Thursday, December 19, 2013

Film on transgender lives wins CSWE 2013 Audience Choice Award.

The documentary Trans (Chris Arnold, director; Mark Schoen, producer) has won the CSWE 2013 Audience Choice Award from the CSWE 2013 Film Festival, based on audience rankings of the films. Read the press release here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Honorees from Seattle's Social Justice Film Festival.

The Seattle Social Justice Film Festival recently awarded prizes to films featured in the 2013 festival. The honorees include:

* Director's Choice Award: Mothers of Bedford (dir. Jenifer McShane). Documentary on five incarcerated mothers seeking a better future for themselves, their children, and their families.

* Bronze Jury Prize - Feature: American Heart (dir. Chris Newberry). Film on a Minnesota primary care clinic serving refugee patients.

* Bronze Jury Prize - Short: Real Change (dir. Adam Becker). Film on homelessness.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Behind the Screen: Conceiving Family.

Note: To coincide with November's National Adoption Month, Moving Pictures presents Canadian filmmaker Amy Bohigian explaining the background to her film Conceiving Family, which follows five same-sex couples on their adoption journey.

When my partner made the initial call to Canada's Ministry of Family and Child Development to express our interest in starting the adoption process, one of the first questions the social worker had was “what is the name of your husband?” She didn’t have a husband. We are a same-sex couple, and this was our first impression of the adoption process. Backtracking, the social worker explained they don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when it comes to these matters.

Once we were firmly committed to adopting through British Columbia’s provincial system, we were given a more honest assessment from another social worker. She explained that in her experience, “heterosexual couples are the most sought after families for kids” she was looking to place in a home. Still, even as gays and lesbians were winning the right to marry in Canada and the United States, we were not the ideal family for adoptive children.

When my partner and I were in the running for a potential match with toddler twins, we felt fortunate to have a social worker with a social history in the feminism movement. She didn’t see our pending family unit as another liability for kids facing the adversity that adoption would inevitably bring. She perceived our life experience of being a minority as an asset, where, having faced prejudice and overcome discrimination, we would be well equipped to navigate our children through similar moments.

I made Conceiving Family to tell the story of families who all faced setbacks in the adoption process because of their sexual orientation, but who ultimately broke through people’s fears and opened new doors in society as a result. My hope is that social workers from all aspects of the profession will embrace and champion this film so that waiting children can find loving, permanent families without a moment’s hesitation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Scottish Assn for Mental Health: Know Where to Go campaign.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health's Know Where to Go campaign aims to encourage people experiencing mental health issues to seek help. This initiative includes short films with personal perspectives on treatment and the value of support from loved ones. One film features actor-comedian Stephen Fry discussing his bipolar disorder and the need to combat stigma associated with mental illness; he serves as president of the UK mental health charity Mind.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Behind the Screen: Straightlaced.

Teens confront gender stereotypes in Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up, which will be shown during the CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, TX, on November 1. See below for a peek at the making of the film (featuring Academy Award-winning director Debra Chasnoff and producer Sue Chen). View or download the film festival schedule here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Preview of CSWE 2013 Film Festival.

See a preview of the films that will be featured in the CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas on November 1-3, 2013. Anna Radev, program director of the nonprofit organization Children of Domestic Violence, will answer questions after the two screenings of the film The Children Next Door during the festival.View or download the film festival schedule here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Behind the Screen:
Hidden Pictures—The Underexposed World of Mental Health

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the November 1-3, 2013, CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Coinciding with today's World Mental Health Day, filmmaker and physician Delaney Ruston explains below the background of her film Hidden Pictures: The Underexposed World of Mental Health, which seeks to show the treatment of mental illness across national boundaries.

Delaney Ruston
As a daughter of a man with schizophrenia and as a doctor working with the underserved, I experienced firsthand the painful consequences arising from the silence, frustration, and stigma surrounding mental illness in the United States. I documented my father’s story in the PBS film Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia.  In doing so, I personally experienced the power that film can have to spark conversations that can catalyze change.

Then one day I read something that shocked me. The World Health Organization reports that approximately 450 million people suffer from mental illness such as autism, depression, dementia, and many others. Why, I wondered, was this global situation never discussed? Why were there few books and not one documentary on this topic? Could global stories caught on film lead to improved understanding and less stigma locally and globally? The overwhelming number given by the WHO led me to decide it was worth a try. I made my way to India, South Africa, China, and France to seek out stories. Little did I know the obstacles I would face.

