Last March, Working Films announced the fourteen mini-grantees for the Reel Power Film Festival, a series of documentaries that bring you stories from the frontline of our energy future. Organizations hosted Reel Power events to encourage cross-pollination of grassroots organizing strategy and to inspire their communities to leverage local resources and networks.
Here are some of the exciting report backs that we’ve received from the first screenings:
Frack Free Catskills is a group fighting fracking in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Communities, as well as throughout New York State. They organized a conference that brought together organizations opposing coal, gas, nuclear energy, and tar sands in order for various communities to gain strength and inspiration from each other in similar struggles. The Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF) kicked off their conference. They screened Dirty Business and hosted a panel discussion afterwards withfilmmaker Peter Bull along with Donna Branham of Keeper of the Mountains, Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountain Keeper, Manna Jo Greene of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, and Duncan Meisel of 350.org. The conversation revolved around local actions needed to resist coal and other fossil fuels. They will continue to show the films in a series in order to keep the local energy and participation high.
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance is a 30-year old nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable. The RPFF screenings of Dirty Business and Gasland engaged audiences in their work to support the development of community-based wind and solar projects, as well as their efforts to make the state coal-free. The mini-grant supported action events, including a tour of a wind turbine, voter education on energy legislation and an opportunity for audience members to sign up for green electricity.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is a statewide organization that works to end mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses. The first of their 4-part RPFF series kicked off with Gasland earlier this summer. They used the opportunity to educate the audience on public hearings scheduled to discuss the issue of surface mining.
Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS is a relatively new organization that provides opportunities to learn, experience first-hand, and find new ways in improving lives through sustainable choices. Gaining Ground, in partnership with the Students for Sustainable Campuses, hosted screenings of all of the Reel Power films and trailers in conjunction with the community and university Earth Week events. Each film included a Q&A where audience members were invited to join the organization’s sustainability efforts, with several folks signing on as new members.
Clean Water for NC works to promote clean, safe water and environments as well as empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians. Gasland and Split Estate were screened by CWFNC with Yadkin Riverkeeper and the Dan River Basin Association in two rural communities that are currently gaining the interest of gas companies. The local news covered their first screening where a local resident commented: “I think watching [Gasland] should be a requirement before allowing anyone to sign a lease allowing fracturing on their property. It just makes no sense to think about maybe trading a little energy now for no water forever.” Several volunteers signed up to approach local government officials in nearby towns and counties about passing resolutions against fracking and 60 people, representing most of the households present, signed up to receive weekly “Frackupdates” about state and national events, advocacy opportunities and news summaries.
If you would like to catch one of the RPFF’s screenings, be sure to check out the Working Films Calendar for updates.
September 13th, 7 pm Dirty Business 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 16th, 6:30 pm Deep Down Historic Oak Hill School
140 School Street, Oak Hill, WV 25901
Hosted by Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition with a discussion and ways to get involved. September 17, 6 pm – 10 pm Reel Power Film Festival at Union College
Union College Student Center
310 College St, Barbourville, KY
September 20th, 7 pm Deep Down 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 28th, 7 pm Split Estate Unity by the Sea, 901 Brawner Parkway, Corpus Christi, TX 78411
Hosted by the Texas Drought Project and a Q&A with special guest Sharon Wilson, Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project and more.
Fireworks on Independence Day start the month of July out with a bang, but for Working Films the real excitement came at the end of the month. That’s because we had the pleasure of hosting our Reel Economy residency and convening July 23-26.
Supported by and presented in collaboration with Chicken and Egg Pictures and The Fledgling Fund, Reel Economy brought together six documentary projects that tell personal stories of the most pressing economic issues with a group of nonprofit organizations, foundations and other allies that are working for economic justice. The featured films in Reel Economy were American Winter, Citizen Corp, Escape Fire, Solarize This, We’re Not Broke, and Xmas Without China.
After the residency, the filmmakers and economic justice organizations met for a day of networking and strategizing about how these films can fit into the ongoing work of these allies. The diverse groups of participants included Green For All, Jobs With Justice, National Physicians Alliance, Institute for America’s Future, Moms Rising, and many others.
Leading up to the final convening day of Reel Economy we spent three days in Arlington, VA with just the filmmakers, where we enjoyed this awesome view of the Potomac:
Aside from enjoying a change of scenery from the Wilmington office, we helped the participating film teams plan the nuts and bolts of their audience engagement strategies.
