Our monthly Brooklyn-based screening series highlights documentary films as a way to to expand dialogue around the intersection of human rights and art. Born out of a three-way collaboration between Skylight, UnionDocs, and WITNESS, these monthly events aim to strengthen the ties between people interested in human rights in Brooklyn and will consist of, a 10-part series of film screenings followed by a partner-moderated discussion between the filmmaker, movement actors, and the audience. During our discussions we debate the conventional framework for human rights and challenge the definition of what constitutes human rights media.
After an inspiring meeting following the results of the election, we felt it important to keep energy and momentum up around motivating filmmakers, and artists to organize, share resources, and keep the dialogue going about how to respond in our current political moment.
In the past couple of weeks there has not been much comfort from the incoming transitional news. Taking this into account we feel it is more important than ever to look to our list of COLLECTED IDEAS at the first NEXT STEPS NOW for how to move forward. We have boiled the list down to a few overarching categories that we will cover at our follow up session along with a team of filmmakers, activists, and local organizations to parse each of these topics: BUBBLE BURSTING, PROTEST & MAKE VISIBLE, CHANGING PERSPECTIVES, SHARE & SUPPORT.
Our goal with this second session is to harness the energy of our filmmaking community toward political action, to hold each other accountable and motivated to continue these dialogues and work toward productive solutions and projects to strengthen our community goals.
NYC FILMMAKERS: NEXT STEPS NOW!
November 10th, 7.30pm
In light of the election results and to transform our panic and fear into resolve and action, we invite filmmakers and documentary producers to gather. Now more than ever we need to come together to organize, connect, and brainstorm the steps forward for media-makers seeking to be a part of shaping our collective vision of the future. The price of admission is an idea committed to paper.
Skylight Pictures, DCTV, WITNESS, Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, and UnionDocs, (and open to other orgs and independents… hit us up) will gather to share specific and short examples of past projects, ideas, and frameworks that might offer inspiration in this dark and confusing moment. These will be reminders of how the work we do can make an impact and a critical conversation about where we’ve missed the mark. We expect a highly participatory event, an open mic of ideas, to strengthen us and start a new process.
October 13th, 7:30pm
Jackie Robinson with Co-Directors Sarah Burns and David McMahon
Jack Roosevelt Robinson rose from humble origins to cross baseball’s color line and become one of the most beloved men in America. A fierce integrationist, Robinson used his immense fame to speak out against the discrimination he saw on and off the field, angering fans, the press, and even teammates who had once celebrated him for “turning the other cheek.” After baseball, he was a widely-read newspaper columnist, divisive political activist and tireless advocate for civil rights, who later struggled to remain relevant as diabetes crippled his body and a new generation of leaders set a more militant course for the civil rights movement.
Jackie Robinson, a two-part, four-hour film directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon tells the story of an American icon whose life-long battle for first class citizenship for all African Americans transcends even his remarkable athletic achievements. “Jackie Robinson,” Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”
For 81-year-old Sonia Sanchez, writing is both a personal and political act. She emerged as a seminal figure in the 1960s Black Arts Movement, raising her voice in the name of black culture, civil rights, women’s liberation, and peace as a poet, playwright, teacher, activist and early champion of the spoken word. She is among the earliest poets to have incorporated urban black English into her poetry; she was one of the first activists to secure the inclusion of African American studies in university curricula. Deemed “a lion in literature’s forest” by poet Maya Angelou and winner of major literary awards including the American Book Award, Sonia Sanchez is best known for 17 books of poetry that explore a wide range of global and humanist themes, particularly the struggles and triumphs of women and people of color.
In BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, Sanchez’s life unfolds in a documentary rich with readings and jazz-accompanied performances of her work. With appearances by Questlove, Talib Kweli, Ursula Rucker, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Jessica Care Moore, Ruby Dee, Yasiin Bey, Ayana Mathis, Imani Uzuri and Bryonn Bain, the documentary examines Sanchez’s contribution to the world of poetry, her singular place in the Black Arts Movement and her leadership role in African American culture over the last half century.
The New Black is a documentary that tells the story of how the AfricanAmerican community is grappling with the gay rights issue in light of the recent gay marriage movement and the fight over civil rights. The film documents activists, families and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize gay marriage and examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar – the black church – and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda. The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets and provides a seat at the kitchen table as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.
“…a portrait of what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, [and] what it means to be a Christian.” — Peter Knegt / Indiewire.com
The Meerkat Media Collective presents a series of their short documentary films that are snapshots of local social movements that also reflect on their unique creative process which includes non-hierarchical collaboration and consensus process. This will be the first public screening of two brand new films: The Black Women’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Public Money, about broad NYC experiment in participatory democracy told through the perspective of one neighborhood. This event will also feature screening of and discussion about their influential short films Into the Streets (People’s Climate March), Consensus (Direct Democracy at Occupy Wall Street) and We Got This (Occupy Sandy.) Through this review of the collective’s work, we’ll explore the role that collaboratively made media can play in social movements and confront the inherent tensions that arise when you combine art, journalism and activism.
