Posts Tagged ‘Screenings’

Groundspark Launches First Ever Respect for All Institute; Educators Applaud Hands-On Workshop



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

rfap-training-smOne by one, rocks with words like courage, humor and perseverance began to pile up. The participants of the first-ever Respect for All Institute introduced themselves, and brought these stones, on which they had written their strengths, to a common table. This activity, “We Rock,” was just the first of many that would build attendees’ skills, capacity and leadership to address bias, deal with bullying dynamics, support diverse students and families, and thereby help all students succeed.

Just like the Institute brought together a group of dedicated participants – teachers-in-training, seasoned educators and administrators, school counselors, curriculum planners and social workers – and their many assets, for the first time Groundspark brings together all of the nationally celebrated films in the Respect for All series in a two day intensive institute.

While we have offered workshops and professional development about important issues such as family diversity, prejudice, bias and bullying, and the pressures young people face around issues of gender and sexual orientation, since 1992, this new Respect for All Institute brings together all of these subjects in a comprehensive training for educators and other adults working with youth.

“This program allows me to be a change agent in my communities, both professionally and personally,” praised one of 35 educators and school staff, who attended this pilot program hosted at the University of Connecticut and in partnership with the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER).

“Groundspark’s films and guide books provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss challenging topics. I also appreciate the hands-on approach to work with and respond to the diverse constituencies in my school,” she continued.

Groundspark’s approach to creating safe and inclusive schools is about modeling safety and inclusiveness and cultivating a positive, energizing, and hopeful tone in all of our efforts. “I enjoyed the different activities that allowed us to meet other people, role-play and simply be in a vulnerable room where we could all share and relate to our experiences,” offered another participant.

In this environment, participants found that they could more easily explore how identity-based bias manifests and is perpetuated in many areas of school life, laying the foundation for bullying, harassment and violence of all kinds. “I am taking away realizations that bias is all around whether regarding race, culture, family structure or gender,” another educator reflected at the end our work together, “I have to be a leader and teach my faculty about addressing these biases.”

After viewing That’s A Family, participants were invited to draw what a family meant to them. As each shared their drawings, some with laughter and others with tears, the group realized how the definition of family could be a broad one. Raised by a single mom and growing up on her own, one educator realized how her own academic achievement was connected to her family experience and how recognizing the strengths and needs of all families would impact her own students. A light bulb went off as another participant pointed out that even the name; “Parent-Teacher Conference” was not welcoming to the constellations of family members that support some of her students.

Later in the workshop, participants practiced applying the principles of inclusion and safety ideas to students dealing with issues of race and sexual orientation from Let’s Get Real, by brainstorming strategies and solutions they could implement at an institutional level to support similar students at their own schools.

At the end of two full days, educators and administrators devised actionable individual and community plans to take back to their own schools. We hope that leaving the institute with a concrete road map – complete with due dates, strategies for working with colleagues for mutual support and follow-up steps – will springboard inspiration and new learning into powerful action.

One teacher said, “While my school climate is far from perfect, I feel confident that we have an abundance of resources, especially people to make it an inclusive community. I am encouraged by the words and ideas of my colleagues and others who do the work I do. I feel more people share my values than I thought.”

Leaving our first Respect for All Project Institute, participants were excited and empowered to make their schools a place where students and teachers have respect for all. I shared in their excitement and can’t wait to bring this new, comprehensive model to more educators across the country in 2014! We will be hosting a Respect for All Institute in the Bay Area in the Fall of 2014 – let us know if you would like to participate!

 

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.

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!

Straightlaced at Frameline in San Francisco



By | Straightlaced
The SF crowd anxiously awaits the screening of Straightlaced.

The SF crowd anxiously awaits the screening of Straightlaced.

Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up screened at the Roxie Theater last Friday to a sold out crowd at Frameline 33: San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival! With a mixed crowd of film lovers, educators, Debra Chasnoff fans, and youth, the film was received warmly at it’s West Coast film festival premiere. Read the rest of this post…

Frameline 33 Screens STRAIGHTLACED



By | Straightlaced

This Friday, June 26 at 6:00 PM, as part of Frameline33 –  San Francisco’s LGBT Film Festival, Director Debra Chasnoff and Producer Sue Chen will be at the Roxie Theater for a local San Francisco screening of Straightlaced

NOTE: On Frameline’s website, the show is listed as SOLD OUT, but rush tickets are available! If you come to the door a half hour or so early and tell the box office to put you on the standby list, you will probably get in, as some unused tickets will become available. Q & A with director and producer after feature. See you there!

Straightlaced Brings Visibility to Safe Schools Efforts in Kansas



By | Straightlaced

Anne Mitchell, of Equality Kansas, sent us the following message after hosting two Straightlaced screenings in south-west Kansas:

Screening Straightlaced in Garden City and Dodge City, Kansas was so exciting, and brought together over 50 educators, youth, and activists. This was the first time we have hosted a proactive event, instead of being reactive to negative situations we hear about.

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Straightlaced Sparks Change in Chicago



By | Straightlaced

This past Tuesday over a hundred diverse community leaders, educators, and youth joined GroundSpark staff at the Chicago premiere of Straightlaced. Following marriage victories in Iowa and Vermont, change was in the air, and people entered the screening already feeling the desire to make a difference in their own community.

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



By | Screenings, Straightlaced

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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.

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Straightlaced: San Francisco World Premiere!



By | Straightlaced

Last month was a milestone for me and everyone here at GroundSpark. We had the world premiere of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up in San Francisco! We literally finished the film at midnight the night before. And, as with the debut of all of our other films, I was a bit of a nervous wreck sitting in the audience, wondering how the 750 people in the packed house would respond.

Check out some of these highlights from the night:

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Click the above image to start the Flash Video

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