While at the Reel Economy residency, filmmakers got practical advice about engagement campaigns. For example, they heard from Barbara Abrash, a Working Films board member and longtime expert in the field, about evaluation strategies. They also had the chance to explore the new Sparkwise platform for sharing a film’s impact and heard from Kickstarter’s director of film projects, Elisabeth Holm, about best practices for crowd sourcing. Much of the residency included opportunities for filmmakers to think strategically about how they want to engage organizations as long-term partners with their campaigns. All this work led to the final convening day of Reel Economy when they presented their projects to key organizations.
We had a great guest instructor that joined us for the week. Steve Schnapp of United for a Fair Economy was our expert in residence and helped to ground our strategy in the needs of organizations that are at work on these critical economic and social justice issues.
Most importantly, the filmmakers were also able to learn from one another. Some films in the group, such as We’re Not Broke and Escape Fire, have been out since early 2012 and have partnerships that others could build upon. The flip side is that some of the films are still in production, but with the residency have already begun the process of engaging with partners and planning for audience engagement. That’s the beauty of these thematic residencies; it’s truly a space for folks to collaborate rather than compete, and we find that the filmmakers gain critical lessons from one another’s experiences.
Between their support for each other, Steve’s preparation from the organizing perspective, and Working Films’, the Fledgling Fund’s, and Chicken & Egg Pictures constant message to the filmmakers of viewing their film as a gift and resource for the folks working on these issues, all of our work paid off on the final convening day. After hearing pitches from the filmmakers, the participating organizations suggested concrete ways they might use these films. From screenings of American Winter at gatherings of the National Association of Social Workers to creative uses of Solarize This in the upcoming campaigns of Green For All, the organizations discussed specific ways that these films could be used to advance their work.
We are looking forward to launching a collaborative effort that over the next few months will feature these multiple films that will build a stronger movement for economic justice and support the work of these individual organizations.
Interacting with thoughtful talented filmmakers and organizers is the best part of my job, and that job is made all the better when I get the chance to work with these folks on multiple projects. That’s where I find myself at this moment, engaged in another opportunity to support the work of filmmaker Dan Habib. My colleague, Molly Murphy, and I facilitated a strategy summit for Dan’s first film, Including Samuel, that resulted in the I Am Norm campaign and other collaborations between the film and educators, disability rights organizations, inclusion advocates and others.
In just a couple of months, we’ll be holding a summit for Dan’s newest project, here’s more about it:
Who Cares About Kelsey? documents the lives of students with emotional/behavioral challenges, and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed – while improving the overall school culture and climate.
When Kelsey Carroll entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. Diagnosed with ADHD and carrying the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, as well as the actual scars of repeated self-mutilation, Kelsey was volatile, disruptive and, by her own admission, “not a nice person” to be around. During Kelsey’s sophomore year, a new school leadership team implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a youth-directed planning process called RENEW and other reforms to improve the school’s culture and reduce the dropout rate. This school-wide overhaul gave Kelsey a chance at a different outcome. Who Cares About Kelsey? follows Kelsey through the ups and downs of her senior year. Who Cares About Kelsey? will make viewers reconsider the “problem kids” in their own high schools and spark new conversations about an education revolution that’s about empowering–not overpowering–our most emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth.
In addition to the feature-length documentary Who Cares About Kelsey?, Dan’s team has created nine short documentaries that illustrate a wide range of educational issues and evidence-based practices, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Universal Design for Learning, Cultural Responsiveness and more.
With some early campaign planning support from Working Films and maintenance of excellent relationships with leaders in the fields, Dan and his team at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Institute on Disability have already been putting the film to work. Just a quick glance at their Facebook page will give you a sense of the many venues at which the film has screened followed by powerful conversations with Dan, inclusion advocates, and the film’s main character Kelsey Carroll. We’re excited to build on to the work that they’ve already been doing with the film and to hear how this film will be used in the future from the organizations that are leading the charge on these issues.
We’ll have another update after the summit, but in the meantime please check out the Who Cares About Kelsey? Project on facebook or purchase an educational package (including the full length film, mini-films and education materials) from the UNH website. You can also make sure that their engagement work continues to happen by supporting their Kickstarter campaign.
