Films Screened by ADFS since 1997

NB: This is an alphabetical list of the films that ADFS has screened since 1997. For a list of our more recent films, by category, see the sidebar: Past Films by Category.

A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone: Celebrated Bay Area muralist paints amazing walls to build bridges toward unity, teaching children and seniors to do the same.  (Screened 2017) http://anewcolordocumentary.com/

Accidental Hero: Room 408 America’s embattled public education system provides kindling for numerous negative news stories—school shootings, drugs, gang violence. Accidental Hero: Room 408 provides a powerful exception to those stereotypes. Following a San Francisco East Bay public high school teacher and his class for over two years, the film tells the story of Tommie Lindsey, an extraordinary man who is changing lives by introducing his students to a little known academic sport called “forensics.” “I expect them to be champions, conduct themselves that way, and they respond.” –Tommie Lindsey, National Forensics Coach of the Year, 2000

Aging Out follows three young people as they exit foster care and become parents, battle drug addiction, face homelessness, even end up in jail. Despite their struggles, the film also shows these teenagers using the resiliency they developed during their years “in the system” to take control of their lives. It also forces us to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the public systems that serve these youth, as well as the roles that private citizens and organizations might play. (90 mins) 6th grade + up

Alive Inside is a story of music and memory that requires us to rethink what’s possible for people with dementia. (screened 2017) http://www.aliveinside.us/

American Love Story is the extraordinary 10-hour series about a black man and a white woman who have struggled for 30 years against racial stereotypes and societal prejudice to keep their family together.  An American Love Story series follows Bill Sims and Karen Wilson, their family and friends through a dramatic two year period in their lives.  With over one thousand hours of footage recorded, An American Love Story is one of the most profound films ever created about love, race and family in America.  “There’s never been a more intimate study of the everyday significance of race and racism in American life” — Amy Taubin, Village Voice. 10 hours (in 60 min segments).

American Promise: is the intimate story of Idris and Seun, best friends who start kindergarten at the elite, private, predominately while Dalton School in Manhattan. The boys and their families must deal with complicated issues of race, class, and educational and cultural expectations as they go through school. Films over 13 years, the movie examines complicated truths about black male identity, and reflects on America’s challenge to provide full educational opportunity to all its children. (screened 2016)  www.facebook.com/AmericanPromise/

Americanos, Latino Life in the U.S.is a documentary about the segment of American citizenry most rapidly transforming the face of our nation today. Latinos have become the largest, single minority group in the United States, and the film explores their complex and multifaceted legacy. Americanos contests the myth of a monolithic Latino culture and explores the diverse group of people in this country designated Latino. Carlos Santana, Tito Puente, and the first Puerto Rican female presidential cabinet member, Aida Alvarez, present their views alongside Nuyorican Poets Café performance artists, Little Havana doctors, midwestern lowriders, East L.A. Harvard-bound youth, and Chicano border-patrol officers. A cornucopia of truths emerges, including the highly contested nature of Latino identity, the rising power of Latinos in business, the paradoxes of United States immigration policy, and the important role diasporic communities play in preserving age-old cultural traditions while creating new ones for the future. Directed by Susan Todd & Andrew Young. Produced by Nick Athas & Edward James Olmos.  (80 min) not available

Anyone and Everyone tells the stories of families from Utah to North Carolina and Wyoming to New York, all connected by a common thread — a gay child. The film features parents from a wide range of religions, nationalities and political leanings, all of whom discuss their initial reactions to their child’s coming-out. While some showed unconditional support; others struggled with their child’s sexual orientation, either fearing alienation from their extended family, their church or their community. Whether Japanese, Cherokee, Mormon, Catholic or Hindu, these families all share a deep love for their children, along with a struggle for acceptance, both in their own home and within society as a whole. (? min) great for parents, also 6th grade + up

Ask Not exposes the tangled political battles that led to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and examines the societal shifts that have occurred since its passage in 1993. Current and veteran gay soldiers reveal how “don’t ask, don’t tell” affects them during their tours of duty, as they struggle to maintain a double life, uncertain of whom they can trust. The film follows a national speaking tour of conservative universities to protests at military recruitment offices, events that question how the U.S. military can claim to represent democracy and freedom while denying one segment of the population the right to serve. 6th grade and up.

At the River I Stand In the spring of 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. came to support a strike by Memphis sanitation workers.  Local civil rights leaders and the Black community soon realized the strike was part of the struggle for economic justice for all African Americans.  However, tensions surfaced between King and the younger generation of activists over non-violent versus violent tactics, questions that would reverberate across America.  Later, we watch as King delivers the foreboding “I have been to the mountaintop” speech, the last of his life. King was assassinated the next day. Thousands marched in his honor, resulting in the end of the entrenched white political structure and a successful end to the strike. 6th grade and up. (screened 2016)

Audrie & Daisy: is an urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault against them has been caught on camera and distributed online. From acclaimed filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk AUDRIE & DAISY — which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival — takes a hard look at American’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control. (screened 2016) http://www.audrieanddaisy.com/

Autumn’s Eyes The Collier family lives in a neighborhood in Jersey City that is stricken with poverty, violence, and deferred dreams. It is here, jump roping on Madison Avenue, that we find Autumn, a beautiful 3- year old faced with the harsh reality of severe poverty, her teenage mother’s incarceration, and looming foster care. This raw and real portrayal of a year in the life of Autumn Collier, disarms us of all preconceptions of growing up poor in America. Autumn commands the viewer with her candidness, warms us with her innocence and playfulness, and forces us to pay attention to her struggle to remain a child in extreme circumstances. (59 mins) high school and up (very tough circumstances for this little girl)

Banished From the 1860s to the 1920s, dozens of towns and counties across America practiced their own form of racial cleansing, violently expelling entire African American communities and forcing thousands of black families to flee their homes. A century later, these towns remain virtually all white. BANISHED tells the story of three of these communities, following black descendants who return to learn their shocking histories as well as current residents forced to confront their shameful history. (84 mins) High school and up (scenes of lynching)

 Beauty Before Age This film explores the power of youth and beauty in the gay community. A diverse group of gay men, ages 19 to 77, negotiate their fears of becoming old, undesirable, and alone. The film critically examines the pressure to look young and attractive, the lack of positive older role models, and the ways in which AIDS intensifies the fear and process of aging. This short offers a male perspective on a historically female issue, and illuminates the larger societal obsession with physical appearance.  By Johnny Symons, the same filmmaker who brought us Daddy & Papa.” Filmed in the Castro District.  22 min.

