Archive for the ‘Screenings’ Category

Partnering with SOJOURN to Bring Respect For All to the Southeast



By | It's Elementary, Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Screenings, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

sojourn
We’re headed down south to help transform community conversations from Atlanta to Birmingham!

Joining forces with the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN), GroundSpark will help bring powerful new educational programming to communities across the Southeastern United States later this month, centered on our award-winning Respect for All documentary series.

“GroundSpark’s films are the perfect complement to the work that SOJOURN does throughout the Southeast. They tackle issues surrounding gender normativity and identity, homophobia, and family relationships in a real, down-to-earth way,” says Rebecca Stapel-Wax, executive director of SOJOURN. “Each documentary features children and teens who are living these experiences daily.”

SOJOURN, who seek to promote increased understanding and acceptance of individuals across the spectrum of gender and sexual orientation, will lead inspiring conversations and lesson plans around four of our films – Let’s Get Real, Straightlaced – How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, That’s A Family!, and It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School – from February 21st to the 23rd, in public school districts, independent schools, and Jewish community organizations.

“We are thrilled to be able to reach new audiences in the south through this partnership with SOJOURN,” says GroundSpark’s president and senior producer, Debra Chasnoff. “There is exciting work happening now in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama to support all students to be their best, fullest selves. We are honored that our films, curricula, and professional development programs will be utilized to expand that work even further.”

This transformative partnership is made possible through a grant from the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund. For more information and to register for these events and programs, please see GroundSpark’s events calendar!

Reporting Back From China!



By | Deadly Deception, Let's Get Real, Respect For All Project, Screenings, Straightlaced

classphoto“Tell us about those plots of farmland in front of those old buildings,” I asked the two journalism students who picked us up at the airport in Shantou, China.

“The farmers had a protest against the government because the government plans to take away the land to put up new buildings,” one of them said. “One of our classmates went down to write a story about it, but the police came and took him away to be ‘re-educated’. Then they told our teachers, who announced to our classes that none of us could go near the farmers or we, too, would be taken by the police.”

And so began my weeklong visit to Shantou University as a special guest of the journalism department, along with journalist and historian Helen Zia, and my wife, Nancy Otto. The three of us were very warmly received during our stay, and the students were very excited to engage with us on a wide range of issues.girl-peaceI spent time with several journalism classes and one gender studies class. The students all had started studying English when they were in elementary school and I was quickly humbled by how well they were able to communicate with me given my complete lack of Chinese language skills.

 

As they watched Let’s Get Real and That’s a Family!, students were puzzled about some things, that in the US, we often just assume. “I thought America had a very strong value for equality for everyone and freedom,” one student asked me. “So I don’t understand why is there bullying?” “Why would anyone tell their child that they were adopted?” queried another. “In China, we would never tell a child that.”

poster
It was fascinating to hear, from first-year students that “there was no bullying in China,” but then in the advanced class, to hear stories pour out about taunting and harassment students had either experienced directly or witnessed among their friends.

Many were intrigued to hear about gay and lesbian couples that had become parents (including many oohs and ahs when I showed a picture of my own family). But when we met with the “Orange Community,” a group not labeled LGBT but one where students knew they could go to talk about gay issues, they told us that it would be impossible for gay people to become parents. That’s because China has a one-child policy that favors married couples (and marriage is not legal between people of the same sex). Anyone who is a single parent by choice or “mistake” is fined the equivalent of one year of salary and charged a much higher tuition for her child to attend school.

On two nights the journalism department had organized large campus-wide events. The first one focused on taking a critical look at the United States: Helen showed excerpts from Who Killed Vincent Chin?, a documentary that chronicles the civil rights questions connected to the 1982 murder of an Asian American man; I showed GroundSpark’s Academy Award winning film, Deadly Deception, which lamblasts the US military industrial complex and the disastrous environmental practices of many major corporations. Both films are crafted to inspire audiences to organize and take action for social justice.

After our sobering arrival story about the student who tried to report on a local demonstration, I wasn’t sure how our night of political organizing 101 would be received. So I was delighted when the students peppered us with questions about equality and environmental protection issues in China. Over and over they asked, “How should we think about these issues here?”

The next night the topic was gender norms, marriage equality, and LGBT identity. Helen showed a Chinese news broadcast covering her own marriage to her partner, Lia, and her testimony in one of the phases of the legal battle to overturn Prop 8 in California. I showed excerpts from Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. Ching-Ching Ni, the professor who had invited us, told us it was the first time a public lecture had ever been held at Shantou University that addressed LGBT issues—and quite possibly at any Chinese university.

While I have shown Straightlaced to enthusiastic audiences in countless settings, I don’t think I have ever seen an audience as utterly rapt as this one in Shantou. Afterwards the students popped up across the auditorium to share their own concerns, fears, and questions connected to tto the themes in Straightlaced, painting a rich picture for us of where teen/young adult culture in China is falling today.

“I am the only girl to go to the gym to lift weights and everyone makes fun of me”; “Aren’t gay people the reason there is a population decline in the west?”; and most touchingly, “I think I might be lesbian. How do you know if you are a lesbian?”

