The 2020 Maine Jewish Film Festival is in full swing, and celebrating 23 years by hosting a virtual festival so that film enthusiasts from near and far can watch their program from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Our friends at the Roxbury Internal Film Festival have created a page of COVID-19 related resources. Click here!
Additional COVID-19 resources compiled by WIFVNE, WIFTI, other WIF chapters, as well as other COVID-related news items, can be found in previous News blog posts. Search the word "COVID" in the search box in the footer of this page (look for "enter search string").
Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF) BLIFF kicked off on September 23, 2020 just in time to commemorate the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The event was coordinated by director Sabrina Aviles with the help of volunteers who spent weeks curating a lineup of 32 films created by the Latinx film community for the Latinx community and the world. BLIFF, in light of the unprecedented global situation due to the pandemic, went streaming to accommodate audiences at home. Along with feature documentaries and narratives, the entirely online event showcased a plethora of short film programs, each included four short films in the lineup which were all paid for with a “what you can” fee. These programs were strategically curated, as each had a core message and theme which BLIFF utilized to presented the Latinx community through a wholesome, real, and human lens.
On opening night, the program“El Pueblo Unido” (“The United Town”) became available for viewing. The central theme in this program of films is “People coming together to support each other with a common goal of improving their communities.” The first film in the roster, Boston’s Latin Quarter directed by Monica Cohen encapsulates the core meaning of “El Pueblo Unido.” The documentary focuses on the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain and we meet folks who have been part of the community for decades: Eduardo Vasallo, a Cuban immigrant and owner of the MR. V Auto Parts, and Damaris Pimentel, an immigrant hair salon owner. “For more than 40 years the Latin community has come together to plant a seed of unity in Jamaica Plain. It’s a community that is setting an example of co-living,” Pimentel explains. Co-living is the core of this Latin hub in Boston, as immigrants from all over Latin America cultivated the seed that eventually grew into the resilient community that it is today.
The documentary also highlights the works of Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF), an organization whose mission is to “connect to create a more diverse and equitable Boston.” Celina Miranda, the executive director of HSTF, explains that the program “encourages Latin youth to tap into the Latino music origins and to dive into the history.” The organization creates projects such as the Latin Quarter Fiesta, a celebration of Latin and Afro Latino culture for the Latino youth. Ken Tangvik the Director of Organizing and Engagement at HSTF, explains how he, a white man joined the organization because of the Latin Quarter’s vibe, and culture; growing fond of the community, he actively participates in preserving it.
However, just as it touches up on the vibrant side of its history, the documentary show audiences much darker realities. Tangvik talks about the drug crisis that arose in the 1980s, and recalls witnessing dangerous drug dealers infesting the community. Eduardo Vasallo adds onto this tale, explaining though the Latin Quarter “became more diverse” many Americans fled from the region, and “[I]t got to the point that Americans didn’t want to live in Jamaican Plain.” Nevertheless, the residents unified and made it a mission to overcome their hardships and become the clean and prosperous community it once was. The documentary ends on a high note, amplifying what the Latin Quarter means to its residents, as expressed by Celina Miranda: “We’re progressing as a community, having a location is so important for the community because it means being seen.”
Navigating from the themes of keeping the community alive, and advocating for the rights de la gente we dive into more harsher themes with the "Social Justice" program. This program is divided in two: reality and fiction, but these are unified with the theme of showing “just how difficult it can be to get out, or change the circumstances one is born into.” One of the most impactful pieces is the documentary A la Deriva (Adrift) directed by Paula Cury Melo. This documentary touches on teen pregnancy in the Dominican Republic.
It’s a grim topic, as it shows the raw and dreadful side of one of the most prevailing issues of the island. With hard hitting facts such as “22 percent of women in Dominican Republic became mothers by the age of 19,” the audiences are shaken into a rude awakening. We meet young teenage mothers-to-be like Selena, who at only 14 years old is already six months pregnant, and Viazlin, a 12-year-old pregnant from a 21-year-old man. In this documentary, we learn how so many young girls wind up in such heart-wrenching situations: children don’t receive proper sexual education. Selena was a prime example of this, as she struggled to answer the question “Did you use protection?” to which she replied not knowing what that meant.