Documentary filmmaker and educator George Stoney passed away on July 12, 2012, at the age of 96. Judith Helfand collaborated with Stoney on The Uprising of ’34 (POV 1995). (Photo provided by Judith Helfand)
Soon after the news of George Stoney’s passing was made public, POV asked me to write a few words about him and our work together on The Uprising of ’34, which was broadcast on POV in June 1995 — a fact we were both so very proud of.
Life’s divine symmetry had me start writing this on the way to a complicated shoot that I was very uneasy about. So as I searched for words to honor George — and mark a part of his life and work I was so fortunate to share — I found myself concurrently engaging in a ritual I’ve been doing ever since he was my teacher at New York University in the mid-1980s.
Part prayer, part meditation — I’m sure I share this practice with many of his former students, mentees and colleagues.
When the complexities we all face in the field — class, race and the inextricable power of our cameras — come slamming in at me, pushing me to find the most just and decent way to react, direct, retreat, forge ahead and gather my compassionate self, and fast — I ask myself, “What would George do?”
What would he ask? What would he look for? How would he find a way, as he always did, to inject his innate respect and kindness into whatever situation he was filming? How would he navigate those complexities of class and race and the long-term impact of systemic disparity, the kind that impacts generations — no matter which side of town they live on, no matter whether they worked in the mill or not.
George Stoney celebrates a birthday with Judith Helfand (directly behind Stoney), former students, colleagues, friends and family. (Photo provided by Judith Helfand)
This brings me right back to his one-of-a-kind office, his warm, always-open-to-us office on the 11th floor of Tisch (aka 721 Broadway). I am seated between his Selectric typewriter, which he used regularly even after email, his vast (expertly catalogued typed onto index cards) collection of videotapes (reel-to-reel, Portapak, Beta and VHS) dating back to the beginning of community access television and his most current address book at the ready. The worn brown leather is stained with his insatiable desire to introduce everyone who is doing good work, from all over the world, to others who need that work, or more important, need each other. In George’s hands and via George’s heart, that book helped catalyze a great number of enduring relationships, friendships and compelling collaborations that make up our documentary field and beyond.
I can see him. I can even hear him.
I channel his cut-through-the-B.S.-George Stoney-of-a-question that I could always count on to go straight to my heart and set me straight so that I can bring my most authentic self to this shoot.
“Judy, ultimately being compassionate and kind is more important than getting the scene — isn’t it? It might also be the only way you get the scene.”
Did he tell me this, or did I live this lesson when we were making The Uprising of ’34? Or maybe, I just need to hear it again. Perhaps it’s all of the above.
His were the kinds of questions that slowed you down, lovingly stopped you in your tracks and then sped you up so that you found a way to do the right thing for both your subjects and your production, the movement and the movie.
Like so many before me and so many after, I learned all this from him, first in his classroom, then in his office, then at his birthday parties out east at Betty’s and especially in the field when we were making The Uprising of ’34.
George was a middle-class Southerner who didn’t take the management job in the mill in his hometown of Winston-Salem offered to him by a mill boss on his paper route. He went to [UNC] Chapel Hill to study journalism which set him on the most amazing of trajectories.
And I was the consummate outsider, from an all-white suburb in Long Island with a mother who had iconic notions about the South. “Judy, just do me a favor. Don’t talk about unions too loud or tell too many people that you’re Jewish.”
“Mom, the movie we’re making is about unions. But don’t worry, I’m with George, and he’s a Southerner.”
The Uprising of ’34 was broadcast on POV in 1995.
But, George’s Southerness proved to be more complicated than either of us could have imagined. Many of the retired mill workers who were still living in the mill village 50-plus years later and who had participated in the 1934 strike, were either too loyal to the mill or too frightened for their granddaughters’ mill jobs to talk with us on camera. Or they had done such a good job of making people forget that they were union, when we found them, they just had to say, “Thanks, but no.” As I would often lament to George — if only they would tell us why [on camera] they don’t want to talk — or can’t talk, then we really make that a major part of the story.
Their reticence was both frustrating and a teachable moment — especially for George. In fact, he wrote about it in an article for Southern Changes: The Journal of the Southern Regional Council in 1994, around the time the film was a very good rough cut and we were poised to complete it:
“Rejection of any kind usually leads to self-examination. “Is there something about me,” I asked myself, “that makes these people reluctant to talk?” Soon I had to accept the fact that many people, especially the women, were more at ease talking with Judy than with me. The fact that she was a non-Southern who was young and pretty and enthusiastic and who, they assumed, knew absolutely nothing about the kind of life they were describing, seemed to give them assurance. On the other hand, I was a past-middle-aged professor whose inescapable class identification as a middle-class Southerner must have reminded them of the straw boss they once feared or the shoe salesmen in town whose contemptuous remarks made half a century ago stuck in their minds and still stung.
