Kopkind 2011 Retreat. Filmmaker Info

We are delighted to announce the filmmakers attending this year’s CID / Kopkind Filmmakers Retreat & Seminars in Guilford, VT.
Here you will find information from all of the filmmakers attending- a chance to learn a bit about each other before the retreat. 

Meet the Filmmakers:
Jesse Freeston

Jesse is an independent video-journalist. He is a frequent contributor of mini-documentary style news reports to The Real News Network, an independent daily video news service based out of D.C. and Toronto. His reports have largely focused on amplifying the voice of social movements in North and Central America. Some of the highlights of his work have been coverage of the year-long miner strike at the world’s largest nickel mine in Sudbury, Ontario, the campaign to cut Medicare and Social Security in Washington, DC, the Salvadoran anti-gold mining movement, and the Honduran campesino land occupation movement, also the topic of his first feature-length documentary project. He is perhaps most known for his exposure of electoral fraud during the post-military coup elections in Honduras in November, 2009. He is born in North Bay, Ontario, raised in Ottawa, and currently without fixed address.

Tierra Fertil is the name of the Spanish-language documentary Jesse’s currently making on the campesino land occupation movement in Honduras’ Aguan Valley. With plans for later English and French language releases, the film will be the first to bring the world of Honduras’ occupied communities to the screen. For decades, campesinos in the Aguan Valley have been in conflict with a handful of plantation owners, typically members of Honduras most politically and economically powerful families. They have suffered hundreds of assassinations, violent evictions, and constant surveillance and repression intended to beat the proud farmers into accepting life as misery-wage workers. Since the country’s 2009 military coup ousted the first president to implement policies in favor of the campesinos, the organized famers have become a key sector of the national coup resistance movement. They recently launched a new wave of land occupations pitting themselves against plantation owners who, as a result of the coup, now control all the state’s institutions. The campesinos are often targeted by a band of police, military, private security firms, and recently-organized paramilitary death squads. But in the midst of bloody conflict, the Aguan’s newest generation of occupying communities are learning from mistakes of the past and implementing exciting new ideas. Ranging from innovative land-use plans to ensuring the participation of women and youth in decision-making. The film is, above all, an opportunity for the pioneers of an exciting new society to introduce themselves to an audience that has only heard their story through the filter of experts and commentators, if they’ve heard it all.

• Links to Jesse’s work from The Real News Network:
• http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4259
• http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=6513
• Email: jfreeston@gmail.com


David A. Goldenberg

David was raised in Europe and spent much of his twenties in East Africa. In the 1970s, while completing a PhD in anthropology, he coordinated a university degree program for older students. Then, over three decades, used his skills as an applied anthropologist to plan, support, and evaluate international development projects in thirty-five countries for such NGOs as CARE, Save the Children, and Plan International. In the late 1960s, as a semi-professional photographer and Peace Corps volunteer, he had the opportunity to run the Visual Aids Unit of a Kenya Government Ministry. David’s dream when entering Brown’s anthropology doctoral program was to make ethnographic films. That dream was not realized until ten years ago. Since then he has made documentary films concerned with international development, U.S. community organizations, personal biography, and the arts. These have included several short films about politically significant Israeli plays.

Return to Haifa: A Moment of Empathy is a feature-length film about a recently produced Israeli play by Boaz Gaon that managed to break through the political defenses of its audiences to convey the emotional heartbreak on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It was the first play by a major Israeli theater to deal directly with the events of 1948 from the Palestinian point of view. Return to Haifa was adapted from a novella written by the iconic Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani just a few years before his assassination by Israeli forces. In his story he interlinked the fates of Jewish Holocaust survivors and 1948 Haifa refugees from the Naqba.  Members of the Israeli creative team describe the choices they made in adapting a forty-year old original work and the manner in which every aspect of the production was highly personal for both Jewish and Palestinian cast members. They also discuss the demonstrations against the play in Tel-Aviv and the controversy that followed it to the performances in the United States. The film includes excerpts of performances in Washington, DC  and the complex responses of audience members, including Palestinians whose own parents fled Haifa in 1948 and Holocaust survivors who identified with the pain all the characters.