Blindsight Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight tells the amazing story of six blind Tibetan teenagers, who set out to climb to Lhakpa Ri, a 23,000 foot peak on the north side of Mount Everest. In Tibet, blind people are believed to be possessed by demons, and are often shunned by family, village, and society. However, these teens are taught by Sabriye Tenberken, a blind educator from Germany who established the first school for the blind in Lhasa; and they are guided by a climbing group headed by American Eric Weihenmayer, the first blind man to conquer Mt. Everest. (104 mins) 3rd / 4th grad and up.

Blink examines the dramatic story of one-time white supremacist leader Gregory Withrow who, at the height of his involvement in the movement, fell in love with a woman whose parents had fled Nazi Germany.  His own subsequent flight from the militant White Aryan Resistance captured the imagination of the national media when Withrow was found beaten and “crucified,” his hands nailed to a board.  Now, more than a decade later, Withrow is married to Maria, a Mexican-American woman, and lives a low-key, semi-isolated rural existence.  Unlike simplistic stories about “evil racists turned model-citizens,” Blink explores the complex middle ground where Withrow still battles his demons, at times questioning the possibility of fundamental personal change.  The painful irony of his predicament is that when he renounced the world of racial hared he was left with the same enraged, alienated, masculine self that once propelled him into the movement.  (60 min)
8thth grade and up.

Boys of Baraka Four 12-year-old black boys from one of the most violent ghettos in Baltimore, Maryland, are taken 10,000 miles away to an experimental boarding school in rural Kenya, to try to take advantage of the educational opportunities they can’t get in their own country. (2005; 84 min) 4th grade and up.

Boys Will Be Men This documentary probes the roots of violence in men, finding them in the ignored emotions of boys. The film opens with a gathering of young adult ex-offenders who are participating in an unlearning violence program. They tell us how, as boys, they learned to be tough, to enforce one’s control and authority over others, often with violence, were lessons they learned at an early age.  We visit a first grade classroom where we see developmental differences between boys and girls that educators (including local teacher Jamie Carlson) hypothesize affects the fit between some boys and school, and boys’ ability to communicate their needs verbally.  Boys are also filmed in 3-week therapeutic wilderness program, where angry and resentful teens learn self-sufficiency and cooperation.  As Michael Thompson concludes, near the end of the film: “The greatest thing that feminism did for girls was to say there are many different ways to be a woman. We have to show boys that there are many… different ways to be a man.” By Tom Weidinger.  (57 min)
4th grade and up.

Brazil in Black and White Brazil has long considered itself a colorblind “racial democracy.” But deep disparities in income, education and employment between lighter and darker-skinned Brazilians have prompted a civil rights movement advocating equal treatment of Afro-Brazilians. Institutions of higher education have typically been monopolized by Brazil’s wealthy and light-skinned elite, and illiteracy among black Brazilians is twice as high as among whites. Now, affirmative action programs are changing the rules of the game, with many colleges and universities reserving 20% of spots for Afro-Brazilians. BRAZIL IN BLACK AND WHITE follows the lives of five young college hopefuls from diverse backgrounds as they compete to win a coveted spot at the elite University of Brasilia. (58 mins) 7th grade and up.

Breathing Lessons is a now-classic documentary by award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu that explores the unique world of Mark O’Brien, the Berkeley poet-journalist who has lived for four decades paralyzed in an iron lung. Thhis is the young man who inspired the now-popular feature film: The Sessions. Incorporating the vivid imagery of O’Brien’s poetry and his candid, wry, and often profound reflections on work, sex, death and God, this provocative documentary asks: “What is a life worth living?”  By presenting O’Brien’s life from his point of view, the film provides an intimate window into the reality of a life of severe disability, as well as an illuminating portrait of a remarkable artist.  Winner of the 1996 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. (35 min) 5th grade and up. (Some discussion of sex.)

Brother Outsider This is a documentary portrait of Bayard Rustin, little-known African-American activist for peace, racial equality, economic justice and human rights, and, an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.  During his sixty-year career as an activist, Rustin formulated many of the strategies that propelled the Civil Rights movement, and was an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work to desegregate the South.  Rustin’s work culminated when he organized the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. But his open homosexuality forced him to remain in the background, making him the Brother Outsider. He was a man ahead of his time, and has become an inspiring role-model in today’s struggle for gay rights. Winner 2004 American Library Association Notable Video Award, Winner 2003 Cine Golden Eagle.  (84 min) 7th grade and up. (complex political ideas, discussion.)

Brothers & Others: The Impact of September 11th on Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians in America This documentary about the impact of 9/11 on Muslims and Arabs living in America follows a number of immigrants and American families as they struggle in the heightened climate of hate, government investigations, and economic hardships that erupted in America following the attacks. By jailing thousands of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians without evidence or due process, is America perpetuating the cycle of hate and ignorance which claimed so many innocent lives?  “The filmmaker has really captured the human cost and real-life consequences of the 9/11 arrests… Very compelling.”  Lucas Guttentag, American Civil Liberties Union.  (60 min)
6th grade and up.

Cats of Mirikitani “Make art not war” is Jimmy Mirikitani’s motto.  This 80-year-old Japanese American artist was born in Sacramento, raised in Hiroshima, and interned during WWII despite his US citizenship. By 2001 he was living on the streets of New York City. What begins as a simple verite portrait of one homeless man will become a rare document of daily life in New York in the months surrounding 9/11, and the power of connecting with our fellow man. This is the story of losing and finding “home” on many levels. 8th grade and up

Chicks in White Satin: Chicks tells the story of two Jewish women who want a traditional Jewish wedding, to each other.  The film follows the women from their registration at Crate and Barrel to talking with their families, who have very different reactions to their wedding plans.  An in-depth, warm, family piece, with plenty of room for laughter.  Nominated for Oscar in best Documentary Short Subject (1993).  (20 min)
5th grade and up.

Companeras is the story of America’s first all-female mariachi band. The band, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles was founded in 1994, shattering age-old stereotypes in a culture and a musical tradition that has always been male-dominated. These women are true pioneers. The issues raised are universal to women everywhere: how to balance family life with career, how to achieve equal pay for equal work, how to deal with emotional conflict, how to balance competing priorities. 4th grade and up.

Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice: Born into a family of Spanish-speaking farmworkers, Reynoso went on to graduate from the University of California Berkeley Law School. As the fist Latino director of California Rural Legal Assistance, Reynoso’s advocacy improved the lives of countless immigrants and farmworkers. Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown as the fist Latino justice on the California Supreme Court, Reynoso (along with two other justices) lost his seat in a heated recall battle. By filmmaker Abby Ginsberg. (screened 2011)  www.facebook.com/reynosofilm/

Daddy & Papa is a one-hour documentary exploring the personal, cultural, and political impact of gay men who are making a decision that is at once traditional and revolutionary: to raise children themselves.  Taking us inside four gay male families, the film traces the critical issues that inevitably intersect their private lives — the ambiguous place of interracial families in America, the wonder and precariousness of surrogacy and adoption, the complexities of marriage and divorce within the gay community, and the legality of their own parenthood.  Warm, humorous, inspirational. (60 min) 3rd grade and up.