At several points I nearly abandoned this project because the stigma of mental illness has driven these stories underground. Imagine, for example, the challenge of getting an Indian family to participate when they did not even reveal the truth about their daughter’s schizophrenia within their own extended family. I was often filming alone, which posed challenges. In the end, however, this probably led people to open up more than had a crew been present.

Ultimately, those who did share their lives in Hidden Pictures opened my eyes in new ways. It was heartbreaking to hear about the immensity of the problem and the paucity of mental health care as well as the widespread disregard for human rights.

At the same time, witnessing the resilient spirits of these individuals and their families kept my hope alive.  Filming families and individuals who have become public advocates was the best part of my journey. Viewers will see a schoolteacher fostering incredible empathy in her students, and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D–RI) and actress Glenn Close speaking frankly about their family struggles and their determination to fight stigma. In the end Hidden Pictures shows the universality of our shared experience and the power of our collective efforts to reduce suffering worldwide.

I firmly believe that documentary film is not “the answer” but rather “the beginning.” It is a tool to begin dialogue that is motivated from the thing most powerful of all—our emotions. It is only through emotions that we ever become motivated to learn more, change our attitudes, and take action.

It is my hope that the combined force of all the stories in this film will inspire viewers to share with others whatever they take away from Hidden Pictures. It is through this sharing that the cycle of silence will be stopped and that all of the heartbreaking hidden pictures of mental illness will be transformed into public portraits of awareness, acceptance and recovery.

Update, 1/7/2015: Free CSWE film study guide for Hidden Pictures now available.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside receives CSWE Virtual Ovation Award.

Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside, the domestic sex-trafficking documentary produced by a team from University of Texas at San Antonio, has received the CSWE Virtual Ovation Award. The documentary, produced as part of an Advanced Policy class, was one of nine films selected for CSWE's first virtual film festival, which featured student-produced films related to social work.

Behind Closed Doors will be shown at CSWE's Annual Program Meeting in Dallas on Saturday, November 2 at 5 p.m. in the Hilton Anatole's Metropolitan Ballroom. Following the film, film team member Robert Ambrosino will answer questions.

Behind the Screen: GrandParenting

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, sharing the stories behind the making of their films. As today is the UN's International Day of Older Persons, Canadian filmmaker Karen Shopsowitz explains below the background of her film GrandParenting, which seeks to show the many issues faced by grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

It started a few summers ago when I was working on another documentary, One Summer at Camp Winston, about a camp for kids with neurological disorders located a couple of hours north of Toronto. While I was there, Denise, the camp director, introduced me to Peter and Elaine, whose 12-year-old grandson, Larry, was a frequent visitor to the camp. Denise explained that Peter and Elaine had been raising Larry since he was a baby. Peter, Elaine, and Denise began to tell me a bit more about the idea of grandparents raising grandchildren, with the children’s parents often completely or mostly out of the picture. Reasons for this situation ranged from physical and mental disorders to drug or alcohol dependencies that made it difficult or impossible for the birth parents to care for their children.

Once I had returned home, I started to do some research, and the numbers that came up were staggering: some 20,000 in Ontario and tens of thousands more across Canada who were being cared for by their grandparents. The figures were even higher in the United States.

Camp Winston had scheduled a support weekend for grandparents that May, so I headed up to the camp with my camera. I sat in on a few of the workshops, spending some time with a group of grandchildren who shared stories of early life with their birth parents and their subsequent life with their grandparents. I also heard deeply moving stories from grandmothers and grandfathers—the pride they had as well as the difficulties they now encountered. One grandmother, Betty, told me how she had been raising her granddaughter, Asheleigh, for the past 16 years—in effect, nearly since Asheleigh was born.

As word spread at the camp that I was eager to talk to grandparents, I soon had more than a dozen people crammed into the living room of one of the camp cabins. The stories were emotional, inspiring, difficult, and heart-wrenching. These grandparents talked of financial and physical issues; the strains and pressures of raising infants, toddlers, and teenagers. At least one woman cried as she confessed that she often wondered if her granddaughter wouldn’t have been better off if she had been adopted; however, deep down, she felt she’d done the right thing. Another woman explained that she’d adopted her grandchild with her husband; he passed away a few years later, leaving her, now in her 70s, to raise this young grandchild as a single grandmother. In spite of the tears, there was also a lot of laughter, and the typical boasting that comes when a group of parents (or, in this case, grandparents) gather together to talk about their children.