For gaining interviews with spokespeople for the textile industry management (and they have their full say in our film), my class and regional identifications were clearly an advantage. Some of the other males seemed reassured that “this pretty young Yankee girl you’ve got there” was accompanied by a fatherly authority figure who could vouch for her.
But, by and large, Judy was taken at face value. I had to sell myself…“
As I did, our collaborators, editor Susanne Rostock and director of photography James Stoney (George’s son), found George’s personal exploration and revelations about class fascinating. For a while we strived to make that a major theme in the film. It informed our process. It informed our interview style. It was the stuff of our conversations on long country roads going to and from shoots; it was smothered, covered, diced and sliced at Waffle Houses in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee and it was the subject of our most heated editing room arguments.
But despite our best collective efforts, blessed by George himself, his personal revelations did not wind up in The Uprising of ’34. In fact, the more that George found his voice and used it to explore the complexities of class and race, his and theirs, mine and ours, the more he was sure that if it was to be in the film, it could only be there to help frame the complexities; it could not take away from theiressential story.
This process ultimately helped us make one of our most critical stylistic decisions, one that determined the tone, tenor and pace of The Uprising of ’34. We had always expected to fill the analytical holes with captivating sound-bite savvy historians and other experts. But after many years of production, we came to see that the retired mill workers, no matter which side they were on — be they retired white mill workers or the few retired black mill workers we ultimately were able to find, be they those who worked in the mill or those who worked outside, under, along and around it, be they owners and managers and their grandsons, or “loyal” anti-unionists and trade unionists, be they those whose lives had been informed by that moment of citizenship and activism or those who had tried to ensure that no one ever knew what they had done — they were the experts. And they themselves needed to speak about their history. For George, this was as much an editorial decision as it was a political statement.
Years after we had made The Uprising of ’34, when George was teaching documentary production in Ireland at the New York University’s Dublin program, I had the privilege of subbing for him and taught his documentary workshop in NYC on the Washington Square campus. This was the same class that I had taken with him at New York University when I was an undergraduate in spring 1985. This experience, a circular miracle that never failed to amaze me, led to my teaching documentary production at New York University for the next seven years. And this was when I found out how much George had taught me about teaching – perhaps the greatest gift he ever gave me.
With George in our hearts, I wrote this in conversation with filmmaker/editor David Cohen and filmmaker/professor Beverly Peterson (both of them former students of George), neither of whom I would have gotten to know, love, work closely with or have taught [David was my student in that spring 2000 documentary workshop at New York University] were it not for George Stoney, his address book and his insatiable, magnanimous desire to bring together the people he loved.
So here is to these and so many, many, many other meaningful friendships and “workships” — quietly instigated and matched by our beloved George.
I offer this context because I don’t think the act of remembering George Stoney is a solitary one. I think it is a verb done with friends. So please call the friends and comrades he introduced you to. Ask them how they, their loved ones and especially their parents are. That’s what George would do. That’s the secret sauce. I am sure of it.
Or as he told me many a time, “Nothing will replace a good kiss or a handshake.”
Long live our Stoney friendships, our Stoney collaborations, our Stoney questions and all of our beloved Stoney answers.
And as they must be saying in Brazil (a place he loved and where he was truly loved back again and again), “Viva George!”
And the work continues…
“What will you do when the lights come up? What will they, the audience, do?”
This classic George Stoney question informed the making of The Uprising of ’34 (which you can learn more about at der.org).
Will they be more bitter, more stuck, more true to the ideas and assumptions they had when they walked in? Or will they be a little more willing to look around and see who they laughed with over the past 90 minutes? Will they be able to have more compassion for the other? Will they be more willing to sit with their discomfort? Will they be able to see life through that mill worker’s eyes and heart?
This spirit, this sense of responsibility for the use of a film after you’ve made it — that was the gift of studying, working with, creating and collaborating with George on a story that was so near and dear to his North Carolina-born heart.
When they ask, “What do we do?” what will you say? We will talk about George Stoney and his belief and that making a film is only 50% of the work. And the use of it is the other 75%.