Death of a Shaman examines, often with painful honesty, how Fahm Saeyang’s Mien immigrant family suffered through a 20-year ordeal of poverty, racism, jail and the murder of a family member. The Shaman’s daughter, Fahm, records on her video camera what happened to her father, who was a respected Shaman in Thailand, but lost his way in Kansas. A chronicle of a darker side of the pursuit of the American dream that affected many of the 40,000 Mien who came from a primitive life in the mountains of Southeast Asia to the United States, the film is also a moving account of one daughter’s need to understand her father’s pain and desire to figure out what will placate his troubled spirit and her own. (57 mins) 9th grade and up (spiritual discussions of death)

Death on a Friendly Border The border that runs between Tijuana and San Diego is the most heavily militarized border between “friendly” countries. Since 1994, an average of one person a day has died crossing into the U.S. This poignant film puts a human face on this daily tragedy, which is a direct result of the U.S. immigration policy, and the difference between economic opportunities in the US and in Mexico. The story follows immigrants from Oaxaca who are trying to cross the desert to the US. We hear the viewpoints of a young woman with her 18-month old baby, a border guard, a human rights activist, and a citizen who provides water each weekend for the fugitives. (26 mins) 7th grade and up.

Disability Culture Rap Bold and controversial, this film featuring Cheryl Marie Wade, the self-proclaimed “Queen Mother of Gnarly,” takes a fresh look at what it means to be disabled in America.  Through hundreds of images and a high-energy delivery, this is disability through the eyes of the disabled telling us who they are in their own words instead of the usual anthropological study of disabled people as specimens.  Disability Culture Rap addresses issues of freedom of choice, disability pride, independent living, the power of language and images, sexuality, community, and the right to live with dignity. Silver Screen Winner at the US International Film and Video Festival and Best of Festival at Superfest XX.  (22 min) 4th grade + up.

Dying to be Thin This documentary chronicles the struggles of girls and women who have or have had had anorexia or bulimia.  It reviews the medial complications associated with prolonged starvation, investigates why eating disorders are growing, examines how culture contributes by reinforcing “thin is beautiful,” and highlights important aspects of successful treatment, including psychotherapy in live-in programs.  (60 min)
4th grade and up.

The Education of Shelby Knox The film is the story of Shelby, a feisty 15 year old in Lubbock, Texas, and a devout Southern Baptist from a conservative Republican family.  The only sex education taught at Shelby’s high school is abstinence, after then-Governor George W Bush passed a law outlawing any other type of sex education in the State. However, Lubbock has some of the highest rates of pregnancy and STDs in the nation. Shelby joins a student group that wants to bring comprehensive sex education to Lubbock high schools, and from this experience becomes an activist.   Interwoven with Shelby’s evolution is her changing relationship with her parents, who support her despite her movement away from their beliefs. This is a film told on many levels, from the personal to the political. © 2005 (76 min) 5th grade and up.

Family Name Macky Alston is the son of a Southern minister committed to civil rights ideals.  But when he “came out” to his family as a gay man, he recalled that there were some things he had been trained not to talk about. His ancestors’ ownership of a large plantation with slaves was among those things. Macky chronicles his efforts to have real conversations about these topics with his nuclear family and with the African American Alston’s who were descended from the same roots.  After Family Name was previewed in Piedmont and at Glide Church in San Francisco, PBS placed the film first in their Television Race Initiative.  By Macky Alston.
(89 min) 
6th grade and up. (screened 1998)  http://www.pbs.org/pov/familyname/

Far From Home While busing may be a rapidly fading memory in most American schools, it continues to be a reality for more than 3,000 Boston students every year. FAR FROM HOME spotlights an insightful, precocious African-American teenager participating in METCO, a voluntary Boston school integration program who has been bused to an affluent, predominantly white suburb since kindergarten. Now in her last years of high school, she takes us inside her personal triumphs and daily negotiations. This compelling film illustrates the ways in which a truly desegregated education system is still an unachieved goal in this country. (2005; 40 min) 6th grade and up.

Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary In 1994, California voters approved Proposition 187, a ballot initiative denying public education and health care to all undocumented immigrants. Laura Angelica Simón, a Mexican immigrant and fourth-grade teacher at Hoover Elementary School in Los Angeles, was devastated and felt motivated to make a film about the impact of this initiative on her school. Located in Pico Union, the Ellis Island of Los Angeles, Hoover Street Elementary is the largest grammar school in the city. The majority of its students are economic and political refugees from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, who have the most to lose from Proposition 187. Many, like Salvadoran fifth grader Mayra, voice their fear of betrayal, deportation and shattered dreams for a better life. Leading her teacher on a tour of the cramped apartment she shares with her family, Mayra describes her hardscrabble life and seeks reassurance that she will not be kicked out of school. Her story is intertwined with those of two teachers at Hoover Elementary, one who voted for Proposition 187 and one who did not. Freedom of Expression award at the 1997 Sundance Festival. (57 min)

 8th grade and up. (more legal focus)
 (screened 2004)

First Person Plural In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and was sent from Korea to her new home.  Growing up in California, the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated until recurring dreams lead Borshay Liem to discover the truth: her Korean mother was very much alive.  Bravely uniting her biological and adoptive families, Borshay Liem’s heartfelt journey makes First Person Plural a poignant essay on family, loss, and the reconciling of two identities.
 (57 min) 

4th grade and up.

Follow Me Home Peter Bratt, of South American Indian ancestry, wrote and directed Follow Me Home, a defiant, humorous, poetic tale exploring race and identity in America.  By weaving together traditions of Native American, African, and Latin cultures, the film tells the story of four artists and their journey across the American landscape.  Among other honors, the film won the Best Feature Film Audience Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival.  Angela Davis describes it as ” a wonderful gift….it is a breathtaking journey through the present, the past, and toward the future….To whatever extent ‘American’ fits into — or collides with — your identity, you must see this film.” 