Dr. Lillian Fondeur an OBGYN and women’s rights advocate, actively advocates for children’s right to receive proper sex education. She preaches about the correlation between proper sex education and many young girls falling victims of teen pregnancies. Dr. Victor Calderon the General Director of Los Mina Maternity Hospital explains “27 percent of maternity wards are occupied by women younger than 18 years old.” He further reveals that the youngest impatient in the maternity ward was just 11 years old. And as the audience begin to wonder the “why?” to this upsetting situation, the documentary lays down the hard fact: religion. The Catholic Church in Dominican Republic has a very strong presence within congress, and abortions are illegal under any circumstance. Despite the plea of many pro-choice advocates, congress and the church maintain an iron clad on their opposition to the legalization of abortion despite illegal abortions being the third leading cause of death among maternal deaths. From another teenage mom, Mabel, we learn how easily girls start to gamble with their own lives. Mabel became pregnant at 16 with twins and practiced an illegal abortion. At 17 she gave birth to a girl, and shockingly admitted to performing 10 more illegal abortions since. Moment by moment, the documentary echoes the theme of the film program: these young girls are born and live in an inescapable circumstance. Audiences see reflected on the faces of young mothers-to-be such as Viazlin’s, the loss of hope and despair as she expresses that she feels like she failed at life. By the end of the film, audiences are left with a sense of helplessness leaving room for only one feeling, bitterness.
Clicking on the "Magical Realism" program, the central message for the audience is to utilize the films as a way to give room and “expand the way [they] see [themselves], and the world.” Among the short films, one that stands out is Light on a Path, Follow directed by Elliot Montague. The film tells the story of Joaquín, a transgender man who lives alone in rural 1990s New England. Joaquin is eight months pregnant and in his last trimester, he comes face to face with a mysterious spirit in the forest, an encounter that prompts Joaquín to go into labor early. The subject matter, the tone, the character himself is a true parallel to the message of Magical Realism, that which appears fantastical is normal in this world. It is truly refreshing to watch a film be truthful to the representation of the Latinx LGBTQ community by casting a transgender actor to play a transgender character. For years, members of the LGBTQ communities have voiced their yearning to see themselves portrayed on screen in a humanistic manner, far from the negative stereotypical roles. Finally seeing a film that does just that, gives everyone a sense of being heard. This film also amplifies what it means to be pregnant or, more appropriately who can be pregnant.
Pregnancy and childbirth have always been associated as a natural occurrence in life for biological women, but watching a transgendered man’s experience is how Light on a Path, Follow becomes a mold breaking phenomenon; it disrupts audiences’ preconceived notions. Lastly, the presence of spirituality and the connection to nature rings closely with many cultures from the Latinx diaspora, which hold close to heart what it means to be one with nature and letting spirits guiding one into the right pathway.
And for the closing date, on September 27th, audiences could watch the program titled “Familia” (“Family”). The short films presented touched up on the themes of “estrangement, siblings, going "home," and family secrets.”
Bibi, directed by Victor M. Dueñas, tells the story of Ben Solís, a young man of Mexican descent receiving the tragic news of his father’s passing. Upon hearing the news, Ben hesitates on returning home, but begrudgingly returns to his hometown to handle the final detailing of his father’s funeral. As audiences immerse themselves into this story, the film flashbacks to a young Ben becoming closer with his father after his mother’s death. The film tackles the themes of loss and single parenting, which plant the seed of relatability and humanity. Their close relationship is maintained through the usage of writing letters to one another. This method of communication reflects with many Latinx cultures; as verbal communication and expression of one’s feelings aren’t the norm.
As the film progresses, Ben’s beginning hesitation on coming home is explained: -with a letter, he confessed to his father that he is gay, prompting immediate rejection from him. The powerful coming-out scene is the most impactful one, as homophobia and machismo are heavily cemented into the Latinx community, especially in the Mexican culture. As Ben and his father become estranged, the viewing public is left with little hope to a good resolution for the young man. However, a refreshing twist hits everyone as Ben’s journey in the film ends as he meets another young, handsome gay man. The exchange of hellos and smiles only mean one thing, the beginning of a love story. Overall, this film was like a breath of fresh air as the main character, a gay man, isn’t shown suffering due to his homosexuality. Throughout modern cinema, gay characters were often seen as lost souls left in a pit of loneliness and despair due to their sexuality. Additionally, many gay characters have been killed on screen sometimes minutes or a few episodes of either coming out or finally being with the ones they love; a trope known as “bury your gays”. Watching a young established and successful, Hispanic gay man have a happy ending sounds almost too good to be true but Bibi is one of those films that lends a hand into painting the Latinx LGBTQ community with more vibrant, truthful, and humanistic colors.