I wish GroundSpark’s generous network of supporters could have all been in these lecture halls and classrooms with us. I know you would have been as proud as we were that our films were once again igniting change, this time in China.

Thank you for standing with us and for renewing your support this year. And a big thanks to Helen Zia and Ching-Ching Ni for creating this special opportunity!

Using Film to Address Bias, Reduce Bullying and Improve School Climate



By | Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Screenings

ibpa-logo

Join us at the 2013 International Bullying Prevention Association conference (November 10, 2013).

I’ll be heading back to the annual convening of the International Bullying Prevention Association this year. Last fall I was honored to be the keynote speaker. This fall I’ll be going back to conduct a special pre-conference intensive session on how educators and other school personnel can use film to help change their school climate to be more welcoming and safe for all students.

Participants will also receive a steep discount on all GroundSpark films and curriculum guides. If you or someone you work with is headed to this year’s IBPA, please be sure to sign up for this special session. http://www.stopbullyingworld.org/images/stories/2013Conference/IBPA-2013conf-brochure.pdf

Beyond Tortellini – Igniting Change With Film in Italy



By | blog, Choosing Children, It's STILL Elementary, LGBT, One Wedding and A Revolution, Screenings


When I received an invitation to “Some Prefer Cake” the lesbian film festival in Bologna, Italy, of course I said “Si si si!” Tagliatelle, tortellini en brodo, miles of archway-covered streets and a sea of Italian lesbians. I cleared my calendar immediately.

I’m happy to report that I was able to enjoy all those delights last week. But the most important thing that happened on this trip is that, once again, I saw GroundSpark’s mission come alive. We “create visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.” This time, the “world” was Italy.

The festival had programmed a selective retrospective of the films I have directed. Watching them again through Italian lesbian eyes provided a remarkable opportunity to take in how much social change these films have helped create and how much more work there is to be done all over the world.

When the lights went up after Choosing Children, the documentary Kim Klausner and I made 28 years ago, the audience was pensive and somewhat stunned. They couldn’t believe the courage of the women in the film who had found ways to have children as out lesbians. I learned that lesbians are not yet opting to become parents in Italy. “We don’t even talk about it,” one woman explained. “It’s just impossible with the way that the Catholic Church controls everything.” “I know one couple that wanted to have children,” another offered. “But they had to move to Spain. You can’t do it here.”

In the discussion of this film and then later of It’s STILL Elementary (made with Johnny Symons), I had an opportunity to share GroundSpark’s perspective on the importance of fighting the taboo and stigma the LGBT community historically has faced when it comes to anything connected to children.

We will never have full civil rights—in the United States, or anywhere in the world—as long as a perception remains that LGBT people should be kept away from children. That belief is the basis for so much of the animosity, and the rationalization for why our relationships are less important, less deserving of full legal rights, than heterosexual ones are.

When the festivalgoers watched One Wedding and a Revolution (made with Kate Stilley Steiner) they were equally transfixed. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s courage in deciding to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples was unbelievable to them. “And he’s Catholic!” one woman exclaimed.

At the end of the last screening, a woman stood up and said, “Thank you so much for coming here to be with us. You have shown us that we must stop just talking to ourselves. We must have the courage to interact with the rest of the society and talk about children and marriage, that those are key to a new future.”

Marta, one of the festival producers, was effusive. “You got them talking to each other, about things we never discuss. I see these same women at many events, but we never have a conversation like that.”

She started waving goodbye as women began heading back home, not just to their apartments in Bologna, but back to Sardinia, Milan, and other regions of the country. I could see the ripple effects of the screenings go with them into the night.

I went outside and met with a journalist who was covering my visit. “So, you are an activist, not just a filmmaker?” I smiled, thinking of everyone back home who has made this work possible and whom I know stands with me. “Si – that’s right.”

 

Wisps of Change in Idaho



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Screenings, Straightlaced

As the organizers were closing up the main meeting room Friday night at the Northwest LGBTQ Youth Conference for Hope, in Meridian, Idaho, one of them approached me and whispered, “there’s a young woman in the audience who is in tears and she’s asked to speak with you.”

I looked up and saw her. Cute with spiky blond hair, her eyes red from crying. I had noticed her earlier, burrowed into the arms of a tall transgendered woman who was slated to speak on a panel the following day.

The room cleared out and Kyle (not her real name) finally stopped sobbing. She told me she was going into eighth grade next fall and that she just didn’t know what to do. “I’ve lost so many friends, just because of the way I am.”

She had asked for me because I had just facilitated a discussion after screening our film It’s STILL Elementary as the kickoff for the conference.  It tells the story of why Helen Cohen and I made It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School back in 1996, what happened to many of the students in that original film, and how we had coped with vicious attacks from conservative right wing organizations that had tried to stop the film from airing on public television. (The only other time I have been to Idaho is when I came in 2006 to interview the staff at Idaho public TV about how they handled the pressures around the broadcast.)

The group had stayed afterwards for almost two hours after the credits rolled. It’s STILL Elementary opened up a floodgate of topics they wanted to discuss: Idaho politics (because some of the most heated battles were right here in their state), coming out, organizing Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, reading books with two moms, gratitude for supportive parents, and a wide array of teens’ experiences in Idaho’s high schools today.