In the Quechuan language, the ‘people’s language’ in the Andes, there’s a greeting used when two dear friends meet after a long time: “¡Kachkaniraqmi!”. It is an expression that means one still is, still exists, or, in its plural context, we are still here, despite the odds.
Director Javier Corcuera, known for his films The Back of the World (2000) and Winter in Baghdad (2005), has transformed this Quechuan greeting into the basis for his documentary exploring Peru’s identity through its surprisingly diverse musical scene. Featuring the country’s masters of music, both internationally and locally known, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes to the Pacific Ocean, the film honours the migratory groups of people who moved to the city but never lost their roots. Their past is still present in their singing, their music and their unique storytelling. I’m Still is also Corcuera’s own greeting upon returning to his country.
“I AM STILL HERE is not a musical film, it’s a film about music and silence, tradition and change, the struggle to heal social wounds and vindication, humanity and nature and the overall syncretic reality of a country that still needs to come to terms with that.
The montage struggles from time to time to carry some of the characters but this is a minor issue in a complex mise-en-scène and what amounts to a commendable effort to pack the vastness that is Peru into under two hours.” — Úrsula Cox for Spanish Review Club.
Winner of the Grierson Award at the 2015 BFI London Festival and an official selection of the 2015 Telluride Film Festival, SHERPA looks at how Mount Everest’s Sherpa community united in grief and anger to reclaim the mountain following this devastating avalanche in 2014, killing 16 Sherpas. Directed by Jennifer Peedom (“Solo”), SHERPA features exclusive access with members of the Sherpa community, their families, and western adventurers who were getting ready to climb Mount Everest before the tragic event. The film highlights this volatile time in the Everest climbing industry, which served as a turning point for many of the Sherpas and their families as they considered whether to continue working on the mountain.
Change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored—cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and many others, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.
In this special advanced screening of Brazilian Director Petra Costa’s latest film “Olmo and Seagull,” we explore the boundary of fiction and non-fiction in documentary, and the use of personal storytelling as a vehicle for examining pressing human rights issues. Less a week following the UN’s degree that abortion is a human right, we will examine the implications a woman’s choice to have or not a child.
A journey through the labyrinth of a woman’s mind, OLMO AND THE SEAGULL tells the story of Olivia, a free-spirited stage actress preparing for a starring role as Arkadina in a theatrical production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. As the play starts to take shape, Olivia and her boyfriend, Serge, whom she first met on the stage of the Theatre du Soleil, discover she is pregnant.
Initially, she thinks she can have it all, until an unexpected setback threatens her pregnancy and brings her life to a standstill. Olivia’s desire for freedom and success clashes with the limits imposed by her own body and the baby growing inside her. The months of her pregnancy unfold as a rite of passage, forcing the actress to confront her deepest fears. She looks in the mirror and sees both female characters of The Seagull – Arkadina, the aging actress, and Nina, the actress that falls into madness – as unsettling reflections of herself.
“Petra and Lea have achieved a perforating film, the most solid and impalpable experience a woman can reveal.” EDMUNDO DESNOES, writer of Memories of Underdevelopment
LAURA CHECKOWAY’S BREAK OUT DOCUMENTARY LUCKY
PRESENTED BY DIRECTOR LAURA CHECKOWAY AND THE FILM FATALES OF NYC
LUCKY (2013) Lucky Torres masks a lifetime of abuse and abandonment behind an angry, tattooed exterior. Growing up in foster care, Lucky and her sister Fantasy have been searching for stability all their lives. While her sister has settled down, Lucky still hasn’t found her way. But despite being homeless, unemployed and a single mother, jumping from girlfriend to girlfriend, the compelling Lucky still dreams of true love and success.
Journalist Laura Checkoway spent more than six years following Lucky and has captured an experience rarely depicted onscreen. The film’s executive producer, award-winning filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), recognizes the power in this unvarnished documentary. “I see great perseverance in telling a difficult story about a fascinating but difficult person,” James says. “There are not enough of these kinds of stories being told today.”
Q&A Following the screening with Director Laura Checkoway, Producer Neyda Martinez and Dr. Pereta P. Rodriguez, Moderated by Film Fatale Co-Leader Julie Bridgeham
Laura Checkoway is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. Her debut feature film LUCKY is executive produced by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) and had its television broadcast premiere on DirecTV. The film has screened at festivals across the globe, world premiering at Hot Docs and winning the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Urbanworld Film Festival in 2014. Laura has directed and produced documentary segments for Google, Scion, and PBS and is currently in production on a documentary, Edith + Eddie.