I left the weekend knowing that this was a film I really wanted to make—that it was important to show what happens when grandparents step in to care for their grandchildren—in a way that goes against the stereotypical view of doting elders spoiling their young charges. Grandparents and grandchildren talked about the hardships and the things they both missed by living this new reality, but they also talked about what they had gained.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Behind the Screen: I Remember Better When I Paint.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Filmmaker Berna Huebner explains below the background of the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, which seeks to illustrate the positive impact of the creative arts on people with Alzheimer’s disease.

This documentary shows how the creative arts can improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer's disease. The film demonstrates the intersection among the arts, medicine, and the scientific world and helps people gain a different perception and understanding of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the only disease in the top 10 causes of fatalities with no prevention, cure, or way to slow the progression. This documentary asks: What recourse exists for the millions of people who suffer from this disease? Scientists have discovered that Alzheimer’s normally spares, to a large extent, the parts of the brain related to emotions, creativity, and creative expression. Neurologists—including several who are interviewed in the documentary—recognize the benefits of creative therapies. Nonetheless, only a small percentage of care facilities are making effective use of these approaches, and the film urges that an effort now be made to share these positive approaches and hopeful possibilities.

The documentary grew out of a poignant moment that occurred when I was visiting my mother, Hilda Gorenstein, at a nursing home in Chicago in the 1990s. My mother had been a distinguished artist under the name of Hilgos, and she now had Alzheimer's. I asked her: “Mom, do you want to paint?” She, who dejectedly had stopped her creative work, responded: “Yes, I remember better when I paint.” With those words, I enlisted art students to work with my mother, and she began to paint again, emerging from apathy and agitation. In painting, she regained some of her capacity for communication and much of her dignity. She continued painting for almost 4 years until her death at age 93.

The documentary is narrated by actress Olivia de Havilland and features a moving interview with Yasmin Aga Kahn, whose mother, actress Rita Hayworth, found comfort in painting as an individual with early onset Alzheimer’s. International experts (as well as those with the disease, family members, and caregivers of all ages) appear in the film. Among those experts are Dr. Robert N. Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging (NIH), and Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

The film is a joint production of French Connection Films and the Hilgos Foundation with the support of the French film board and private donors.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Behind the Screen: Nickel City Smiler.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, who will share the stories behind the making of their films. Filmmaker Scott Murchie talks below about the issues that resonated for him before, during, and after the making of Nickel City Smiler, a film about the plight of refugees in America's Rust Belt.

Photo courtesy of CEP Films
I met Smiler Greely in spring 2008 and soon became aware of the extraordinary struggle and hardship he and the Karen people endured as victims of the cruel Burmese military regime. Smiler has seen and experienced violence and inhuman conditions that most of us would consider a nightmare: People have been raped and slaughtered, and their villages burned. Survivors are chased across the border into Thailand. This had been life for the Karen people and other ethnic minorities in Burma for the last six decades. After fleeing to Thailand, Smiler was at the mercy of a refugee camp for more than 20 years—confined from the outside world, dependent on rationed food, and left without hope.

Fortunately, in 2008 Smiler and his family were selected to resettle to America with hope for a peaceful life and a chance to succeed. Sadly, their dreams of a new life in the United States were met with many challenges. Refugees are placed into poverty and dangerous neighborhoods where they continue to face the violence and discrimination they sought to leave behind. There are many individuals and groups willing to help, including ESL teachers, community churches, and nongovernmental organizations, but many times they are limited by their resources.

I felt compelled to give the refugees a voice by filming from their point of view over a 6-month period. Nickel City Smiler documents the refugees’ hardship and their incredible determination to one day live in peace and ensure a better future for their children.

Please watch Nickel City Smiler with an open mind, as we did while filming. Refugees are not looking for handouts; they are looking for a peaceful life, a chance to succeed, and a smile.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Last chance to vote: CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

The CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival closes tomorrow, so this is the last chance to vote on the nine films selected. The festival’s student-produced films focus on areas such as cross-cultural adoption, disability, LGBT issues, refugees, sexual abuse, and suicide. The winner of the Virtual Ovation Award—the top-ranked film of the festival, as determined by the audience—will receive a $500 prize.

