DATV (with the support of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management
OGDM Group) is presenting an excellent film fest called Media That Matters Short Film Festival – “a screening of twelve nationally award winning short films designed to motivate, move, inspire and inform you” on September 16th at 7:30pm at The Neon in Downtown Dayton. Tickets are only $15, with proceeds going to help DATV continue their mission: to be a community forum that empowers all citizens to learn, create and express their ideas through electronic media. To accomplish its mission DATV provides the training equipment and facilities for local residents to make a difference in their communities by creating their very own noncommercial cable TV programs. Get your tickets today!
Here is the film lineup (descriptions and images courtesy of MediaThatMattersFest.org):
Director: Julie Winokur
Producer: Julie Winokur
Winner of the Jury Award
More about Denied from filmmaker Julie Winokur
When I met Sheila Wessenberg, she was living the American nightmare.
She had a potentially fatal illness, but because she was uninsured her life seemed expendable.
She said to me, “There is no reason why anyone should be shoved into homelessness and helplessness just to live.” She was referring to the fact that she could only get publicly funded health care if she gave up her home and her car. In the meantime, her doctor had abandoned her and she had already gone seven months with no chemotherapy.
I was so horrified by the real-life cost of poor public policy that I became obsessed with all the ‘Sheilas’ whose lives were on the line. I realized Sheila could be any one of us—could even be me. I wanted to shout from the highest rafter that she was being dealt one of the greatest injustices I had witnessed in the 20 years I’d been a journalist.
We first published Shelia’s story in The New York Times Magazine. Readers were so shocked by her suffering that they donated over $50,000 in order to help the family stay afloat. Next, we published Sheila’s story in a book and exhibition called Denied, which was shared on Capitol Hill and toured to state capitols across the country.
But our work wasn’t done because U.S. health care policy hadn’t budged an inch. We decided we had to tell Sheila’s story in film so even more people could see the shocking truth. Considering the raging debate on health care reform in Washington now, inclusion in the Media That Matters Film Festival couldn’t be more relevant or more urgent.
I’M JUST ANNEKE
Director: Jonathan Skurnik
Producer: Jonathan Skurnik
Winner of the Changemaker Award
More about I’m Just Anneke from filmmaker Jonathan Skurnik
I’m Just Anneke is the first film in a four-part series of short films called The Youth and Gender Media Project designed to educate school communities about transgender and gender nonconforming youth. The first two films in the series are finished and the second two are in production. The completed films are already being used in schools and conferences throughout the U.S. to train administrators, teachers and students about the importance of protecting all children from harassment due to gender identity and expression.
Transgender and gender fluid youth are the most courageous people I have ever met. Despite overwhelming pressure to conform to an oppressive gender binary paradigm, they refuse to do it in order to be true to themselves. I wanted to pay tribute to these courageous young people and to inspire all of us to reconsider our own decisions about gender identity and expression.
Anneke is going into eighth grade in the fall of 2010 and I plan to film her over the course of her first year in high school. This footage will become a feature length documentary about Anneke’s life as she starts to take testosterone and begins a slow and thoughtful transition to fully embody her own unique gender identity.
I AM SEAN BELL
Director: Stacey Muhammad
Producer: Stacey Muhammad
Winner of the Speaking Out Award
More about I Am Sean Bell from filmmaker Stacey Muhammad
I’ve loved film for as long as I can remember. Initially, screenwriting was my interest; however, I wanted to see my ideas come to life beyond the writing. This led to a desire to acquire the skills needed to actually produce my own projects. So, I embarked upon the journey of studying and learning as much about the filmmaking process as I possibly could by attending film school, workshops, and anything else I could find.
First and foremost, I consider myself an activist, so I’m drawn to human issues and subjects that enlighten and uplift humanity while challenging us to examine our ideals and issues on this planet. I’ve always been drawn to documentary filmmaking, particularly as an activist. It’s a powerful way to communicate with an audience.
When I chose to do the Sean Bell film, I was extremely disturbed by the verdict and wanted to hear from the children, particularly young black boys, about their thoughts, fears and concerns regarding violence against black men. Most of the topics that interest me are those that give a voice to those often unheard populations of people, who indeed have stories to tell and victories to celebrate.