(not available)

FREE: an up-close feature documentary, follows five of the teens in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company in Oakland, California, as they co-create a piece that asks them to dig deeply into the motivating dilemmas and hopes of their lives—to tell the truth, even if it hurts, because truth will in some degree set them free.  Not that the very real challenges before these young people will simply disappear.  Candid discussions of poverty, alienation, HIV status, sexual abuse, and gang violence arise as dauntingly complex, if not insurmountable, obstacles to happiness.  But under the gentle guidance and support of their Director, Sarah Crowell, the young dancers find release and acceptance in performing their stories, turning the courage, determination, and stamina demanded of their lives into a contagious joy. (screened 2016)  http://www.freethedocumentary.com/

Girls Like Us This film examines the impact of class, sexism and violence on the dreams and expectations of teenage girls.  It follows four adolescent girls from a South Philadelphia through ages 14 to 18 and chronicles their hopes and experiences.  “The girls strut, flirt and testify in this vibrant, affecting portrait of teenage girls’ experiences of high school and sexuality.” Intimate interviews and candid footage introduce Anna, whose need for freedom in a new culture counters her family’s strictness; DeYona, who dreams of a singing career while coping with family tragedy; Raelene, who confronts violence and issues of self-esteem as a teenage mother; and Lisa, who faces the difference between the feminine roles of her Catholic upbringing and her own wishes. By Jan Wagner & Tina DiFeliciantonio.  (56 min)

4th grade and up

Girl Trouble Stephanie is pregnant and has a warrant for running away from a group home. Shangra is torn between taking care of her mother, who is homeless and struggling with drug addiction, and taking care of herself. Sheila, whose father and siblings have been in and out of jail, risks arrest and jail time by selling and using drugs. Here is an intimate look at the compelling personal stories of three teenagers entangled in San Francisco’s juvenile justice system. Trying to change their lives, the girls work part-time at the innovative Center for Young Women’s Development, an organization run by young women who have faced similar challenges. As the girls confront seemingly impossible problems and pivotal decisions, the Center’s 22-year-old executive director is often their only support and mentor.  Bay Area filmmakers Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko document the girls’ remarkable successes and heartbreaking setbacks over a four-year period and expose a system that fails to end the cycle of incarceration. Appropriate for High School and some Middle School youth. (57 min)

6th grade and up.
(see discussion of pregnancy.)

Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes is a riveting documentary that tackles issues of masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia in today’s hip-hop culture.
Sparking dialogue on hip-hop and its declarations on gender, this film provides thoughtful insight from intelligent, divergent voices including rap artists, industry executives, rap fans and social critics from inside and outside the hip-hop generation. The film also explores such pressing issues as women and violence in rap music, representations of manhood in hip-hop culture, what today’s rap lyrics reveal to their listeners and homoeroticism in hip-hop. A “loving critique” from a self-proclaimed “hip-hop head,” HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes discloses the complex intersection of culture, commerce and gender through on-the-street interviews with aspiring rappers and fans at hip-hop events throughout the country. 6th grade and up. (strong language)

Homeless in Paradise follows four fascinating people who are homeless. As they survive on the streets, Rick, Donna, Simon, and Faye struggle with addiction and mental illness, while receiving support from a city in crisis. In most U.S. cities, residents pay roughly fifteen to thirty cents per person per year on homeless services. In the city of Santa Monica, that amount is closer to one hundred dollars. But how is it spent, and what effect do the programs have on the psyches of the programs recipients? Chuck & Marilyn Braverman. 50 min.

The Homestretch: Three smart, ambitious teens challenge our stereotypes about homelessness as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. (screened 2017) http://www.homestretchdoc.com/

The Hunting Ground: a startling expose of sexual assaults on college campuses, and what happens even after they are reported. (screened 2015) http://thehuntinggroundfilm.com/

The House I Live In: For the past 40 years, the war on drugs has resulted in more than 45 million arrests, $1 trillion dollars in government spending, and America’s role as the world’s largest jailer. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever. The House I Live In captures stories of those on the front lines — from the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge — and offers a penetrating look at both the causes and the profound human rights implications of America’s longest war. (screened 2015) http://www.thehouseilivein.org/

 

Immigration Calculations is an original KQED documentary examines several common misconceptions about immigrants in the labor market and explains how a few Bay Area economists calculate the costs and benefits of immigration to our economy. The film follows four immigrants at different levels of the socio-economic ladder: a small business owner in Union City, originally from Mexico; two software engineers from India who reside Kalidoss in San Francisco; and a chemist from Eritrea who recently landed his first job at a biotech start-up in the South Bay. (30 min) 8th grade and up (more teaching)

Inequality for All (April 2014; income inequality in America) The film dramatizes the growing income gap in the United States and the implications for the health of the American economy. A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, this film features Robert Reich—UC Berkeley professor, best-selling author, and former Clinton labor secretary–as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is an intimate portrait of a man who’s overcome a great deal of personal adversity and whose lifelong goal remains protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. Through his singular perspective, Reich explains how the massive consolidation of wealth by a precious few threatens the viability of the American workforce and the foundation of democracy itself. Reich uses humor and a wide array of facts to explain how the issue of economic inequality affects each and every one of us. Appropriate for high school and above (explains complex economic arguments) © 2013

The Invisible War (November 2013; sexual assault in the military) is a film about the profoundly distressing problem of sexual assault in the American military. The film gets some of its power from the statistics alone: recently released military surveys reveal that one in five women and many men in the military have been the victim of sexual assault. Victims are often discouraged from reporting the crimes because the attackers are their superiors, or those further up the chain of command threaten their careers. Reports that are made are often ignored; instead many of the victims are dismissed or prosecuted themselves. The film includes victims’ descriptions of violent attacks but no violent or sexual images. © 2012

Islam vs Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center is an important and moving film that tells the rarely-heard story of moderate Muslims in Western Europe, Canada and the United States  and contrasts their story with  the rise of the fundamentalist Wahabi sect of Islam in the Middle East, and especially in Saudi Arabia. The dangers these moderates must overcome are not theirs alone, but have alarming implications for the Western world at large. (50 min) 8th grade and up. See web for controversy around this film.

Kiss My Wheels: You’ve never seen basketball like this. Kiss My Wheels follows the Zia Hot Shots, a nationally ranked junior wheelchair basketball team, through a season of training and tournament competition. This under-funded, co-ed team in a poverty-stricken area of New Mexico soaks you in their sweat, tears, fears, wins and losses, ultimately exposing their gritty grasp on what’s important in life and bringing a special meaning to the idea of teamwork.  The scene-stealers are an immigrant girl from India and a boy from a local reservation.  Hollywood would have submerged it in sentiment.  This one stays real all the way.  (57 min)
2nd grade and up.