With a background in journalism, Checkoway penned revealing celebrity profiles and investigative features for numerous publications including Rolling Stone and the Village Voice and is the former senior editor of Vibe magazine. Her acclaimed first book, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (Simon & Schuster) was short-listed as one of the best music books of 2011 by NPR and she is the co-author of a forthcoming celebrity autobiography being published by Penguin Random House.
Dr. Pereta P. Rodriguez has more than 35 years experience as a mental health clinicalpractitioner and administrator. She has worked as a private practitioner and as a counselor/psychotherapist in social agencies in New York City and Washington DC. Much of Dr. Rodriguez’s experience has been on the front lines in heavily populated ethnic communities providing prevention services and counseling for families in the child welfare system; suicide prevention with college age students, and psychotherapy with domestic violence women and children returning to live in communities from the NYC shelter program.
Julie Bridgham is an award winning Director and Producer of documentary film and television with over 15 years of experience. She was the Director and Producer for the multi-award winning documentary feature “The Sari Soldiers,” for which she was granted a Sundance Institute Documentary Fellowship, and was the recipient of the Nestor Almendros Prize for courage and commitment in human rights filmmaking. She lived in Nepal for over seven years, where she produced and directed films for the United Nations World Food Programme and The Nepal Youth Foundation, in addition to “The Sari Soldiers”, and the feature documentary in-progress “At the Edge of Sufficient.” Most recently, Julie is the Producer and Director for the interactive trans-media documentary “Shifting Borders” following Nepali migrant workers in Qatar, and is an Executive Producer for the feature documentary “Drawing the Tiger.”
Neyda Martinez is a producer and independent strategic communications and cultural consultant with over 15 years of experience. While working in marketing and communications at POV, the longest running showcase of independent documentary films on PBS, she completed graduate studies at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs earning an MPA in 2008. Presently, she is the communications strategist for America Reframed on the World Channel and is an engagement consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Libraries Association’s national public learning initiative Latino Americans 500. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at The New School in the graduate division of media studies. She is also the producer of the independent film LUCKY by Laura Checkoway and a co-executive producer of Cinetico Productions’ Cry Now. In addition to serving on the board of directors for Women Make Movies, she volunteers on committees for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Uprose and serves on the national board of directors for The Association of American Cultures, as well as for the Bronx-based dance company Pepatian.
HASKELL WEXLER’S THE BUS FOLLOWED BY A SNEAK PEAK OF SABAAH JORDAN’S WHOSE STREETS?
The Bus (1963). Academy Award winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s first foray into documentary filmmaking. Inspired by the rapidly growing civil rights movement in the American South, and Martin Luther King Jr’s call for a massive march on Washington DC, Wexler got on a bus in the Bay Area and traveled across the country with a multi-racial group of activists bent on progressive change. The activists discussed and debated what non-violent resistance meant, how they would conduct themselves, they sang, they slept, they met up with other busloads, they had a sense that they were making history. Indeed, they were headed to the largest civil rights demonstration ever held in the U.S., where Dr. King was to delivered his monumental “I Have A Dream” speech. Wexler teamed up with the emerging cinéma vérité mafia and together with D.A. Pennebaker who had designed and built the 16mm camera Wexler used, and Al Maysles who was doing second camera with another busload coming from the South, they created The Bus, a film that helped shape the direction of documentary cinema through its use of the portable hand held camera and the freely roaming Nagra sound recorder. The Bus which has not screened publicly in 30 years, has great resonance with the rise of the Blacks Live Matter movement today. http://www.uniondocs.org/wexler-the-bus/
ABOUT WHOSE STREETS? Whose Streets? is first-hand look at how the murder of a teenage boy in Ferguson, Missouri became the last straw for a community under siege. A story of love, loss, conflict, and ambition; the journey of everyday people turned freedom fighters, whose lives intertwined with a burgeoning national movement for black liberation
Sabaah Jordan (Director, Whose Streets?) is an organizer, advocate, and storyteller born in raised in South Central LA. She entered the world of storytelling through theater, attending the Lee Strasberg Institute of Theatre and Film as a teenager, and performing as a member of the Black Theater Ensemble in college. She curates the blog Sixty Million and More, an anthology of original poetry, short stories, and informative articles and was recently published in The Experience magazine. As an advocate at Rikers Island, she interviewed incarcerated people about their experiences with trauma. She came to Ferguson with cinematographer Lucas Farrar in September 2014 to learn the truth behind the dramatic scenes playing out on the news. Hearing the stories of community members in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis area inspired her embark on her directorial debut. Jordan helped organize The Millions March, one of the largest marches for racial justice in New York history, in response to the non-indictment of the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death.
WITNESS: WITNESS is an international organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. WITNESS trains and supports activists and citizens around the world to use video safely, ethically, and effectively to expose human rights abuse and fight for human rights change.
UnionDocs: UnionDocs brings together a diverse community of experimental media-makers, dedicated journalists, critical thinkers, and local partners on a search for urgent expressions of the human experience, practical perspectives on the world today, and compelling visions for the future.