How to Participate
  1. Sign into or register for Google+
  2. Go to "Communities"
  3. Search for "CSWE Film Festivals" and click on the Film Festival logo
  4. Click on "Ask to Join"
Once you are a member of the community, you will be able to view the films and complete the rating sheets online.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Twitter chats for CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

Filmmaker Bianca Morris
The next Twitter chat for the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival is scheduled for Thursday, August 29, at 8 pm EST with Bianca Morris, filmmaker of Got You (on suicide). Use the hashtag #SWUnited.

You can read transcripts from previous Twitter chats with the following filmmakers:

* Jen Ackerman, Insight to Strengths (LGBT)
* Moges Tafesse, A Season for Dancing (on intercountry adoption)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Behind the Screen: Insight to Strengths.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience. 

Filmmaker Jen Ackerman
Filmmaker Jen Ackerman explains below the genesis of her film Insights to Strengths, which sought to illuminate perspectives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals on what it means to be different (and read the transcript from the August 15 Twitter chat with Ackerman).

The strengths perspective framework is the backbone of social work theory. To take one’s hardships, obstacles, and misfortunes and focus on the positive brings about the kind of change that can actually last. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender population is a community I call home. This documentary came about because I saw a lack of celebration for the strengths that come with this community. I was finding that much of media exposure for the LGBT population focuses on the negatives and unfortunate challenges. Although these are important to remember, there also are amazing qualities and characteristics to bring into the spotlight. My hope for this documentary was to highlight the strengths gained from the losses and barriers that come with an identity that strays from the majority.

I interviewed more than 15 men and women from the Orlando and Tampa areas to hear their stories. I want this documentary to reshape the way being different is viewed. I want others to see what I see--being who you are makes you unique and from that comes strengths and resiliency. I grew up in an environment of strict Catholicism and conservatism. I was taught through my schooling that being different is a flaw and that identifying as “gay” or “lesbian” was just out of the question. A big part of making this film was working on my own self-negativity toward my sexuality and finally breaking through the years of prejudice I survived. I am so proud of how this film turned out.

This film was created through the eyes of a social work student to spread the beauty and power of the strengths perspective.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Behind the Screen: A Season for Dancing.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience. 

Filmmaker Moges Tafesse, right, with crew
at the party celebrating Meseret's arrival
Filmmaker Moges Tafesse explains below the process for capturing the story of 16-year-old adoptee Meseret as he reclaimed his cultural heritage with the support of his American father.

A Season for Dancing chronicles 16-year-old Meseret’s journey with Marcus, his adoptive father from Georgia, toward personal healing, restoring relationships with family and childhood friends, redeeming his cultural identity, and achieving his dreams for the future.

Director-writer Moges Tafesse (MSW, PhD) runs a small firm in Ethiopia engaged in the production of short films, documentaries, and TV programs. When he worked for a adoption organization that connects Ethiopian children with families in France, he observed the plight of adoptees who were disconnected from their family, culture, and language and came back to Ethiopia to see their family and culture but ended up feeling desperate and alienated. During his MSW and PhD courses "Practice With Children and Families" and "Action Research," Moges sensed the gravity of the issue of intercountry adoption. He thought of making a short documentary film on adoption using the principles of action research as a way to highlight the issues.

In 2011 Marco Orsini, president of the International Film Talents Association in France, recommended that Moges produce a film on a family traveling to Ethiopia. Moges resolved to take the assignment with an open mind, avoid hasty generalizations about intercountry adoption, yet seek examples that might show that connecting adoptees with their home country and culture makes them more fulfilled human beings.

Preproduction began with an extensive assessment of Meseret’s life in Georgia, then a tentative production script was prepared. Production was performed in 45 days, following a chronological order of Meseret’s life that sought to capture a period of 5 years. Postproduction took 6 months. The main challenge was production costs. An online fund-raising campaign was attempted but was unsuccessful, so Marcus and Moges covered the production costs.

Meseret’s story challenges many commonly held stereotypes and misconceptions about orphans and street children, illustrating their potential for brilliance when adequately nurtured and given the opportunity to shine. Another theme of the documentary is Marcus’s desire to connect with parts of Meseret that had been closed to him, thereby strengthening their bond as father and son. The film endeavors to see the world from Meseret’s point of view.