The other 75% of the work — the art, sweat and work of using a film and engaging with an audience —was the inspiration behind me and Robert West co-founding Working Films in 1999 and with it the Stoneyship internship program. George was a founding board member. Almost 12 years later, Working Films is a national leader in linking nonfiction filmmaking to cutting edge activism proudly based in North Carolina.
Documentaries by George Stoney
Here are two opportunities to spend some time with George from the work-in-progress The Happy Collaborator by Mike Hazard, a filmmaker, colleague and archivist for George Stoney.
“What happens when the lights come up and the credits roll? What’s the ASK of the audience?”
This classic George Stoney question of social justice documentary filmmakers inspired the creation of Working Films in 1999. George was a founding member of our board of directors and we were deeply saddened to learn of his passing this past Thursday.
He instilled in us, and so many others, a sense of responsibility for the strategic use of film – and powerful storytelling – in fights for social and environmental justice. He believed, and taught us, that finishing a film is only 50% of the process; putting it to work to generate a deeper impact requires an additional effort of more than 50%. With the memory of George in our hearts, we will continue his work every day – reminding ourselves of his compassion, ethics, amazing sense of humor and deep love for humanity. We will miss him deeply. We will continue to be inspired by him – as we have since we started.
Every summer since 2000, we have offered a paid fellowship to a student or activist, named Stoneyships, in George’s honor. Stoney Fellows have continued to work in the field as award-winning filmmakers and Working Films staff. We look forward to a whole new generation of Stoney Fellows in the years to come and know that they, along with those of us who knew him, will be moved by his legacy – his devotion to his craft and by his belief in the power of film to transform the world.
Lucy Cooke, a PUMA Creative Winner and good friend of Working Films has an upcoming National Geographic series titled “Freaks and Creeps” set to air on Tuesday July 17 at 10pm ET. Read her blog post below to learn more about the production and her adventures:
Tasmania is like a time machine. Its primeval forests team with living fossils that have followed a different evolutionary branch to most mammals. So for freak lovers like me it’s like hitting the jackpot.
My number one quarry is the echidna – an ancient termite-eating hedgehog with what can only be described as the world’s weirdest wedding tackle. Echidnas, along with the duck-billed platypus, are the last surviving monotremes – an early branch of mammals that still lay eggs like reptiles. But despite such ancestral behaviour these oddballs are remarkably successful and have been waddling the planet since the time of the dinosaurs.
To find one I’m hooking up with Dr. Stuart Rose who has devoted the last 25 years of his life to studying the sex life of this peculiar creature. We rendezvous on a farm in the north of Tasmania on a bright but blowy morning. Stuart is accompanied by a quartet of windswept young female research students all equipped with a great Australian sense of humour. I ask them whether it was the echidna’s extraordinary penis that attracted them to their work and they all nod. Apparently I will not be disappointed.
The Echidna’s on this farm have been radio-tagged to make them easier to study. They live for up to 45 years and Stuart has been following some individuals for over a decade. We first locate a female. It’s the breeding season right now and lady echidnas are rarely alone. The competition for sex is fierce and it’s not uncommon to witness the somewhat comical sight of a solitary female being stalked by a conga line of up to ten ardent suitors.
The Waiting Room, supported in part by our friends at The Fledgling Fund, is a film and hyper-local media project that presents a day-in-the-life perspective for patients and their caregivers in Highland Hospital’s E.R. waiting room. The film by Pete Nicks recently picked up the Special Jury prize at Silverdocs and is described by Variety as a “rock-solid vertié docu that provides ample evidence why our national health care system needs fixing.”Currently, tens of thousands of patients are not receiving the medical attention they need due to lack of health care as well as hospitals being underfunded. The Waiting Room is set for theatrical release this September and will premiere in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The team behind The Waiting Room needs your help in getting the voices of both the patients and caregivers heard to a wider audience across the nation. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund The Waiting Room Storytelling Project with a deadline of July 27 to reach their goal. Help call attention to the thousands of underserved patients by making a pledge here.