Linsanity (March 2014 in collaboration w/ PAAC – local speaker ; first Chinese-American player in the NBA) Linsanity is a film about the rise of Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin. In February 2012, an entire nation of basketball fans unexpectedly went “Linsane”. The New York Nicks did what no other NBA team had done before, they gave a backup point guard an opportunity to prove himself. Taking full advantage, Lin scored more points in his first 5 NBA starts than any other player in the modern era, and created a legitimate public frenzy. Linsanity traces Lin through uncharted territory, guided by faith, desire and a love of the game. Appropriate for anyone who loves basketball. Lin is a committed Christian. © 2013

Lives Worth Living (March 2013; history of the disability rights movement) is an oral history, told by the mythical heroes of the disability rights movement, illustrated with rare archival footage. The story features many leaders, including Fred Fay, who suffered a spinal cord injury at 17, yet refused to be relegated to life’s sidelines; Ed Roberts, who founded the independent living movement in Berkeley, and many others. The thousands of individuals who came together to change attitudes and laws demonstrated the power of humanity, cooperation, and self-determination, and what can be accomplished against seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Appropriate for all ages.

Long Night’s Journey into Day Winner of the Grand Prize for Best Documentary at the 2000 Sundance Festival, and ALA Booklist’s Editor’s Choice Award for Best Video of 2000,this documentary tells the story of the hearings in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  When apartheid collapsed after forty years, the victims wanted justice, and the apartheid enforcers wanted amnesty for their crimes.  The TRC investigated the crimes of apartheid and brought together victims and perpetrators to relive South Africa’s brutal history in an effort to build a better foundation for the future.  What is the role of information in producing justice?  What is the role of forgiveness where the crimes are unthinkable?  What enables a community torn by violence to move forward?  (94 min)
8th grade and up (murder of young person in South Africa)

Lost Boys of Sudan This is a documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks, dehydration, exhaustion, hunger, and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia. This is an amazing story of the courage of these young refugees and the kindness of those who helped them. It is also a story about all refugees who travel through unimaginable conditions and survive against all odds.  (60 min)
8th grade and up.

Louder than a Bomb (June 2014; slam poetry in Chicago schools) is an inspiring documentary about a diverse group of teenagers working together. It’s about passion, competition, teamwork, and trust. It’s about speaking out, making noise, and finding your voice. And it’s also about poetry. Every year, more than 600 teenagers from over 60 Chicago high schools gather for the competition. The film documents four teams confronting stereotypes as they prepare for and compete in the event. By turns hopeful and heartbreaking, the film captures the tempestuous lives of these unforgettable kids, exploring the ways writing shapes their world, and vice versa. The is not “high school poetry” as we often think of it/ This is language as a joyful release, irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance. How and why they do it – and the community they create along the way – is the story at the heart of this film. Appropriate for middle school and above. Strong language. © 2010

Loving Lampposts: Documentary filmmaker Todd Drezner explores two conflicting approaches in autism treatment — the recovery and the neurodiversity movements. Through the experiences and accounts of children with autism and the parents, professional and advocates who support them, Drezner gives us a glimpse into the world of autism and challenges our perceptions of those who live within it. (screened 2014)  http://lovinglamppostsmovie.com/

The Loving Story (January 2013; 1967 US Supreme Court case against ban on racial intermarriage) tells the story of the battle fought by an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, to marry in their home state: Virginia. Until their landmark Supreme Court case was decided in 1967, Virginia prohibited interracial marriages. “The Lovings don’t look like two people caught up in a cause; they seem like two people caught up in each other.” The New York Times The other heroes of this amazing story are the two very young ACLU lawyers who persevered to bring the case from their receipt of Mildred’s modest letter asking if there was anything they could do, to their arguing the case before the highest court in the land. “It ranks alongside Let Us Not Praise Famous Men in its stark beauty and searing honesty.” (~60 min) 6th grade and up. © 2012

Mad Hot Ballroom A very funny and equally moving documentary about fifth-graders learning ballroom dancing.  Told from their candid, sometimes hilarious perspectives, the film follows students at three schools in the neighborhoods of Tribeca, Bensonhurst, and Washington Heights. The students are united by a zeal for the ballroom dancing lessons, which builds over a 10-week period and culminates in a competition to find the school that has produced the best dancers in the city. Gender and race boundaries disappear as focus on the competition consumes the students’ energy, and the teachers are brought to tears as they see their prodigies transformed from reluctant participants to determined competitors. One of 2005’s most uplifting slices of cinema, Mad Hot Ballroom is a joyous, life-affirming film. Directed by Marilyn Agrelo.

(105 min) 2nd grade and up — can’t remember if there are some subtitles.

Made in LA Women’s clothes are still the same price that they were 15 years ago. Nice for us, but how can that be? MADE IN L.A. is a film that tells parts of the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants who work in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from trendy clothing retailer Forever 21. Made in L.A. reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman’s life as they are gradually transformed by the experience. Compelling, humorous, deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity, and the courage it takes to find your voice. 6th grade and up.

Mai’s America is an intimate portrait of Mai, a spunky, mini-skirted daughter of Ho Ch Minh’s revolution who leaves cosmopolitan Hanoi on a high school exchange program.  Anticipating Hollywood, Mai crash lands in rural Mississippi where her relationships with white Pentecostal and black Baptist host families, self-proclaimed rednecks, transvestites, and South Vietnamese immigrants challenge her long-held ideas about herself, about freedom, about America, and even about Vietnam. (72 min)

6th grade and up.

The Mask You Live In: Man Up! Don’t be a sissy! What is it like for boys and young men, as they grow up, hearing the “boy code”? We see the outcome when boys disconnect from their emotions, devalue friendship, objectify women, and use violence to resolve conflicts. This film explores the pressure for boys to act like “men” as defined by age-old gender stereotypes, and shows how we can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men. (screened 2016) http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/

Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw: Follow the “female Michael Jordan” through her rise to WNBA stardom, and her struggle with mental illness. See the strength she called on to speak out about it all. (screened 2017) www.facebook.com/MindGameFilm/

Misunderstood Minds “Imagine going to work and not being able to do your job.  Now imagine that you can’t leave your job.  Imagine having to do that every day. This is what life is like for children with learning disabilities” says Dr. David Urion.  For one in five students, learning is an exhausting and frustrating struggle.Kids are sometimes  mistakenly called “lazy” or “stupid” by their teachers, classmates, or even parents.  But these children with misunderstood minds can be successful in school and on the playground if the correct, specific learning strategies can be discovered and practiced. This documentary follows the fascinating stories of five children and their families as they try to solve the mysteries of their children’s learning difficulties.  (90 min)

4th grade and up.

Off and Running: With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers — one mixed-race and one Korean—Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique and loving household. But when her curiosity about her African-American roots grows, she decides to contact her birth mother. This choice propels Avery into her own complicated exploration of race, identity, and family that threatens to distance her from the parents she’s always known. She begins staying away from home, starts skipping school, and risks losing her shot at the college track career she had always dreamed of. But when Avery decides to pick up the pieces of her life and make sense of her identity, the results are inspiring. Off and Running follows Avery to the brink of adulthood, exploring the strength of family bonds and the lengths people must go to become themselves. 4th grade and up.