BLIFF, and other Latino Film Festivals, are showcases that deserve more appreciation, as they hold the key to opening the doors for many Latino filmmakers into the world. Conversely, this door works both ways, as it’s a door that offers a peak into Latinx community. By attending Latino film festivals, viewers receive the honor of watching and learning how the Latinx community is doing from its own point of view. Supporting film festivals that celebrate and highlight the Latin community is integral and important because it waters the Latin roots and keeps them alive. Additionally, attending festivals such as BLIFF as members of the Latin community itself means stepping into memory lane as it serves as a tool to remind one of one’s origins. When watching documentaries such as Latin Quarter, audiences will know of how resilient and powerful la cultura can be. With films such as A La Deriva, we step back and remember that the world is still in need of repair. And films such as Light on a Pathway, follow and Bibi show that the voices of the underrepresented communities don’t just echo, they shout clearly and are heard.
The 32nd annual Boston Jewish Film Festival of virtual screenings and events takes place November 4-15, including their Midfest Event: Behind the Scenes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with screenwriter Noah Gardenswartz.
For the film program, listing of events, and to purchase tickets, visit their website by clicking here.
MPC recently released a first-of-its kind study that quantifies the economic impact in Massachusetts from the filming of a single season of an episodic television and streaming production. Produced by Warner Brothers for Hulu in 2017-2018, Castle Rock was the first major scripted episodic-series to film in the state in over 25 years.
The study, conducted by Industrial Economics Inc (IEc), analyzes the "Regional Economic Impacts in Massachusetts of Castle Rock's First Season". This report demonstrates the significant and widespread impact that film production has in Massachusetts, especially in the growth of episodic TV and streaming series filming here.
Among its key findings, the study concludes this one season of a series production:
The Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant is an annual grant that will be awarded to self-identified lesbians for making visionary moving-image art. Work can be experimental animation, experimental documentary, experimental narrative, cross-genre, or solely experimental. Applicants must be based in the U.S. This grant was established by Hammer in 2017 to give needed support to moving-image art made by lesbians. The grant is supported directly by funds provided by Hammer’s estate and administered through Queer|Art by lesbians for lesbians, with a rotating panel of judges. This year Queer|Art is pleased to announce the grant has increased to $7,000.
Applications for the Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant are open September 1st - November 1st.
For details, visit: https://www.queer-art.org/hammer-grant?fbclid=IwAR1xPTotxjYwZKBPA9MTkYCtoPlWkVWFzHBAUbj19sDW9U6rVwAqB9k5ZHo
For questions, email Barbara Hammer Grant Manager Vanessa Haroutunianat firstname.lastname@example.org
Through the generosity of Loreen Arbus, New York Women in Film and Television has established the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant. The film completion grant for $7,500 will be awarded to a woman filmmaker for a film on physical or developmental disability issues. Directors and producers are eligible to apply.
Films may be of any length or genre. The Grant will be awarded to help complete a work-in-progress. Films must have completed principle photography to be eligible. Finished films are not eligible. Filmmakers must be US-based.
SUBMISSIONS NOW OPEN!! Apply here.
DEADLINE TO SUBMIT IS FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2020 11:59PM ET
Recipients of the Grant will also receive production support and voicing of the audio description for their film courtesy of Michele Spitz, Woman of Her Word. Her generous donation will allow for the film to be accessible for blind or visually impaired audiences. Learn more.
ReelAbilities Film Festival, the largest disabilities film festival in North America, will provide captioning service for the selected film as well as support of the film’s outreach and distribution, through the ReelAbilities North American network of festivals and beyond.
Are you thinking about becoming a composer? WFT Ireland Board Member Jaro Waldeck spoke with award-winning composer Natasa Paulberg about her musical career, her experience working in the industry and her tips on how she approaches a project.
Natasa is an award-winning Australian/Irish composer, performer and conductor who writes music for film, gaming, trailers, TV, advertising and the concert hall. She is lead composer for Haunted Planet Studios including the award winning Bram Stoker’s Vampires and was awarded first place for the Contemporary Music Centre’s 2012 Composition Competition. In 2013 Natasa received the Fulbright scholarship for composition, where she attended UCLA’s esteemed Film Scoring Program in Los Angeles.
Natasa has worked with LA composers Garry Schyman (BioShock, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified) and Christopher Young (A Madea Christmas, Gods Behaving Badly) and with orchestrator Peter Bateman (Hunger Games, Avengers). Her credits include many international and Irish projects such as Mother, directed by Natasha Waugh and Screen Ireland’s recent Discover Irish Stories on Screen trailer. Natasa is currently working on The Great Hunger for RTÉ and Arté produced by Create One and Tyrone Productions.
This online talk was made possible thanks to the support of the Broadcast Authority of Ireland. Catch it here!