• Return to Haifahttp://documentaries.org/cid-films/return-to-haifa
• Vimeo album with a number of short films of the film in progress: http://vimeo.com/album/1494634
• Email: narravideo@gmail.com


Jonathan Goldman

Jonathan is an independent filmmaker who studied Fine Art, Theatre, Music, and Philosophy at the University Of Massachusetts, Amherst, graduating in 1992. A lifelong poet and musician, Goldman attended Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts from 2006 to 2008 earning a Certificate in Digital Filmmaking and the unique Area 51 Award. Goldman was a standout and a quadruple threat as he wrote, produced, directed, and edited. Since attending BU, he has been immersed in the freelance world of filmmaking active in all phases of production. His commercial and industrial film credits include work for Bank of America, Honeywell, and the Connecticut Science Center. Currently a resident of New York City, his other credits include work for VS, HGTV, Discovery Channel, HBO, and Google.

Sentinel of the Dunes. Oil painter John Mulcahy lives and breathes the Cape Cod landscape. His obscurity is second only to the weight of his artistic achievement and the reverence exhibited by those who know of his legendary presence. The image of father time, the courtliness of a saint, he and his oils illuminate a solemn vision of communion with nature and self. Sentinel of the Dunes is a film chronicling the life and work of Cape Cod, Massachusetts artist John Mulcahy. Focused primarily on landscape and self-portrait oil paintings, Mulcahy’s work is a living testament to the sublime and magical beauty of nature and one man’s relationship with his environment. Through interviews with the artist, colleagues, patrons, collectors, and his sister, as well as selections from his collection of finished works, we are treated to a transcendental ride through the heart and mind of a true champion of the soul in all its ebullient toil. As images emerge from his pallet knife a vision of oneness with nature is revealed. His revelations meld with our consciousness and give us deep insights through a highly skilled, devoted, and inspired poet of the canvas.

• Short from Sentinel of the Duneshttp://vimeo.com/2467569
• Email: eyelandinthesky@yahoo.com


Julia Haslett

Julia was born in London and is based in New York City. Julia makes expressionistic documentaries about contemporary and historical subjects. She is producer/director of the highly acclaimed Worlds Apart (2003) series about cross-cultural medicine, and producer of the companion hour-long documentary Hold Your Breath (2005), which broadcast on PBS in 2007. Her documentary shorts Hurt & Save (2001), Flooded (2003), Eclipsed (2007), and Pure & Simple (2008) have screened at numerous festivals and galleries, including Full Frame, Athens, and Rooftop Films. She has worked at WGBH-Boston, the Discovery Channel, and as a Filmmaker-in-Residence at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. Julia earned a B.A. in English Literature from Swarthmore College and an M.F.A. in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College (CUNY). She was awarded a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and selected for IFP’s 2009 Documentary Lab for her first feature documentary, An Encounter with Simone Weil, which had its world premiere at IDFA in 2010.

An Encounter with Simone Weil tells the story of French philosopher, educator, and activist Simone Weil (1909-1943) who spent most of her too-short life advocating for the rights of the socially and politically disadvantaged. On her quest to understand Weil, filmmaker Julia Haslett confronts profound questions of moral responsibility both within her own family and the broader context of 21st century America. Using Weil’s writings and teachings as a framework for her own experience, Haslett creates a moving portrait of an extraordinary young woman whose decision to act on her convictions proved that the quest to live a principled life is a journey we should all consider taking. The film premiered in competition at IDFA 2010, and in 2011 has played at Full Frame and Sarasota. Upcoming screenings include Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

• An Encounter with Simone Weil: http://simoneweilmovie.com
• Email: juliahaslett@gmail.com


Lily Keber

Lily is a filmmaker and educator based in New Orleans. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Lily learned filmmaking at the International Film & Television Workshops in Rockport, ME. She taught at the community arts collective Appalshop in Whitesburg, KY before moving to New Orleans. During the summer of 2007, Lily co-directed Hutto: America’s Family Prison, a short film on the Department of Homeland Security’s policy of family detention. In 2008, Lily co-founded New Orleans Video Voices, a woman-led media collective dedicated to expanding media literacy across the Gulf Coast. Bayou Maharajah is her first documentary feature.

Bayou Maharajah studies the life and music of James Booker, the man Dr. John described as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced”. A brilliant pianist, his unique eccentricities belied a life of struggle and isolation. Though triply-marginalized by his race, sexuality, and his physical disability, Booker excelled in his field, pushing the fusion of sacred and secular, pop and classical traditions to staggering new levels. He paved the way for a generation of young homosexual musicians who came after him with his open and flamboyantly gay performances. He gave voice to the pent-up rage of his era with his denunciations of Louisiana’s dark heritage of racism and incarceration. As with any great artist, Booker’s music conveys what it feels like to be an outsider in one’s own hometown, trapped by one’s own identity. Illustrated with never-before-seen concert footage, rare personal photos and exclusive interviews, the film paints a portrait of this overlooked legend. Interviews already filmed include Harry Connick Jr., Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Charles Neville and many more.