Out in America (April 2013; LGBT couples) is a collection of unique, transformative stories and inspiring personal narratives told through the lens of the country’s most prominent LGBT figures and pioneers, as well as many average, yet extraordinary, citizens from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities. The program weaves together diverse stories – from urban and rural America, from the heartland to New England, from San Francisco to Harlem. Deeply moving and often humorous, the film demonstrates the awakenings, first crushes, unlikely soul mates, intimacy and liberation. Against the backdrop of historical events, each individual also traces his own hopes, struggles, influences and contributions toward advancements in equality and broad social change. Appropriate for 5th grade and up. ©

Paths of the Displaced: One American teen. One video camera. One remarkable window into the Sudanese Civil War. Paths of the Displaced tells three kinds of stories: the first are the stories of 5 Sudanese refugees and the tremendous hardships they endured to survive war and genocide to escape to the U.S. The second are their stories of survival and adaptation in Nebraska. The third is the storyteller’s tale, about an Anglo-American woman and high school senior at the time the film began, who decided that the stories of her classmates were important enough that the world should know them.

The Personals: Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years is an Academy-Award Winning documentary by Keiko Ibi who made the film as a 30-year-old film student at NYU.  The film tells the story of a play produced by the Alliance Stage Company at the Educational Alliance.  Through it, Ibi explores the stories of single older people looking for love.   On stage, a group of seniors perform their roles with energy and laughter.  As the rehearsal progress, the camera turns to the individual members of the group at home, in an attempt to uncover both the joys and the sorrows of growing old in America. About making the film, Ibi has written: “I don’t deny that they’ve given me a glimpse of the aging process that is sometimes scary…maybe even threatening.  But they have constantly surprised and inspired me, just by being themselves….we made a connection.  We became friends.” Academy Award, Short Documentary Category.  (37 min)

5th grade and up

Poor Kids (September 2013; poverty for kids in America) Beyond the statistics on unemployment and homelessness, Poor ids goes deeper into the impact of poverty on families in middle America. We meet three children whose families are struggling to gey by, and get an intimate view of what life in modern America really looks like through their eyes. Appropriate for all ages © 2012

Promises is a documentary which explores the Middle East conflict as seen through the eyes of  Israeli and Palestinian children living in and around Jerusalem.  The film looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and prospects for peace by drawing viewers into the hearts and minds of Jerusalem’s children ages 9-13. Each child offers dramatic, emotional, and sometimes hilarious perspectives on issues that lie at the heart of the Middle East conflict. Neither as self-conscious as teen-agers nor as polite as adults, they communicate without self-censorship. Although they live no more than 20 minutes apart, the children are locked in separate worlds. Promises explores the boundaries that lie between these children and tells the story of a few who dared to cross the lines to meet their neighbors.
(106 min)
5th grade and up. See follow up to this film online.

Race: The Power of an Illusion (A 3-part series)
 The division of the world’s peoples into distinct groups – “red,” “black,” “white” or “yellow” peoples – has became so deeply imbedded in our psyches, so widely accepted, many would promptly dismiss as crazy any suggestion of its falsity. Yet, that’s exactly the point of this 3-hour series. Yet race still matters. Just because race doesn’t exist in biology doesn’t mean it isn’t very real, helping shape life chances and opportunities. 7th grade and up. An extremely well-done basic course in race in America.
Episode 1- The Difference Between Us examines the contemporary science – including genetics – that challenges our common sense assumptions that human beings can be bundled into three or four fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits. 60 min.
Episode 2- The Story We Tell uncovers the roots of the race concept in North America, the 19th century science that legitimated it, and how it came to be held so fiercely in the western imagination. The episode is an eye-opening tale of how race served to rationalize, even justify, American social inequalities as “natural.” 60 min.
Episode 3- The House We Live In asks, If race is not biology, what is it? This episode uncovers how race resides not in nature but in politics, economics and culture. It reveals how our social institutions “make” race by disproportionately channeling resources, power, status and wealth to white people. 60 min.

Race to Execution: Race discrimination infects America’s capital punishment system. A landmark study of race and the death penalty found that a black defendant who kills a white victim is up to 30 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a white defendant who kills a black victim. Neither advocating nor repudiating capital punishment, the film catalyzes dialogues about the inherent imbalances that lead to inaccuracy and unfairness in the application of the ultimate punishment. RACE traces the fates of two death row inmates. Their stories are enlarged by the words of several of the affected families. The varied voices heard in RACE TO EXECUTION contribute to a thoughtful examination of the factors that influence who lives and who dies at the hands of the state. (57 min) 9th grade and up.

Rabbit in the Moon uncovers a buried history of political tensions, social and generational divisions, and resistance and collaboration in the Japanese internment camps of WWII. The film correspondingly confronts the collective silence among Japanese Americans about the social antagonisms and insecurities that were born in the camps and that still haunt community life 50 years later.
(85 min)
6th grade and up.

Raising Teens is a film about the experiences of three teens and their gay or lesbian parents as they bridge the transitions to adulthood.  Cooper is a Berkely teen with two moms; he now wants to learn the identity of his biological father. Aidan is a political activist with two moms in Richmond, Virginia; she’s trying to become Drum Major of her high school marching band, and facing community questions about what kind of leader an activist child of gay parents would make. Hope is about to leave home for college but her two Dads are having trouble letting her go. It’s a story of holding on and letting go to which all parents can relate.
(57 min)
4th grade and up.

Raymond’s Portrait traces the personal and artistic development of this talented young Chinese-American brush painter, including his family’s experience when Raymond was one of the first full-inclusion students with Down Syndrome at San Ramon High School.  Raymond Hu’s phenomenal paintings were exhibited in the Piedmont schools and at the screening, and he led an engaging discussion about the effect of his childhood on his art. By Donald Young. (30 min)
4th grade and up.

Room to Breathe: is a surprising story of transformation for children in a San Francisco public middle school as they are introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation. The film focuses on four struggling children at Marina Middle School whose behavior is threatening not only their own education, but that of their classmates. In desperation, the school administrators decide to experiment with “mindfulness”, a new program in self-reflection that is being introduced to a handful of public schools across the nation. (screened 2013) http://www.roomtobreathefilm.com/

Runner’s High: When teenagers from one of the nation’s toughest neighborhoods in Oakland, California sign up to train for a marathon, they begin the journey of a lifetime. Runners High is an intimate, character driven documentary of struggle, courage, and hope. During a season filled with conflict and possibility, four of these teens bare their dreams, joys, tears and fears. As several stumble under pressure in emotionally charged moments, others realize the journey begins with the power and commitment to accept responsibility for their own futures. Runners High shows that no matter what happens next, one season of training to run 26.2 miles can change your life forever. (2007; 87 min) 4th grade and up.