One thing that I’ve learned is that life is what it is—meaning, everything we do and experience is connected. Often, we try to compartmentalize our lives and deal with different aspects of our experience (be it our personal lives, our career, etc.). Filmmaking, for me, is a spiritual process and journey. I’ve been prepared through life experiences, for each and every topic I choose to explore.
So, my advice to any aspiring filmmaker would be to live your life with integrity, take care of yourself, learn as much about your craft as possible, commit to creating the life you desire and expect the universe to grant you everything you ask.
NO ONE BOTHERED
Director: Josephine Boxwell
Producer: Laurie Nicholls
Winner of the Empowerment Award
More about No One Bothered from filmmaker Josephine Boxwell
Claire, an ex-police officer, and her partner Darren take us on a journey through some of the places they have called home—a rubbish bin fort, a parkland, public toilets, to name a few.
The couple lives in Bournemouth, England. When they first arrived in the seaside town, they begged for money in order to buy food. Eventually they became registered Big Issue magazine vendors. The Big Issue Foundation is an initiative that gives homeless and vulnerably housed people the opportunity to make a living by selling magazines to passersby. For Darren and Claire, selling The Big Issue is a step up from begging, but not a step away from the dangers and prejudices that come with being on the street.
This short intends to illustrate that none of us are impervious to misfortune or mistakes; all of us are only a few steps away from the street. No One Bothered reminds us that even in societies where social security exists, many are left behind.
SHADES OF THE BORDER
Director: Patrick Smith
Producer: Patrick Smith
Winner of the Racial Dialogue Award
More about Shades of the Border from filmmaker Patrick Smith
The racial issues that exist on the island of Hispaniola can hardly be described as “black and white.” Perceptions of race among Haitians and Dominicans have been evolving (or devolving) over several centuries of political, military, and social unrest, and can’t be consolidated into a brief explanation or short documentary. Thus, as a filmmaker from the United States, the intention for the film was not to create all-encompassing viewpoints, both Haitian and Dominican.
The initial idea for the documentary came from the story of an Austin woman who was unable to adopt two abandoned, Dominican-born, black children because their skin color (and lack of documentation) prevented them from getting Dominican citizenship. After some research, it was clear that this wasn’t an isolated incident, but that millions had been denied citizenship (and thus certain human rights), based on how “Haitian” they appeared to be and not based on where they were born.
Faced with the economic burden of providing for an entire population of illegal Haitians crossing the Dominican border, compacted by an already poverty-stricken population of Dominicans, the Dominican Republic strains to find a solution that isn’t “color-based.” Sadly, the peripheral effects of this issue are much more severe, often leading to violence, destruction of homes, inaccessible education, abusive working conditions, and the list goes on.
Shades of the Border explores a commonly-held notion from the Dominican media that race does not lay a role in the conflict, contrasted with an almost completely-inverse working-class opinion that the shade of someone’s skin on the island of Hispaniola speaks volumes about the individual.
MY HOTNESS IS PASTED ON YEY!
Director: Gus Andrews
Producer: Gus Andrews
Winner of the Fair Use Award
More about My Hotness is Pasted on Yey! from filmmaker Gus Andrews
The Media Show is a YouTube channel series staring puppets Weena and Erna, two high-school-aged sisters skipping school to spend time making their own videos in an abandoned storage closet in an advertising agency in New York City. The show’s model of media literacy aims to reconcile the exuberance of fan-created media with a critique of ad-driven corporate media.
In this episode of The Media Show, My Hotness is Pasted on Yey!, Weena and Erna happen across a terrible graphics job in Cosmopolitan, leading them to the website Photoshop Disasters, which gets them thinking about other photo manipulation throughout history. Stalin, Hitler, OJ Simpson, Beyoncé—who hasn’t been touched by photo alteration in some way? The girls explore art and propaganda and end up playing with Photoshop themselves, taking control and manipulating their own appearance.
By primarily distributing online, we aim to enter into a dialog about media where young producers, both casual and political, are already displaying and critiquing their work. We hoped this episode might be many things to many people. To viewers on YouTube, it has prompted dialog about whether media can simply be dismissed as “fake” and how photos are involved in the “pro-ana” (pro-anorexia) community online. To educators, we hope it offers Photoshop Disasters and ad agency websites as potential materials for media literacy lessons, while sparking some new ideas on how to approach the topic. We even hope that this might give ad agency creatives a moment to reflect on the impact of their work.