The Boston Asian American Film Festival continues at ArtsEmerson through Sunday, November 01 with a series of incredible short films, each divided into five categories: Alternative Realities, Queer and Here, Beneath the Surface, Ties That Bind, and Finding Your Way. Click to get tickets here, and check out this handy guide—where one film from each category is highlighted—over on their blog.
Delores Edwards is the Executive Producer of GBH's "Basic Black," the longest-running program on public television focusing on the interests of people of color. She is also the owner and Executive Producer of her own company, marblehill MEDIA. Learn more about Delores on her website, and connect with her on Facebook at delores edwards or on Twitter @deeadrian.
Meet WIFVNE Member Delores Edwards!
How did you get started?
My interest in journalism began as a teenager while in high school in a journalism honors class. I was also accepted into the Dow Jones News Fund Program, a summer program for high school students at NYU, where I was fortunate to meet journalists of color, and the opportunity to learn more about working in media. I also began to learn about the power of writing and the power of words. It wasn’t until later that I would combine words with visuals in order to create and produce stories.
Later, as a student at Northeastern University, I was able to obtain work experience through their co-op program. While the work wasn’t always entirely specific to journalism, I did come out of school with two years of full-time work experience when I graduated with honors.
My first job was at ABC News. During my time working there major news events like Tiananmen Square, the San Francisco earthquake, and later the numerous Gulf wars occurred. While at "Nightline," I was exposed to so many things—stories, correspondents, and producers, reporting worldwide events. It really was my training ground. I also worked in-and-out of ABC for various projects and programs throughout my career, which was pretty cool.
Being a young woman from the Bronx, I didn’t have connections in the industry, so I had to hustle and network. At the time I remember reading an article in Essence magazine about producer Marquita Pool [now Marquita Pool-Eckert] and thinking that it would be great to speak with her. I remember calling CBS and asked to speak with her, unsure if I would be able to talk with her. When the person on the other end of the line said sure and put me through to her, I was surprised. It seemed too easy! I was able to visit the studio, talk with her, take a tour, and later spoke with the CBS talent development person.
I also went to talks and workshops conducted by the Center for Communication (CFC), where I heard experts in news, public relations, music, advertising, and other types of media talk about their experiences. During one CFC panel event, I was able to hear national network Executive Producers discuss what it was like to produce their programs and later connected with a producer at “20/20” while touring ABC. She provided me with names of people to contact. The contacts she provided to me helped me to land my first job in television. From there I was able to get my foot in the door and make connections for myself.
What do you love about the work that you do?
I love telling stories, especially being able to tell other people’s stories. Where I grew up in the Bronx, I knew a lot of people whose stories, issues, and concerns weren’t always told. They were often overlooked and other people weren’t aware of both their struggles and their happiness. They weren’t seen. I say this because the Bronx gets a bad rap so the opportunity for me to tell stories from various viewpoints and facets in the media due to my diverse background—from news, entertainment, documentary, talk, to network programming, and now at “Basic Black,” has been great.
What has been your experience taking the helm of a legacy program like “Basic Black”?
“Basic Black” started out in 1968 as “Say Brother,” and it grew out of the unrest of the time—specifically the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was an acknowledgment that there was a need for Black voices to be heard, and through the prism and voices of Black creators. The show has evolved over time. In the past there were music segments and producers traveled. Now the format is closer to a panel show. That being said, the mission of the show—telling those stories that aren’t always told about Black and Brown communities—has continued throughout the history of the program and continues today to also include communities of color. Since I have joined the program as the Executive Producer, we reshaped and added topics—from discussions about mental health, art, and politics to conversations around the history of hair within communities of color. I also had the opportunity to spearhead the redesign the show set and new graphics, which was fun to do. And it is stunning!
You have had a very successful career and won a number of awards, including being nominated for a number of Emmys and "Basic Black" receiving the Boston/New England Governors' Award. Tell us more!
We were very pleasantly surprised when we received the Governors' Award—and acknowledgement of the legacy of the program. We've been working hard over the years and it’s really nice to get the recognition—like, “we see you.”
It’s also been great because there aren’t a lot of shows around focusing on communities of color. Growing up, I remember Gil Noble’s "Like It Is." It was a worthy program, but went off the air several years ago. To its credit, GBH has been supportive of “Basic Black,” and the contribution that it provides to the community.
How has the current political and social moment affected your work at “Basic Black”?
We're a live show, however, due to the coronavirus, we've been taping our episodes that air in the evening.
