In memory of Hannah LandersWednesday 30, December 2009
By Debra Chasnoff, President/Senior Producer | Straightlaced
At every screening of Straightlaced where there is a Q and A afterwards, someone always, understandably, asks, “Who is Hannah Landers?” Because at the end of the film, a title comes up that says:
September 28, 1990 – May 6, 2008
In May of 2008, Sue Chen, my co-producer, had booked a plane ticket for Hannah and her mom to fly out to meet us in San Francisco so we could film a second interview with her. But days before they were supposed to come, Sue received a horrible phone call, and learned that Hannah had been killed in a car accident. We all were devastated.
We finished the film without that extra interview and all knew immediately that we would dedicate Straightlaced to Hannah’s memory, and by extension, to the spirit of her activism.
Then we started working on the world premiere. Much to our surprise, Hannah’s parents, Richard and Michelle Landers, were really excited to fly out to San Francisco to be there; they wanted to be part of the big audience that would be seeing the film for the first time.
Hannah had told us that her dad was an administrator at a Baptist church. I confess that of few of us here had some preconceptions about what kind of views a person who held that job might have about the point of view in our film.
We wondered: how would the Landers feel about the film? How would they feel being in a theater filled with close to a thousand Bay Area activists?
It turned out our concerns were for naught. The Landers’ response was so moving to me, and taught me a powerful lesson about my own stereotypes.
“We enjoyed the entire evening and sincerely appreciate the time we spent with you and the other Groundspark board of directors members and staff,” Michelle wrote to one of our board members. “Everyone was so wonderful, gracious and hospitable – we are very glad that we made the trip.”
“The film is fantastic and we are even more proud of Hannah than we could have imagined. She was incredibly passionate and wise for someone her age and she spent a lot of energy fighting what she saw as the injustices of the world. She was a champion for the underdog and a spokesperson for those who wouldn’t or couldn’t speak for themselves. We miss her terribly, but are very inspired that her words and actions will continue to help young people.”
Fast forward several months. I am so proud to be able to tell you that on January 9th, Straightlaced will have its Kentucky premiere on January 10th, 2010 at the State Theater at the Kentucky Theater at 10:15am. Richard and Michelle have worked with Rebecca Woloch, the mother of another student in whose memory the memorial garden in the film is dedicated, to organize the screening. They will be doing a fundraising pitch at the event and want the proceeds to be split between GroundSpark, the Hannah Landers Memorial Scholarship Fund, and a local suicide prevention group doing work in Josh Shipman’s memory. Please download the event flyer for more information on the event.
We, too, are also inspired that Hannah’s words and actions are helping so many people—of all ages—along with those of all the courageous young people who appeared in Straightlaced, and all of our other Respect for All Project films.
Our new year’s wish for you is that you continue to feel inspired and courageous. To look inside yourself, to challenge your own stereotypes, and to find the strength to be a champion for those who can’t or won’t speak for themselves.
Thank you from all of us at GroundSpark. Let’s stick together in 2010.
President and Senior Producer
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