Read the transcript of the August 8, 2013, Twitter chat with filmmaker Moges Tafesse.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Official Selection, CSWE 2013 Film Festival

CSWE announces the Official Selection for the CSWE 2013 Film Festival, which will be held at the 59th Annual Program Meeting in Dallas on October 31-November 3, 2013. Some of the topics to be covered include aging, domestic abuse, LGBT, mental health, parenthood, and refugees.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Behind the Screen: Finding Refuge.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience.

Maya Navon, a member of the Tufts team for Finding Refuge, explains below the genesis for the film and the inspiring example of refugee Mani.

Finding Refuge emerged from an extremely challenging, yet enormously life-changing, college class. When we three filmmakers of Finding Refuge entered the course “Producing Films for Social Change,” we had no idea that we were about to begin an emotionally charged, fast-paced, and eye-opening period of our lives. In September 2012, we did not know how to use a camera, edit a clip, or even write a treatment.  Over the course of 3.5 months, we learned each and every aspect of creating a film, from the research stage to post-production, and emerged with a 20-minute piece that we were proud to share.

The idea for Finding Refuge stemmed from a class discussion about the topic of refugees. Armed with this very broad topic, we preceded to contact various refugee organizations. After weeks of trying to find just the right niche in this realm, we finally made a breakthrough with the connection to Natasha Soolkin, director of the New American Center in Lynn, MA. We knew that we wanted to focus on refugee resettlement in the United States, and in particular, the various challenges and triumphs that newly resettled refugees face when they arrive in the United States. However, we also knew that this topic would have no impact without a personal story. We knew we needed a refugee to share his or her experiences and that it would be no small feat to find someone. Luckily, Natasha had just the person for us who would bring a voice to this issue: Mani.

Once we connected with Mani, the documentary finally took shape. We spent countless hours interviewing Mani and his family, touring his home and office, and getting a glimpse into his new American life. We also spoke to a wide variety of experts and workers in the field of refugee resettlement to gain a broader understanding of the journey from a place of turmoil to a new life in the United States. In a few months, we had our final product, a piece that shed light on refugee resettlement through the story of one courageous, hard-working, and resilient man.

Our connection with Mani extended far beyond filmmaker and subject. He touched our lives with his story and made us realize the true meaning of strength. After spending 17 years in a refugee camp, Mani managed to keep his spirit and his thirst for success alive. The perpetual smile on his face reminded us to always stay positive, even in the face of hardship.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Behind the Screen: Behind Closed Doors--Voices From the Inside.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience. 

Robert Ambrosino, one of the team members of Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside, discusses below the challenges involved in producing the film

Robert Ambrosino
Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside is a feature-length documentary on domestic minor sex-trafficking (DMST) produced by master's-level graduate students enrolled in the summer 2011 Advanced Policy class in the Department of Social Work at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Each of the courses in the UTSA Social Work Program has a master competency assignment; the competency assignment for the Advanced Policy course is to develop and implement a social welfare policy campaign that involves at least one community partner (in this case, a community mental health services agency that was large and quasi-public). Students choose the topic to be addressed by the campaign (DMST), the type of campaign to be used (public awareness), the target group(s) addressed by the campaign (general community), and the methodology used to carry out the campaign (video documentary).

DMST was selected as the topic for the campaign for the following reasons: 
  • the locale of Interstate I-10, which crosses Texas, is a major conduit for DMST, and runs through San Antonio;
  • the need to dispel myths about DMST among members of the general community;
  • the desire to build on the work of a senior state senator from San Antonio who has worked tirelessly on passing legislation aimed at preventing and eradicating DMST; and
  • the availability of a key informant who had direct access to current and former victims of DMST.
Although there was a high level of enthusiasm among members of the class to undertake the making of the documentary, no one (including the course instructor) had any experience in creating such a product. The students’ social networks were tapped to identify a videographer who was willing to work with class members on a pro-bono basis to produce the documentary. A young, untested videographer with a limited portfolio but a passion for social justice offered his time and talents to help make the documentary. The class had 10 weeks in which to produce the video. The informant provided access to current and former victims of DMST, all of whom were interviewed, but only some agreed to be included in the documentary. Several nights a week (and occasionally on a weekend), students accompanied the informant into parts of the community where DMST could be found. The class instructor used his contacts to secure interviews with individuals and organizations in the community who were engaged in a variety of efforts to prevent and eradicate DMST. Approximately 100 hours of video footage were shot.  