“It’s a Christian school,” Kyle explained. “I just wish there was something at my school that was like you showed in the movie.” At her school, there is no GSA, no curriculum that fosters awareness of and respect for LGBT people, and not a single teacher at the school who she could imagine going to with her pain and loneliness. She said she knows there are many kids in the school who are LGBT or Q, but there is nothing to connect or support them.

“My mom is great though,” she said. “She’s here with me.” We agreed that maybe her mom could speak with other parents at the school and see if they could get something to happen.

The next day we screened Straightlaced, and when the audience questions were just about over, a middle-aged man took the microphone and haltingly told us that the part of the film that affected him the most was one of the last interview clips, when a student looks into the camera and reveals that he could lose his Eagle Scout status with the Boy Scouts because of coming out on camera in the film.

“My son was on track to get his Eagle Scout,” he said in almost a whisper, “but he wouldn’t do it because he was afraid they would do something to him. Why? Why would they do anything to my son?” No one in the room made a sound.

“He has all the leadership qualities they want Eagle Scouts to have.” It was clear that his heart had been broken to see his talented son back down from his goals because of the Boy Scouts’ homophobia.

I later learned that this father, who is Mormon, had attended the conference at his son’s request. “It’s amazing that he’s here,” the organizers told me.

When I meet people—like this father, like Kyle and her mom, and like Emilie Jackson-Edney, who proudly shared her experiences changing gender in the workshop after mine—in places as conservative as Meridian Idaho, I feel the arc of change bending. These are all good Christian people, who are struggling with their churches, their schools, and their community groups to ensure that all children are safe and loved.

“Do you think if you made It’s Elementary today that you would face as much opposition as you did in the early ‘90’s?” one person asked. I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.

We’re inching forward, but there is no going back.

Minneapolis Premiere Right Around the Corner!



By | Screenings, Straightlaced

We are gearing up for the Twin Cities premiere of Straightlaced, which will take place Monday November 16th in Minneapolis. This will be the last regional premiere of the film, completing an thirty-city, ten-month long tour of Straightlaced! With an impressive array of community partners and dedicated volunteers working on the ground to fill the seats, word about the event is spreading quickly.

Betty Tisel hard at work in Minneapolis!

Betty Tisel hard at work in Minneapolis!

Super-volunteer Betty Tisel (pictured above), who has been a long-time donor to GroundSpark with her partner, Sarah Farley, is leaving no stone unturned to ensure success. “Imagine these buckets full of cash and check donations,” she says. “Visualize all these tickets being SOLD.” To help fulfill Betty’s dreams, get your tickets!!

I had the pleasure of talking with local radio host Leigh Combs last week about the event. A local teacher, advocate, and GroundSpark supporter, Leigh brought home the need for the Minneapolis community to not only come out to the event, but to start the dialog with young people about their experiences with gender pressures. To listen to the full show, click here. And just this week, I had the chance to talk about the more personal nuances and overall charm of Straightlaced with Todd Melby, a Minneapolis local radio documentarian with KFAI. Todd reminds us that the topic of gender and the pressure to conform affects not only young people, but adults also. You can listen to more of my talk with Todd here.

Please become part of what promises to be an inspiring and interesting community event in Minneapolis! For more information about the event or to sponsor the event please visit the event page. See you there!

One Wedding and a Revolution Featured at 4th Annual Gero-Ed Film Festival



By | Latest News, LGBT, One Wedding and A Revolution, Screenings

One Wedding and a Revolution has been accepted for the 4th Annual Gero-Ed Film Festival held at the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Annual Program Meeting. The festival features films that show positive images of older adults or that highlight aging issues.

Since 2006 the Gero-Ed Film Festival, which is sponsored by the CSWE Gero-Ed Center, has introduced social work educators, students, and leaders to important films, such as One Wedding and a Revolution. With remarkable footage of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, long-time lesbian activists, marrying on their 51st anniversary, this film demonstrates that marriage equality affects people of all ages.

GroundSpark looks forward to having our film featured again this year!

Camp Buddy From 30 Years Ago Sparks Change In Greensboro, NC



By | Screenings, Straightlaced

[vPIP class=”hVlogTarget” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” onclick=”vPIPPlay(this, ‘height=240, name=STLPremiere_VideoFootage, flv=true’, ‘bufferlength=5’, ”); return false;”]North Carolina Straightlaced Premiere!

Audience reactions to the Greensboro, NC premiere of
Straightlaced — How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up.
Join our Straightlaced group on facebook!

In the 1970s, I was a counselor at Camp Rim Rock in Yellow Springs, West Virginia. In 1977, the last year I was there, I was an assistant head of the camp along with a young woman named Annette Green. I never thought I would see her again, but last week we reconnected for the first time.

Turns out that Annette got married to her high school sweetheart David, and moved to North Carolina to raise a family with him. She became a teacher and taught for 20 years in a relatively progressive school in Greensboro. And then she got involved in local efforts to get schools to address anti-gay prejudice. She came across our Respect for All Project films, recognized my name as one of her old camp buddies, and got in touch.

Read the rest of this post…