Director: Sara Hopman
Producer: Sara Hopman
Winner of the Economic Justice Award
More about Day Job from filmmaker Sara Hopman
From the beginning, filmmaking and positive social change have always gone hand-in-hand for me. After working with non-profit organizations such as Environment California, the Human Rights Campaign, and CalPIRG, I was further inspired to use my strengths in filmmaking to help facilitate progress in our communities. In October of 2009, I had the opportunity to create a film that could make such an impact—Day Job.
We’ve all seen day laborers standing and waiting in public places, but most of us pass by without thinking twice. I wanted to discover the story behind these workers—who are they and what are their lives like? This is a current, pressing issue, commonly ignored by the media; this is a group of people with little to no voice in our society; this is happening right now, in my city, and many cities across the country.
During the making of my film, I found Faye, a temporary employer of laborers. She has an extraordinary perspective that I felt I had to share with the world. With the help of four translators, which included two crewmembers, I was able to record the images and voices of a shunned community, for all the world to see.
THE LAST TOWN
Director: Yan Chun Su
Producer: Yan Chun Su
Winner of the Sustaining Traditions
More about The Last Town from filmmaker Yan Chun Su
In order to complete the Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric project in China, a total of sixteen historical towns, some with more than 2000 years of history had to be flooded. Kai Xian was the last of the 16 towns. Filmed in Kai Xian shortly before the final relocation, The Last Town is a portrait of the town and its residents as they ready (or not) themselves for the big move.
Facing widespread land disputes and unfair relocation assignment, many of the unprivileged residents had to deal with the hardship of not only leaving their homeland behind, but also how to make a decent living afterward. Dust-filled streets and crumbled houses provided the backdrop for stories of ordinary residents dealing with the uncertainty ahead.
I felt compelled to see what old Kai Xian looked like after I found out it was the last old town to be flooded for the Three Gorges Dam Project. What I saw was quite surreal. People burning door frames, window frames on the street, metal salvagers picking on piles of rubble, and the almost eerie contrast between ordinary, everyday activities and the fact that people there were going through a historical time—they were the witnesses and also part of a town’s more than one thousand years of history about to be flooded forever.
The residents still struggling to make the move discovered me very quickly on the street and I was able to record this small glimpse of their lives. It is hopeful that by having their voices recorded, their stories and situations could weigh in on future developments with such profound human impacts.
Old Kai Xian town was completely flooded in 2009.
Many people are struggling in the new city and corruption is still widespread. In order to rake in as much profit as possible, contractors appointed by local government constructed sub-standard housing and immigrants with little financial and political backing were more likely to be assigned to live in those buildings.
JUSTICE DENIED: VOICES FROM GUANTANAMO
Director: Joel Engardio
Producer: Joel Engardio and Ateqah Khaki
Winner of the Global Justice
More about Justice Denied from filmmaker Joel Engardio
The American Civil Liberties Union wanted to use audio recordings to preserve the testimonials of five former Guantánamo detainees who had been held and released by the Bush administration without charge. I suggested that it would be more powerful to interview the men on video and produce a short film that wove their stories together into one narrative arch. This was a more accessible and compelling way to share the experiences with a wide audience.
Former Guantánamo detainees are usually painted as one-dimensional caricatures and we rarely get to know them as people. What were their lives like before Guantánamo? What are they doing now to start over? What are their hopes, dreams and fears? What kinds of personalities do they have? By using video and the art of story telling, I hope viewers might have more reason to care about the important issues that surround indefinite detention once they realize what they have in common with the subjects of the film as fellow human beings.
I used sparse narration and avoided talking head commentary by lawyers and advocates. I felt it would be more effective to simply let the men speak for themselves. The purpose of the video was to provide an emotional connection to the issues by focusing only on the personal stories of the men involved. A web link appears at the end of the film for inspired audiences who want to investigate and learn more about things like rule of law and how to stay both safe and free in a troubled world.
Director: Annalise Littman
Producer: Annalise Littman
Winner of the Youth Sustainability Award
More about Aquafinito from filmmaker Annalise Littman
In high school, I was a member and co-president of WaterAid International, a club dedicated to educating people about the world water crisis and fundraising for water infrastructure projects in developing countries.