There were a number of challenges associated with making the documentary. First and foremost was ensuring the privacy rights of the current and former victims of DMST who agreed to be in the documentary. A related challenge was protecting victims of DMST who agreed to be in the documentary from retaliation by their traffickers. There also was the daunting task of completing the project in such a short time. It was extremely difficult to hear the stories of teenage girls, some of whom had been trafficked since they were as young as 8 years old or forced by their parents into life as a sex slave (familial trafficking). Equally difficult were the stories of adult DMST survivors who bore long-lasting emotional scars of being trafficked and had lives filled with violent relationships, drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration. It is noteworthy that one woman who had been interviewed and agreed to appear in the documentary was found dead in a motel room under suspicious circumstances before the film was released (the film is dedicated to her memory). On several occasions, the students were confronted with the possibility of physical harm as a result of being in parts of the community in which they clearly did not belong and attempting to speak with people with whom they were not supposed to speak. It is important to point out, however, that student safety was of paramount importance, and never were students allowed to enter a situation where their well-being was clearly compromised.

The main relevance of this work for social work instructors is that it provides a transformational learning experience that simply cannot be found in the classroom. Students set the learning agenda for the class. The instructor ensures a safe space for playing out that agenda. Students are afforded the opportunity to gain knowledge about policy advocacy through a compelling real-life experience.

Update. Behind Closed Doors: Voices From the Inside has received the CSWE Virtual Ovation Award. The film will be shown at CSWE's Annual Program Meeting in Dallas on Saturday, November 2, at 5 p.m. in the Hilton Anatole's Metropolitan Ballroom, followed by a Q&A with Ambrosino.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Behind the Screen: Pieces of the Soul.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience. 

Filmmaker Spencer Sullivan discusses below the background to Pieces of the Soul, his film on Utah artist Matt Clark. 

Filmmaker Spencer Sullivan
I was introduced to Matt Clark, the subject of my film, because I was dating his niece. The first time I met him, I felt like he was an old friend. His house had many unique sculptures inside and outside. I was intrigued how a man in a wheelchair, who had limited use of his hands, was able to create such beautiful masterpieces out of metal, some quite large. A few weeks later, I approached Matt and asked if I could make a film of his life story. He consented.

The film, which took 2 years to make, was my senior capstone project while I was pursuing my degree of digital motion picture production at Dixie State University.

One of the most memorable moments during the film came nearly a year and a half into the project. Matt was comfortable with me being around and constantly having a camera on him. One day, he discussed the many frustrations of his life and how differently people treated him for being in a wheelchair. It became a major piece of the film when he was able to convey his true feelings and frustrations and show how he had to learn through time to define himself. He created his own meaning of life through his experiences.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Behind the Screen: Got You.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films, participate in online conversations with the filmmakers, and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience.

Filmmaker Bianca Morris discusses below the background to Got Youher film about a mother contemplating suicide. Join Morris for a Twitter chat on her film on Thursday, August 29 at 8 pm EST; hashtag #SWUnited.

Filmmaker Bianca Morris
When I was growing up, my mother was my everything. She is a beautiful woman, a caring mother, and an extremely hard worker. My father was never around, and I have no brothers or sisters, so it was just my mother and me. 

I noticed my mother was often sad, so often that it was certainly depression. As a child, I didn’t know what to do about it. I would try to make her proud by doing well in school and trying to not pester her at home, but her sadness never seemed to go away. She struggled to keep up with the bills, attend college courses at night, and work as a teacher’s assistant during the day. She would constantly let me know that I was not the cause of her sadness, but all that meant to me was that I couldn’t do anything to help her, even though I so desperately wanted to.

Along with the need to cure her came a wave of anxiety that stayed with me even to this day. I constantly worried about what would happen if my mother got so sad that she would decide to run away and never return, or even worse, kill herself. I often make films about my life, usually for the relief of getting it out of my system, and Got You was no different. Making this film was somewhat of a personal therapy for me. My hope is that it will touch audiences and lift stigma about depression, anxiety, and suicide.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Participate in the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

You can now view, rank, and discuss the nine films selected for the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival. The festival’s student-produced films focus on areas such as cross-cultural adoption, disability, LGBT issues, refugees, sexual abuse, and suicide. The winner of the Virtual Ovation Award—the top-ranked film of the festival, as determined by the audience—will receive a $500 prize.

