We are excited to announce the 2016-2017 Fledgling Engagement Lab projects. Each of these nine films has significant potential to make impact, a dedicated team and a commitment to collaboration. We look forward to working with them over the next year.
A Better Man
Attiya Khan, Co-Writer and Co-Director
Christine Kleckner, Producer
22 years ago, a teenaged girl ran through the streets — battered, bruised and frightened for her life. Today she sits in a cafe with the man she fought to escape. As a counselor and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, Attiya wants to know if her ex-boyfriend’s accountability can lead them through a process of recovery and healing. The anger she once felt toward her ex-boyfriend gave way to a desire to understand the reasons behind his behaviour. For his part, her ex-boyfriend was still struggling with what he’d done and with the person he used to be. So when Attiya asked him to sit down and talk on camera about their shared history of domestic violence, he agreed. A Better Man is premised on the conviction that deepening our understanding of ability to rehabilitate men who have used violence could make a significant impact on the incidence of violence against women.
Michael Collins, Director
Marty Syjuco, Producer
Suicide among veterans has reached epidemic proportions and is often the result of what mental health professionals call “moral injury” – the transgression of deeply held beliefs during wartime. Former soldiers Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, haunted by their own combat experiences, take a 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption, acceptance and a way to close the moral chasm opened by war. Almost Sunrise documents their journey and the healing lessons they learn along the way. The vision of the Almost Sunrise impact campaign is to support all veterans on their paths to healing. The campaign will leverage community and theatrical screenings, artist engagements and a POV broadcast to change the narrative to challenge harmful stereotypes about veterans returning from war and promote veteran wellness through holistic practices.
Jonathan Skurnik, Director and Producer
Becoming Johanna is a half-hour documentary that tells the story of a transgender Latina teen who is thrown out of several different Los Angeles high schools after fighting back against peer and teacher ridicule of her emerging transgender identity. When she finally finds an alternative school that accepts her identity and she begins her estrogen treatments, Johanna’s deeply religious, immigrant Guatemalan mother forces her out of the house. Despite the tremendous obstacles Johanna faces, she manages to navigate and survive her unique gender journey. At a time when gender nonconforming youth are being bullied and committing suicide at unprecedented numbers, Becoming Johanna will deepen the national dialogue on trans youth and increase compassion and understanding for all children, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum of gender identity and expression.
Liz Norton, Director and Producer
Melissa Rogers, Associate Producer
In 2014, 22 teams in Washington, DC applied for the first local round of the Next Generation Leadership Challenge, a national contest that challenges educators to develop completely new or redesigned schools to meet the challenges of entering the modern workforce. Six teams were chosen to devise radical new ideas to “reinvent” school, with the potential of unlocking hundreds of thousands of dollars for launch and completion. Breakthrough is the story of three of those first six winners – one current DC public school, and two brand new charter schools. They have two years to enact the change they have designed. Breakthrough lifts up the hood of education reform and – by deepening the understanding of both the stakes and the obstacles on the ground – hopes to inspire school districts around the country to never settle until every child gets the education they deserve.
Canary in a Coal Mine
Jennifer Brea, Director and Producer
Laura Vigilante, Impact Producer
Jennifer, a Harvard PhD student, was signing a check at a restaurant when she found she could not write her own name. Months before her wedding, she became progressively more ill, losing the ability even to sit in a wheelchair. When doctors insisted that her condition was psychosomatic, she picked up her camera to document her own story and the stories of four other patients struggling with the world’s most prevalent orphan disease – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, often referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 80% of its sufferers are women.
Deirdre Fishel, Director
Tony Heriza, Producer
Care tells the intimate stories of three overworked and underpaid home care workers and one family struggling to find and pay for eldercare. Following the characters for two years, the film pulls back the curtain on the poignant and largely hidden world of home care. Dedicated and compassionate care workers put in long hours, but can barely make ends meet. At the same time, working families exhaust their life savings paying for care. With frank and deeply moving footage, Care sounds an alarm about an aging population, an exploited work-force, and a care crisis affecting millions of people. Working with a growing national movement, Care will help spark a wide-ranging public conversation about eldercare in America and will support care workers in their struggle for fair wages, dignity and respect.
Rules To Live By
Hope Litoff, Director
Beth Levison, Producer
A few days before December 12, 2008, Hope’s sister Ruth Litoff decorated her Manhattan loft like a beautiful stage set with fifteen suicide notes surrounding her and specially selected gifts for her closest friends. Multiple bowls of cat food were left in case it took a while to find her and every one of her hundreds of markers was in rainbow order. The police officer whispered, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” The film begins on that day Hope found Ruth dead and traces over her fascinating life and work—punctuated by incredible highs and lows and secrets and lies. It follows Hope’s journey as she examines her rich body of artwork, interviews friends and family, and tries to come to terms with my bottomless grief. Ultimately, she hopes that by sharing both her sister’s and her stories, Rules to Live By will help to lift the stigmas of mental illness and suicide, and give survivors an opportunity to find the community, hope, and help that they also need.
Tina Brown, Director and Producer
Dyana Winkler, Director and Producer
United Skates follows an underground subculture growing inside our country’s last standing roller rinks. Through the eyes of two unassuming leaders, Reggie and Phelicia, they battle in a racially charged environment, to save a movement still undiscovered by mainstream America. With skating rinks rapidly closing across the country, these traditionally African American community safe spaces are disappearing. Add the growing mistrust of police and re-ignited racial tensions, the documentary offers a fresh new angle on an age old issue. Screenings will be used as a catalyst to spark dialogue, and encourage communities to repurpose their rinks, creating a constellation of safe spaces, incubators for change and beacons of hope across the country.
Sabaah Jordan, Co-Director and Producer
Christina Hollenback, Co-Producer
The activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice bring you Whose Streets, a documentary about the Ferguson uprising for the people and by the people. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and then left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for residents of St. Louis County. Grief, long-standing tension, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. In the days that follow, artists, musicians, teachers, and parents turn into freedom fighters, standing on the front lines to demand justice. As the national guard descends on Ferguson, a small suburb of St. Louis, with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new wave of resistance. For this generation, the battle is not for civil rights, but for the right to live. The campaign will work with movement partners who this movie honors to help them build broad based support to win sweeping victories around civilian oversight of police and demilitarization of police as well as their local policy and systems change goals while expanding programming to address implicit bias within communities and institutions.