• Website and trailer for Bayou Maharajahhttp://bayoumaharajah.com
• Email: lkeber@gmail.com


Jan Krawitz

Jan has been independently producing documentary films for thirty-five years.  Her work has been exhibited at film festivals in the United States and abroad, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, Nyon, Edinburgh, South by Southwest, AFI/SilverDocs, London, Sydney, and Full Frame. Her most recent film, Big Enough was broadcast on the national PBS series P.O.V. and internationally in eighteen countries. Earlier films, including Mirror Mirrror (P.O.V.), In Harm’s Way (Independent Lens), Little People and Drive-in Blues, received national broadcast on PBS and the Discovery Channel. She served as producer, director, and editor for all of the above-mentioned films. Little People was nominated for a national Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Documentary” and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Krawitz has had one-woman retrospectives of her films at many venues including the Portland Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Rice Media Center, the Austin Film Society, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.  She was awarded an artist’s residency at Yaddo for spring 2011.  Krawitz is a Professor at Stanford University where she directs the M.F.A. Program in Documentary Film and Video.

Perfect Strangers follows the 4-year journey undertaken by Ellie, a spirited and guileless woman who, at the age of 48, decides to donate her kidney to a perfect stranger. The film explores the ineffable magnitude of her action and the burden of responsibility that accompanies it, for both donor and recipient. Ellie’s teenage son, along with recipients and their families add their stories to the mix. The film privileges intimate, observational sequences so the viewer can viscerally experience the story as it unfolds. Scenes of daily life (some unrelated to organ donation) are amplified by interviews and voiceover that underscore the complicated physical and emotional  terrain of organ donation. The longitudinal story takes place over three years and includes some unexpected twists and turns en route. The documentary will provoke the viewer to confront his/her place on the continuum between selfishness and selflessness. Organ donation from a deceased donor is held in high regard whereas altruistic organ donation, situated on the outer edge of the “giving” scale, often elicits suspicion and hostility. Why do we feel threatened by the idea of such an extreme gift of oneself?

• Press for Perfect Strangershttp://sf360.org/articles/in-production?pageid=13652
• Email: krawitz@stanford.edu


Pearl J Park

Pearl embarked on producing the documentary film, Can as a means of social change- motivated by mental health tragedies. She previously worked as a designer in the corporate production industry and a print journalist before embarking on film work. She studied documentary production at Downtown Community Television. Born in Korea and raised in Miami, Pearl came to the NY metropolitan area 22 years ago after graduating from Florida International University with a degree in psychology.

Can. What does it take to heal from mental illness? This documentary film “Can” follows 37-year-old Vietnamese-American Can Truong’s journey of healing from depression and bipolar disorder over 3 and 1/2 years. He becomes one of the few Asian Americans active in the mental health consumer movement, a national civil rights effort by people with mental illnesses for autonomy and dignity. Over a 12-year period, Can tried more than 20 different medications, was hospitalized 7 times, and underwent 15 electroconvulsive shock treatments. Can and his family were among the millions of Vietnamese boat people who fled communist Vietnam in the late 70’s in overcrowded, unwieldy boats, enduring life-threatening perils. The rate of mental illness among Southeast Asian refugees are as high as 80% because of the devastating experience of war in their countries of origin. Like many traditional Asian fathers, Can’s father had high educational hopes for his only son. Propelled by his parents’ aspirations, Can was a model student, entering the University of Chicago in 1993 as a pre-med student. At the university, he was first diagnosed with his mental illnesses and was forced to drop out due to his debilitating condition. The final cut will be the standard 56-min PBS broadcast length.

• Website for Canhttp://amongourkin.org
• Email: lightfisharts@gmail.com


Marilyn Pennell

Marilyn is a faculty member at the University of Hartford where she teaches classes in multimedia and journalism. She has worked in the communication industry for more than 20 years, producing and directing documentary and public affairs programming, earning many awards and honors. Ms. Pennell’s hour long documentary films produced for television includes: Growing Up Nuclear, a film about how the atomic bombing of Hiroshima affected children; Child Care: Everybody’s Baby, a look at how the child care system in Sweden compares with that in the U.S. and First in the Nation, a behind the portrayal of  the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, broadcast nationally on PBS. