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 DogsMondays 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.

Cynthia Wade won an Oscar in 2008 for her short documentary Freeheld. Wade’s most recent film, Mondays at Racine, was nominated for an Oscar in 2013; it also won honorable mention at Silverdocs Festival and was nominated for an IDA Award. Her short documentary Born Sweet won 17 festival awards, including at Sundance. Her feature-length doc Living the Legacy aired on Sundance and IFC, and her HBO film Shelter Dogs won five festival awards. Wade has directed commercial and web campaigns, produced commercial work, as well as broadcast work. She is producing a fiction feature based on Freeheld, starring Ellen Page.

Marcia Rock (moderator) is an independent filmmaker and professor who has always been interested in women’s issues. Her film Daughters of the Troubles won the American Women in Radio and Television's top documentary award. Her earlier work, McSorley’s New York, won a New York Emmy. Her film Surrender Tango was nominated for a New York Emmy, and her new documentary SERVICE: When Women Come Marching Home will be broadcast on PBS Stations across the country this year. Rock is the director of News and Documentary at the NYU Carter Journalism Institute.

Mondays at Racine
(Oscar Nomination, 2013)
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.

Shelter Dogs

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.

Grist for the Mill

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.