made possible through the support of the Ford and Surdna Foundations. Working Films co-organized two strategy summits for this Detroit event, bringing together local community stakeholders to secure their input and commitment. Robert West, Working Films’ co-founder and Executive Director, said, “This forum was a model of how to use a documentary series as a catalyst for authentic change. Community stakeholders were involved with our planning process six months prior to this event, and stayed focused on local challenges and concrete outcomes.
One comment from an audience member seemed to sum up the extraordinarily positive energy at the conclusion of the event: collaboration, unity, community.