Salaam Dunk: Two years ago, the women on the newly-formed basketball team at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani (AUIS) had never run in public. Many had never played sports. None had ever been on a team with other women. They came from all corners of Iraq to attend this prestigious school, but many cannot tell their family or friends back home that they go to an “American” university. Salaam Dunk follows this ethnically diverse team as they discover what it means to be athletes. From the joy of their first win to the pain of losing the coach who started their team, the film gives a glimpse into an Iraq that we don’t see on the news. 4th grade and up.

Scout’s Honor: “To be physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight,” this is the Boy Scout Oath.  Since 1910, millions of boys have joined.  But today, if you are openly gay, you can’t.  Witness how Steven Cozza, a 13-year-old Boy Scout, launches a grassroots campaign to overturn the ban on gays.  “Scouting for All” is the movement built by Cozza with the help of a long-time scout leader, community members, and his own family.  Moving from Petaluma, California to the Supreme Court, the film chronicles a modern interpretation of the scouting ideals of courage and honor. (60 min)
 4th grade and up.

Skin Deep
: SKIN DEEP takes the viewer on a journey of dialogue with a group of contemporary college students from UMASS Amherst, Texas A&M and UC Berkeley. They come from vastly different racial, religous and economic backgrounds. They are from all over the country – small rural towns, huge cities, liberal, conservative, wealthy, middleclass and poor families. They spend a weekend at a retreat center in California, talking about their differences around race. (53 min)
6th grade and up. (screened 1997)

Somewhere Between: is the true story of the coming-of-age of four girls adopted from Chinese orphanages into American families. As they become teens, the question of identity comes to the fore. We follow their journeys, as they find other adoptees and struggle with the question “Who am I?” (screened 2015) http://www.somewherebetweenmovie.com/

Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey: As the first black attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Kennedy Justice Department in the 1960’s, Henderson, fresh out of Boalt Hall Law School, confronted the intricate challenges of being a black man in authority within the largely all-white world of the American legal system. Soul of Justice traces Henderson’s career from his experiences in the south in the Civil Rights era, through his 1980 judicial appointment until the present day, and captures the multifaceted nature of this extraordinary human being by deftly weaving together the parallel threads of historical imagery and insightful commentary to create a rousing yet reflective profile in courage. Abby Ginzberg. (60 min) 7th grade and up.

Sound & the Fury: Imagine: Your child is born deaf, but a miraculous new operation can restore the baby’s hearing.  So given the limited risk, of course you decide to undertake the procedure. Right? Therein lies the intriguing premise of this fascinating portrait of deaf families and deaf culture. The battle over cochlear implants, a medical technology welcomed by some as a cure for deafness and reviled by others as a cruel procedure which will result in the end of American Sign Language and deaf culture, threatens to divide the deaf community and define the future of those who are hearing impaired.  Two branches of the Artinian family, each headed by a brother, are at the center of a passionate and elucidating debate.  The anguish of parents, grandparents, children and many others as they negotiate the emotional travails that color these issues and choices is vividly on display.  One of the most talked about films at this year’s Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals.  (90 min)
5th grade and up. (screened 2001)

Speaking in Tongues: What would it be like if your parents put you in a school where the teacher spoke a foreign language?  Speaking in Tongues uses this scenario to explore the provocative notion that being bilingual can be a national asset. Taking us beyond rote arguments and stereotypes, this intimate film witnesses the joys and challenges of four diverse children on their journey to become global citizens. Enter their world and ask, today, is knowing one language enough? 3rd grade and up (though some subtitles)

Stonewall Uprising: When police raided the  Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New  York City on June 28, 1969, the street erupted into violent protests that  lasted for the next six days. Pioneers of the Gay Rights Movement used the riots to propel their own civil rights movement in 1969. At the time of the uprising the American Psychiatric Association still classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and the act of homosexual sex — even in private homes — was considered a crime. The Stonewall riots,  as they came to be  known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world. 7th grade and up.

Strange Fruit: “Part of our history, part of our heritage, Strange Fruit captures with vivid imagery the history of a song that created immediate controversy as a grim reminder of a necessarily painful and ugly chapter in American history. The song retains its force, because the issues it raises about the legacy of racial terrorism in American society still resonate. Except for Strange Fruit, none of the victims was ever memorialized and their stories and legacies are all but forgotten. This is a fascinating story about a song that compelled its audiences to confront the past in ways that could be genuinely disturbing. It is no less disturbing today.”  –Leon F. Litwack, A.F. & May T. Morrison Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley.  (58 min)
8th grade and up (images of lynching)

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai: – educator, Nobel Peace Prize winner, leader of     the Green Belt Movement – changed history in Kenya. She began by teaching rural women to plant trees. They worked against poverty, deforestation, ignorance, global economic interests, and government repression, until the movement became a national political force that helped to bring down Kenya’s 24-year dictatorship. 5th grade and up.

Thirty-Nine Pounds of Love: This documentary profiles Ami Ankilevitz, a 3-D animator whose bodily motions are limited to a single finger on his left hand. At birth, Ami was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and was predicted to live the age six. Now thirty years later, he returns to the U.S. to confront the childhood doctor who predicted his early demise. The NYTimes found the film a “bracingly honest yet poetic portrait of a man refusing to be defined by the limitations of his body.” Funny, warm, and very engaging, 39 Pounds has won numerous film awards, and was in the running for an Oscar nomination this year.  6th grade and up.