On June 19th I had the pleasure of moderating our Story Leads to Action panel with my colleague Judith Helfand, co-founder of both Working Films and Chicken and Egg Pictures. This year’s panel featured the award winning documentary Brooklyn Castle. After watching several clips from the film where we saw the championship chess team and their teachers in action and learned about how budget cuts affected the after school program at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, we launched into a strategic conversation about how the film can continue to be leveraged to support chess and other high quality after school programming in schools around the country. Filmmakers Katie Dellamaggiore, the film’s outreach coordinator Kali Holloway and a panel of education and after-school experts from the National Education Association (Luis Gustavo Martinez), American Federation of Teachers (Delisa Saunders), The Montgomery County Maryland Council (Hans Reimer), and the Afterschool Alliance (Sarah Simpson) discussed a myriad of ways the film could be used to make change in community based settings, in theaters and at additional film festivals. For a full run down of the details of the event and some of the specifics ideas generated check out this great blog from Chicken and Egg pictures.
Last month, Working Films returned to the Sheffield Doc-Fest, June 13 – 17, hosting a third year of our highly interactive Story Leads to Action panel, co-hosted with the Festival.
Coordinated by our UK staffer Sarah Ross, and facilitated by Robert West, Story Leads to Action brought together filmmaker Frederick Gertten, and his new film Big Boys Gone Bananas*, with Marcos Zunino, a legal officer at Article 19 in London specializing in freedom of expression and international law.
In 2009, when Frederick Gertten’s film Bananas!* was accepted into the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF), he was delighted. An examination of food giant Dole’s devastating use of pesticides in Nicaragua, the film would be having its world premiere in the same city as Dole’s global headquarters. Then the “cease and desist” letters started arriving. Despite not having seen the film, Dole was determined to control the narrative around it – and cast Gertten as a major liar. Dole also began bombarding the LAFF itself, from the organisers to journalists and sponsors, with shocking results.
With our Sheffield Doc-Fest audience, we facilitated a lively discussion about the current risks for filmmakers, especially from multi-national corporations with deep legal pockets. While Gertten vigorously responded to Dole’s meritless action and, with his legal team, demonstrated that the lawsuit was simply one part of Dole’s overall strategy to stifle debate about their environmental actions and liabilities, real damage to the film’s distribution strategy, especially in the US, had already been done. Our conversation was a precautionary tale about how one filmmaker’s passion for truth went against the behemoth of a multi-billon dollar industry and ultimately prevailed – as Big Boys Gone Bananas!* reveals; we shared practical tactics for documentary filmmakers and updates on how international law is supporting artistic expression.
We loved being in Sheffield in June, and look forward to coming back in 2013!
Working Films is still hard at work with the filmmakers of the Reel Education collective. We’re excited about plans we have in the works to bring the Reel Ed films to cities across the country, where they can advance education organizing and advocacy on important issues such as arts education, the achievement gap, after school programming, and positive approaches to school discipline.
We’re also delighted to announce that we’ve added two new films to the collective, A Community Concern which tells the story of how community organizing can be a powerful force for positive educational change, and Who Cares About Kelsey?, the new project about full inclusion of students with behavioral and emotional disabilities from Including Samuel filmmaker Dan Habib. These new additions address specific topics that weren’t covered in the original groups of seven projects that attended our Reel Education residency.
All of the Reel Education projects have been doing amazing work, winning awards and prompting dialogue and action. Here are a few highlights of their most recent efforts:
You may have seen the champion chess team from Brooklyn middle school I.S. 318 in on the front page of the NY Times a week or so ago. Brooklyn Castle, which features the incredible story of those same kids, is garnering awards and rave reviews on the festival circuit.
The team that produced To Be Heard just got a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to support their recently launched Power Poetry Project – the world’s first mobile poetry community for youth.
Mariachi High will broadcast on PBS this summer as part of their Summer Arts Festival a multi-part weekly series and collection of new original online content that takes viewers across the country and around the world, hosted by award-winning television, film and stage star Anna Deavere Smith.
In addition to garnering awards in festivals around the world and being put to work in community settings across Europe, Our School recently scored a giant win in their effort to achieve educational justice for Roma children. After a recent special screening at the Romanian Ministry of Education, “the Ministry committed to making Our School part of the teacher training curricula by the start of the new school year. The National Council for Combating Discrimination asked for DVDs that they could start using in training programs the following week.” Read a great overview here of how filmmaker Mona Nicoara, her team and their allies working on Roma education have made this – and more – happen over the last year.
Clips from A Community Concern were recently featured as part of KQED’s American Graduate Teacher Town Hall. KQEDbroadcast the film in April as part of their offerings for the American Graduate project, and later this year it will be offered to all the PBS stations under the American Graduate banner. American Graduate is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.