Documentary Subjects Talk Back
Storyteller, witness, interpreter, friend, invasive annoyance.
Documentary filmmakers often have intense, complex relationships with the subjects of their films. As directors, they walk a murky ethical and moral line with their characters. They hold great responsibility in telling their stories. They are there to witness their subjects' best and worst moments, a power that is both trusted and feared.
This panel will focus on the fragile and enduring relationship between director and subject, as real documentary participants reveal the good, the bad and the ugly about being the focus of a film. Oscar-winning director Cynthia Wade will screen clips from three of her HBO films (Grist for the Mill, Shelter Dogs, Mondays at Racine), including footage that ended up on the cutting-room floor; while her subjects will discuss and reveal what it felt like to be part of the inherently invasive process of documentary filmmaking. Subjects participating will be Cambria Russell and Warren Hart from Mondays at Racine, Sue Sternberg from Shelter Dogs, and Jennifer Wade from Grist for the Mill.
Every third Monday of the month, brassy Long Island, New York, sisters Cynthia and Rachel open up their hair salon, called Racine, and offer free beauty services for women undergoing chemotherapy. Determined to make their customers feel beautiful, the glamor duo knows that Mondays at Racine goes beyond purple painted toes or a frothy facial. The sisters are determined to give women who are losing their hair, eyebrows and eyelashes a sense of normalcy and dignity in a traumatic and uncertain time. The story of what hair means in our culture quickly unfolds into an unexpected look at womanhood, marriage and survival.
Sue Sternberg and her staff face difficult decisions of which animals will be saved for adoption and which will be euthanized. The story hangs on the troubling moral dilemmas surrounding some of the gray area dogs. If a dog bites a shelter worker, is it ethical to adopt him out? If a dog guards his food, can he be trusted in a family with children? And what about the dogs that never find homes? This film provides a fresh look at the complex world of animal sheltering.
Filmmaker Cynthia Wade is trying to get her divorced parents to talk to each other, but that is the last thing they want to do. Nothing ever seems to work out the way Wade hopes it will. At least she has a job -calling out bingo numbers, a loving family (although her father's new wife is just a few years older than Wade), and a social life (if answering an emergency hotline on a Saturday night counts). So what if her sister gets all of the dates and her father is finally getting the son he always wanted? Wade is armed with her camera, and the result is a family story called a jewel and a delight, full of quirky moments and humor.
Produced by Maria Pusateri, Veena Rao and Marcia Rock. Special thanks to Vanessa Bergonzoli.
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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Last updated: Mar. 27, 2013