I attended a talk given by Deborah Lapidus of Corporate Accountability International (CAI) with my club and learned about the environmental and human rights problems associated with bottled water. I was in a teen film program at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the time. I was so blown away by Deborah’s talk that I decided to make a documentary about bottled water for my class project in the hopes that I could educate other people about what I had learned.
Deborah agreed to my filming her at a workshop she was giving, where I met Tina Clarke, Campaign Director for Massachusetts Clean Water Action. Tina agreed to be interviewed about corporation efforts to extract water for bottling purposes in Massachusetts.
I was invited by CAI to film a “Think Outside the Bottle” action at a Coke shareholders’ meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. I also interviewed someone from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, who spoke about the high quality of Massachusetts tap water.
My film addresses the prevalence of bottled water, reasons people buy it and the environmental and social costs associated with it. Many people told me that they plan to stop drinking bottled water after seeing the film. Other people have either continued to drink bottled water or only stopped temporarily.
UNINSURED IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA
Director: Katie Falkenberg
Producer: Katie Falkenberg
Winner of the Human Rights Award
More about Uninsured in the Mississippi Delta from filmmaker Katie Falkenberg
At a time when the health care debate is at the forefront of the political agenda, Uninsured in the Mississippi Delta puts a human face on the struggles of the 46 million Americans surviving without health care.
The Mississippi Delta is one of the most impoverished and uninsured regions of the United States. The area also has soaring rates for diabetes, hypertension and stroke, and some of the highest mortality rates and lowest birth rates in the nation. The town of Greenville, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta, has, on a per-capita basis, the highest number of uninsured households in the country. Contributing factors to this statistic include high unemployment rates, poverty, business owners who cannot afford health insurance for their workers, and agricultural jobs that are often only seasonal. Those who have jobs that pay minimum wage cannot afford health insurance on their own.
Howard Moncrief and Edward Smith are among those living in the Delta struggling without health insurance. Both of these men, putting the needs of their children and families before their own, have gone without vital health care and medicines. They simply could not afford them.
I had been following the debate on the health care bill in Congress, and was moved by the stories I had heard from those who were struggling without insurance while working on a photo and video project about a Remote Area Medical (RAM) free health care clinic in Appalachia the year before. I knew that this year, with the health care issue being at the forefront of this administration’s agenda, I wanted to tell another story to put a human face with the statistics being talked about so frequently in the Capitol and on the news.
When I heard that 34% of the households in the impoverished Delta town of Greenville, Mississippi were living without health insurance, I knew that this was a story that needed to be told. As I began researching the story, I learned that the problem wasn’t just concentrated in Greenville; it extended throughout the entire Mississippi Delta region into the rural areas where poverty was rampant and there were few jobs.
Many of the folks who are patients at the two health care clinics I spent time in for this film—the Good Samaritan Health Clinic in Greenville, and the Tutwiler Clinic in Tutwiler—would go without the most basic and vital care if these clinics did not exist. This was a driving force behind my inspiration for this film: that, because of the cost of health care and insurance, people would have to go without the care they desperately need, were it not for these clinics.
Furthermore, it is not only the people in the Delta; it is the 46 million other Americans throughout the country.
LESSONS FROM A TAILOR
Director: Galen Summer
Producer: Caitlin Dourmashkin
Winner of the Perspective Award
More about Lessons from a Tailor from filmmaker Galen Summer
The inspiration for this film came directly from the man himself. When I first met Martin Greenfield at his factory, with the intention of interviewing him for a lifetime achievement award he was receiving for his efforts as an employer and business owner in Bushwick, Brooklyn, it became clear that there was more to his story than mere success in business.
Here was a man who had pulled himself up from tragedy and hardship, who had survived one of the most horrific events of the 20th century, the Nazi holocaust, and yet still possessed a lightness of spirit.
Here was a man who had mastered the art of the perfectly tailored, hand-made suit, and now that art was slowly being forgotten by the rest of the world.
Here was a man who at 80 years of age still seemed to be at the height of his powers, who possessed the confidence to dictate the style and fashions of the power elite, just as he had been doing for the past half a century.
It struck me as a unique opportunity to create a portrait of a person who had overcome great challenges in life, who had accumulated wisdom about clothes and about people, and who had become a humanitarian in the process.
To preview these movies, go to the Media That Matters YouTube channel.