How to Participate
  1. Sign into or register for Google+
  2. Go to "Communities"
  3. Search for "CSWE Film Festivals" and click on the Film Festival logo
  4. Click on "Ask to Join"
Once you are a member of the community, you will be able to view the films and complete the rating sheets online as well as participate in conversations with the filmmakers. The festival will run until September 6.

Questions? E-mail CSWE.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Behind Closed Doors (CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival).

In this June 21 piece, the UT-San Antonio mentions the inclusion of the sex-trafficking documentary Behind Closed Doors in the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

Want to see the films in the festival and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award? E-mail us.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Behind the Screen: Transgression

Daniel Rotman describes the making of Transgression, which relates the plight of Norma, a transgender individual who fled Mexico for the United States and encountered issues that involved both her immigration status and her gender. Transgression was featured in the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

Team Transgression (left to right):
Toni Marzal, T. J. Barber, Morgan Hargrave, Daniel Rotman 
The story of how Transgression came together began in summer 2011. Film co-director Daniel Rotman had a fellowship (funded by the Traub-Dicker Fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy) with Immigration Equality, an organization that provides legal assistance and advocacy for LGBT individuals. At the culmination of the fellowship, he needed to write a long thesis about a policy issue he encountered at Immigration Equality. While working with the organization, Daniel came across the stories of numerous transgender clients who were battling for asylum in the United States.  When Daniel returned to Harvard at the end of the fellowship, he came up with an idea: create a documentary to showcase the plight of transgender detainees as a more effective and powerful educational piece. With the permission of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, he proceeded with planning for the documentary. 

He entered a competition at Harvard Law School's Documentary Studio Lab, which funds amateur documentary projects. Harvard Law had just launched the campus-wide competition to encourage amateur documentary filmmakers to film a short documentary on a policy issue. Transgression was chosen as one of the finalists and received support both in funding and the use of film equipment to create the documentary. Daniel approached his close friend and colleague, Morgan Hargrave, to join the team as a writer/co-director. Harvard Law Studio matched Daniel and Morgan with T. J. Barber, an experienced editor completing his freshman year at Harvard, and Toni Marzal, a writer completing a master’s program at Harvard Law School. The team received the support of Immigration Equality to focus the documentary on one of its clients, Norma, and the crew went to New York to film over the course of the week. Post-production took 2 months as the crew managed full-time school schedules.

Due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, it was difficult to maintain a balance of getting the full scope and depth of the story while respecting the pain felt by Norma as she recalled her experience. It was surprising to see the openness and fearlessness of Norma in telling her story, despite her difficult memories.  Despite her courage, Team Transgression tried to exercise caution with regard to revealing anything that would jeopardize Norma's immigration status. Fortunately, there was little that the team needed to avoid including in the film.

Update, 12/16/14: New, free film study guide for Transgression from CSWE. To order the film, contact Daniel Rotman.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Contest for short films on mental health.

The nonprofit organization Art with Impact offers a monthly contest for mental health films that have a maximum length of 5 minutes. A $1,000 prize is presented for each winning film. There is no entry fee, and the next submission deadline is June 30.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Join the conversation: CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

Hungry for more than clips from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival? See the full films produced by students and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award, which will be presented to the top-rated film in the festival (including a $500 prize). Here's how you can view, vote, and discuss the films. The festival will run until September 6.

Hurry, submission deadline approaching: CSWE 2013 Film Festival.

Friday, June 7, 2013, is the last day to submit films related to social work for consideration for the CSWE 2013 Film Festival. The festival will be held at the Council on Social Work Education’s Annual Program Meeting in Dallas, TX, from October 31-November 3, 2013. The following links may be useful:
Not sure if a film is suitable? Review the Official Selection for the CSWE 2012 Film Festival and the Official Selection for the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival.

Have questions? Contact us


Welcome to CSWE's new blog Moving Pictures, which seeks to promote dialogue on films that can enhance social work teaching and learning. Films selected for CSWE's film festivals will be highlighted.