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Women’s History Month Spotlight, Haskell Wexler’s Centenary, and How to Help Ukrainian Filmmakers

Photo: Rintu Thomas (foreground) and her co-director and husband Sushmit Ghosh (behind) react to hearing their film Writing With Fire is nominated for Best Documentary by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the first film from India to be so honored.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re pleased to share a new interview in our “On the Horizon” series, conversations with women filmmakers and artists focused on collaborative, ethical storytelling with historically disenfranchised communities around the world. We recently met Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, the Co-Directors of the first Indian documentary to be Oscar-nominated, Writing with Fire. The film follows Dahlit women journalists reporting under repressive conditions and by doing so contribute to preserving democracy and civic space – truly an example of people power. Read my interview with Rintu here.

You can attend a free, virtual watch party of Writing with Fire hosted by Independent Lens and Georgia Public TV on Thursday, March 24th at 8pm ET. Details and event registration can be found here. And tune into the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday, March 27th.

We are also mindful that in wartimes, women and children are disproportionately affected. And so too are a country’s artists. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and urge you to consider a donation to support Ukrainian filmmakers. The International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk asks us to not remain silent in the face of Vladimir Putin’s war. They write to our Ukrainian film compañerxs, “We heard you. We will not be silent. Our hearts are broken at the thought that you are currently hiding in the metro, waiting for hours to cross the border, or, and the very thought of it is mind-blowing, taking up a weapon for the first time in your life to defend your home. We love your films, your teams, and your festivals. We love working with you. We will not be silent until you get your life back.”

Celebrating Haskell Wexler’s Centenary

Pamela Yates and Haskell Wexler working on Latino in Nicaragua 1984. Photo credit: Susan Meiselas / Magnum

Haskell Wexler at 100 is a celebration throughout the month of March at the USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where George Lucas endowed a Haskell Wexler Documentary Film Chair. Haskell’s love of the art of documentary filmmaking and his unique approach, from production through distribution, paved the way for many of us to create new ways of telling stories and designing outreach and impact campaigns with our films. Haskell’s documentary practice and mentorship demonstrated a commitment to new ideas and progressive politics of the day. 

We are honored that our film Rebel Citizen about Haskell’s prolific body of politically committed documentary work – over 40 films! – will close the month-long celebration on March 29th. It will be accompanied by the Los Angeles premiere of Joan Churchill and Alan Barker’s short about Haskell, Shoot from the Heart.

Many of Haskell’s rarely seen documentaries–Underground, Enhanced Radiation, Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang, and Introduction to the Enemy (in collaboration with Jane Fonda)–will be screened. His feature films as a cinematographer, In the Heat of the Night and Matewan, and his masterpiece, Medium Cool, and many others will be shown too. 

All screenings are free and open to the public. And if you’re lucky you just might see actress Rita Taggart who will be speaking about her husband and his work at some of the events.

Thanks to your support…

The original 16mm negative film canisters of our first film Resurgence. These cans haven’t been touched since 1981.

In last month’s newsletter we shared an update about our very first film, Resurgence. The granddaughter of the protagonist, union leader Gloria Jordan, had contacted us to seek out the film. As a result of us sharing this renewed interest in Gloria’s story, one of the Co-Founders of Skylight, cinematographer Tom Sigel, (Da 5 Bloods, Bohemian Rhapsody, Drive) has agreed to facilitate the making of the 4K digital transfer of the film from the original 16mm negative. Thanks to this gesture, Gloria’s leadership in this watershed 1979 strike at Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant in Laurel, Mississippi will rightfully take its place in our historical memory of Black women labor leaders. 

Pamela Yates

Pamela Yates is an award-winning film director and the co-founder of Skylight, a not-for-profit media organization that for over 35 years has combined cinematic arts with the quest for justice to inspire the defense of human rights. Skylight’s films and programs strengthen social justice movements and catalyze collaborative networks of artists and activists.

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