We’ve always sought to make the show as timely as possible, such as recent program episodes covering the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, BLM protests, COVID-19 and the health disparities for BIPOC to the travel ban, immigration and hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in the past, but going virtual has definitely changed the dynamic. We’ve been able to keep the format pretty consistent with our guest panelists joining the program remotely, however, we’d like to go back to in-person taping once it’s safe.
Since we also have viewers who watch the show on the web, via Facebook and Twitter, we’ve been able to broaden and expand the audience a bit, which has helped increase our viewership and ability for more people to see the show.
Year-after-year we have been able to bring on more guests, more new faces as well as more experts. We’ve really been able to give more people living in our communities of color the opportunity to share their stories.
What can you tell us about marblehill MEDIA?
marblehill MEDIA is primarily my banner where I work on my own independent projects and creative interests as well as some freelance work. The name comes from the Marble Hill projects in the Bronx, where I grew up.
What I’ve learned is that if you work long enough in the industry that jobs come and go. You’ve got to have something for yourself, a little side-hustle—things to pursue for you. It also keeps the creativity flowing!
What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
I would say that it’s been mixed. I think there’s been a lack of access—access to opportunity, information, and better pay. As a Black woman, I have experienced racism, micro aggressions, marginalization, and prejudice. I don’t think, sad to say, that it is unusual. However, I’m glad to see that people are speaking out and speaking up about these issues as well as the lack of diversity and about ageism, too. It’s important that women, a diverse group of women are included, who are decision makers to greenlight projects, and take part in those top-line discussions about hiring, direction and approvals—basically have a seat at the table, maybe a couple of seats at the table! We’re seeing more of it; more female directors, producers and writers working on their own projects, starting companies and heading up film and television divisions.
Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career?
What I have learned? Relationships. It’s old advice, but relationships really do matter. We call it “Networking”—but really it is getting to know people. Don’t just reach out when you need a job. Make the relationship meaningful and well-rounded. You can find people that are great sounding boards and willing to share and give great advice.
What are some things that you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
I think ACCESS is huge. We need more opportunities for women, people of color, and other underrepresented people to direct and produce—more people to greenlight projects. We also need to spread the wealth better. There needs to be paid internships and paid training—and there are so many areas of the industry that need to diversify. We are beginning to see more people on the air and a diversity of actors—some who are creating and producing projects for themselves, but what if you want to be a gaffer or a make-up artist? Is there support for these positions and others to diversify?
There are some great programs, like NYWIFT’s Writers Lab supported by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, and Oprah Winfrey that helps and supports women screenwriters over forty—but there needs to be more. Conferences need to be more affordable, too, and there can always be more of them to give people greater access to the resources they need. Due to the health pandemic, there is plenty of content online to learn and engage.
And finally, we need diversity in the C-Suite—we need a range of voices and experiences in those positions.
Where would you like to go in your work?
With my personal work, I’m developing some programming and ideas for film projects. I’d also like to take one of my scripts, a film short, that made it into a festival and make a film. I also have an idea for a podcast. All of these ideas and more helps me to stay creative and curious about storytelling.
As for “Basic Black,” we will continue to expand our topics, continue to reach new audiences and include new voices on the topics and issues presented. I’m looking forward to seeing where our work goes.
What can you share about what you are working on now?
The podcast idea that I mentioned, writing and hopefully work on a panel series for women with WIFVNE. I'd also like to raise money for my quirky New York story film short. I have also written a children's book with a diversity theme that I am hoping to get published.
Why are you a WIFVNE member? How do you think WIFVNE can support filmmakers in New England?
I’ve been a member of NYWIFT for a few years and joined WIFVNE through the dual membership program when I moved to Massachusetts. I am a member of both organizations because I want to stay connected to creative women in the industry, learn, and forge new friendships and potential partnerships with like-minded individuals.
WIFVNE is doing outstanding work with the newsletter and the website. I like how the newsletter and website has evolved, and the availability of information. I am learning a lot about events and projects in the New England area. The emails have also been an excellent resource of information to keep members informed. Plus, the virtual events during COVID-19 have also helped to spread the impact of the organization. One of the ways WIFVNE can continue to support filmmakers in New England are through more workshops and bringing more diverse voices into the organization. I also think that once we’re able, having more engagement in person through both big and small networking events will also help members. Every year NYWIFT presents the Muse Awards, showcasing women creatives in vision and achievement. Perhaps WIFVNE can produce an event to recognize its members and/or creative women in the industry.
Is there any final take-away you would like to share?
Hmm. Probably those reading my story will understand that if you really want to work in the industry that you can. Many people still think that you need the right connections to enter the business. That is not true; it really comes down to desire and perseverance. Just keep going, find your own path, seek guidance, stay creative and have fun.
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