Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cause Film Oscars

Oscar night is here, and once again this year, there are five short cause documentaries up for an award. The 2013 nominees profile a range of courageous people, from an artistically gifted homeless teen in San Diego to can collectors on the streets of New York, to women cancer survivors. Most of the films reference specific social good initiatives and the work of some largely unsung nonprofits. [It's still not too late to see these important, deeply moving films about the challenges of everyday life across the country and the globe. If you're in New York, the Independent Film Center in Greenwich Village is screening them today and tomorrow.]

And the nominees are:

1. Inocente profiles a 15-year-old girl from San Diego who has been homeless most of her life but who finds "a safe place to go" spiritually in her art and her paintings. "We were looking for a story to do about homelessness, especially about homeless kids," filmmaker Sean Fine told WNYC Radio's Audie Cornish in a February 21, 2013 interview. "We found a nonprofit art program in San Diego called Reason to Survive, and we were invited to go out there and meet Inocente, who had been homeless almost her whole life. Her father was deported for domestic abuse. She has an alcoholic mother who, at one point, threatens suicide. Inocente represents a kind of homelessness that is overlooked in society, that doesn't mean you wake up on the street but are always moving between shelters and friend's houses and apartments, where nothing ever feels like home."

Yet Inocente is anything but a victim. "Here's this girl who, on paper, I would expect to be in a gang or maybe be doing drugs or something horrible because she has had everything in life thrown at her before the age of 15," says Fine, who made the film with his wife, Andrea Nix Fine. "And yet she paints these beautiful, colorful, rich and vibrant paintings and is throwing her soul onto canvas in this beautiful way, and I think it's the way she sees the world." The film was produced by our friend Susan MacLaury, the executive director of Shine Global, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of children worldwide.

Here's the trailer:

[For more on the filmmakers, see this profile of Andrea Nix Fine for Contribute Magazine.]

2. Kings Point  is a heartbreaking documentary about a complex of modest retirement condos in Delray Beach, Florida, where director/producer Sari Gilman's grandmother lived for many years.  Filmed over a 10-year period, the film shows the lonely and raw lives of the seniors who live there and offers a glimpse at how illness and advancing age can shape the social lives of people in the last years of their lives.  "I wanted to show the clash of that sunny promise we all have of retirement and what happens when you do live maybe 20 years longer than you thought you were going to live," Gilman told WNYC Radio in a February 19, 2013 interview. It is a cautionary tale for the millions of Baby Boomers on the cusp of retirement.

Here's the trailer:

Kings Point trailer from Sari Gilman on Vimeo.

3. Mondays at Racine is a documentary about how some women are coping with the physical and emotional scars from cancer. The 39-minute exploration of cancer patients in their most vulnerable moments is anchored in a Long Island beauty salon, Racine Salon de Beaute & Spa, run by two women who lost their mother to breast cancer, and who, every third Monday of the month, give free makeovers, facials and massages to the cancer patients who walk through their doors. "It is a safe place to cry and laugh and connect with each other," says Director Cynthia Wade. Wade followed the women in her film for 2.5 years, from the time they were diagnosed through the path of their illness and their fight against cancer. "It is not a medical film but a film about their emotional lives," Wade told WNYC Radio in a February 22, 2013 interview. Wade will be taking one of the women in her film, Cambria, to the Oscars; the other women she profiled, all survivors, will be watching from home with their husbands.

Here's the trailer:

4. Open Heart is the story of eight Rwandan children who need life-saving cardiac surgery from rheumatic heart disease (stemming from untreated strep throat) and the Salam Center, the one hospital in Sudan that can save them. Filmmaker Kief Davidson made the film to raise awareness of the massive spread of rheumatic heart disease in Sub-Saharan Africa due, in part, to the lack of availability of basic antibiotics among the very poor. The film focuses on the work of Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza, Rwanda's long-overworked public cardiologist, and Dr. Gino Strada, an Italian war surgeon and also the Salam Center's chief surgeon. The Salam Center is a $15 million hospital run and managed by the Italian NGO Emergency, founded in 1994 to help civilian victims of war. The hospital is Africa's only free-of-charge, state-of-the-art cardiac hospital and it performs high-risk open-heart surgery. "Emergency (the NPO) chose to build this hospital in Sudan, because it is the only country in Africa surrounded by nine neighbors, and it is the most easily accessible to patients who need to get there in a hurry," Davidson told WNYC Radio in a February 21, 2013 interview. "...There is sadness and anger because rheumatic heart disease is such a preventable disease. In America, 100 years ago, rheumatic heart disease was the No. 1 killer in the United States, and it is now virtually zero. But in Africa, it is estimated that there are 18 million people suffering from this today."

Here's the trailer:

Open Heart - trailer from Zak Mulligan on Vimeo.

5. Redemption, by filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, is the story of New York City's "canners"—the thousands of jobless or fixed-income New Yorkers who comb through garbage to find empty bottles and cans so they can trade them in for money (five cents each) at the local redemption center. "We wanted to change our neighborhood and make it better," Alpert told "My wife and I were doing community organizing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side of New York in the 1970s, and failing to make a dent. But when we took one of the early, primitive, black-and-white porta-pak cameras and made short films that documented the horrific conditions of our local schools, factories and hospitals, things began to change." That passion for short cause film and video, coupled with HBO Documentary chief Sheila Nevins's curiosity about these can-collectors in her Manhattan neighborhood, resulted in Redemption, a film about these canners struggling at the edge of society. It was shot between 2010 and 2012 on Manhattan's Lower East Side and Chinatown. "I can usually collect enough cans in a day to redeem for $25, and on Sundays I get more, depending on where I go to get the cans, and the numbers of canners on the streets is increasing," one of the canners in the film told The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC Radio in a February 8, 2013 interview. Added O'Neill: "This is the invisible work force in this city."

The link for the trailer is here (click past the ad).

Let us at CauseGlobal know which is your favorite!

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Top photo: One of the cancer patients who patronizes the Long Island beauty salon, Racine's, courtesy Mondays at Racine's)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home