Three and a half Minutes, Ten Bullets: reveals what happened with two disparate lives intersected, and were forever changed. On Black Friday, 2012, at a Florida gas station, two cars were parked next to each other for only moments, but the interaction between them was devastating. A white middle-aged male and a black teenager exchanged angry words over the volume of music in the boy’s car. A gun entered the exchange, and one of them was left dead. Through intimate interviews and remarkable footage including police interrogations and the trial, we watch the search for justice in today’s America. (screened 2016) http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/3-1-2-minutes

Three to Infinity: Beyond Two Genders: immerses the viewer in a world where gender is a spectrum of possibilities. Berkeley director Lonny Shavelson spotlights individual and their loved ones as they share their gender non-conforming identities. Subjects addressed include: Are there only two genders? What does it mean to be gender fluid? (screened 2015) http://www.threetoinfinity.com/about/

Trevor: Told narratively as diary entries, the film follows 13-year-old Trevor, who is ostracized for being gay and ultimately attempts suicide, when a young, supportive girl inspires Trevor to live. Themes include (1) How do young people come to terms with their identity, especially their sexual identity? (2) How do sex roles and peer pressure come into play when young people try to answer the question, “Who am I?”, and (3) How important are heroes and heroines to young people? What happens if a tenage boy chooses a female heroine? Best  Live Action Short, Academy Awards, 1995.  By Peggy Rajski, presented by Ellen Degeneres.  (23 min)
5ht grade and up (considers suicide) but I think this isn’t available

Twitch and Shout: Only a filmmaker who herself suffers from Tourette’s syndrome could get away with titling a documentary about the disorder so irreverently.  Twitch and Shout introduces us to a professional basketball player, an artist, an actress, and a Mennonite lumberjack among others with Tourette’s.  We make contact and are completely absorbed in this sometimes unsettling, ultimately uplifting film about people who must contend with a society that often sees them as crazy or bad because their bodies and minds won’t do what they’re told.  By Laurel Chiten. (59 min)

3rd grade and up (some strong language)

An Unlikely Hero: “We have no tea and sushi here, Yamashita!” “You speak English? We don’t want your kind around here. Go back to your own country.”  When Bruce Yamashita’s dreams were dashed by a consistent pattern of discrimination at the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School, he refused to surrender and waged a lonely, five-year battle for justice. By standing for equal opportunity and fairness, he served patriotism’s highest calling, challenging the nation’s powerful institutions, and emerging a most unlikely hero.  (57 min)

Unnatural Causes : is a two-part series on healthcare in America. What’s making Americans so much sicker than citizens of other countries? Part I: In Sickness and in Wealth: An African American child in a poor neighborhood can expect to die 15 or more years earlier than a white child in a rich neighborhood just a few miles away. The big killers are not violence, drugs, or even HIV/AIDS. Parts 2 & 3: When the Bough Breaks & Becoming American: African American women have many more miscarriages and low birth weight babies than white women, regardless of their wealth or education. Why? Latino immigrants arrive here much healthier than the US population, but don’t stay that way a generation later. What’s going on? (30 min/part) 6th grade and up.

Waging a Living: If you work hard, you get ahead. That’s the American Dream in a nutshell — no matter what your race, color, creed or economic starting point, hard work will improve your life and increase your children’s opportunities. Yet, this widely held dream is out of reach for an increasing number of working Americans. “Waging a Living,” puts a human face on the growing economic squeeze that is forcing millions of workers into the ranks of the poor. Shot in the Northeast and California, the film profiles four very different Americans who work full-time but still can’t make ends meet. Despite their hard work and determination, these four find themselves, as one of them observes, “hustling backwards.” Roger Weisberg. (60 min) 6th grade and up.

The Waiting Room (Jan & Feb 2014 w/ Piedmont filmmaker Pete Nicks; health care in America) In Pete Nicks’ acclaimed documentary, we go behind the doors of Highland Hospital’s over-crowded Emergency Room. We follow the intimate stories of patients awaiting care, as victims of gun violence take their turn alongside cancer patients and others, who wait hours and even days for treatment. The dedicated medical staff struggle to care for the largely uninsured patients, as we witness the use of emergency service as a substitute for proper primary care. Middle school and above © 2013

The Way Home shows what happened when eight ethnic councils of women came together to talk honestly about race, gender and class in the U.S.  Over the course of eight months, 65 women, representing a cross-section of culture in the U.S., met in councils separated by ethnicity.  Their candid conversations offer rare access into multi-dimensional cultural worlds mostly invisible to outsiders. The result is a wondrous collection of stories that present an inspiring picture of women moving beyond the duality of race. By Shakti Butler.  (92 min)
7th grade and up.

Wet Dreams and False Images: “In a barbershop in Brooklyn, Dee-Dee admiringly looks at his collection of celebrity women, tacked up on the wall, in all their smooth, silky glory. In his opinion, these are women who are absolutely perfect. They’ve got no flaws. They are goddesses. So begins an absorbing and sometimes humorous twelve minutes, where we not only hear from Dee-Dee, as well as other barbers, but also a computer airbrush and touch-up artist, where they reveal how they do what they do. As one of the guys puts it, “(Dee-Dee’s) been having wet dreams to false images.” It’s a brief documentary that brings new light to exactly how sex sells when it comes to photography, and how real women out there might also be dreaming to false images when they go on this diet and that diet to get the bodies that those women seemingly possess.”  review by Rory L. Aronsky in Film Threat.  (12 min)
8th grade and up.

What Do You Believe? is a documentary that captures a diverse group of young people as they share their most personal beliefs and feelings about spirituality, god, morality, prayer, death, the purpose of life, and freedom of religion in the U.S.  The What Do You Believe Project was conceived in 1998 in order to promote tolerance and understanding among American teenagers from different religious and spiritual backgrounds. Two hundred teenage interviewees included Muslims, pagans, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, Native Americans, Mormon, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Christians, Latinos, Blacks, Whites, and Asian Americans.  By weaving 6 teenagers’ in-depth stories with commentary from twenty others, this documentary paints a broad picture of religious and spiritual life for Bay Area teens.  (60 min) 6th grade and up.

When Medicine Got it Wrong: In 1974 a small group of parents became the first in the nation to publicly refuse blame for causing their children to have schizophrenia. This film shows how these families launched a fast growing grassroots movement that led to an era of dramatic advances in understanding, treatment and brain research. Most communities, however, still wrestle with mental healthcare policies based on debunked theories from the 1960s and ’70s – pushing many with severe mental illness directly into homelessness or incarceration. (53 min) 7th grade and up.

Writ Writer portrays the historic conflict that emerged in the 1960s when Texas prisoners petitioned the courts for relief from inhumane prison conditions. Focusing on the story of self-taught jailhouse lawyer Fred Arispe Cruz, the film uncovers his legal battle, his collaboration with poverty law attorney Frances Jalet, and his successful litigation for the right of Texas prisoners to assist one another with lawsuits. His litigation paved the legal path for Ruiz v Estelle, the most comprehensive court-ordered state prison reform litigation in U.S. history.

You Don’t Know Dick is a film about female to male transgender individuals who range in age from their 20’s to their 60’s. A fascinating portrayal. 6th grade and up. (some frank discussions of sex.)

Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun: Zora Neale Hurston, a path-breaking novelist, pioneering anthropologist and one of the first black women to enter the American literary canon (Their Eyes Were Watching God), established the African American vernacular as one of the most vital, inventive voices in American literature. This definitive film biography, eighteen years in the making, portrays Zora in all her complexity: gifted, flamboyant, and controversial but always fiercely original. (84 min; 2008) 7th grade and up.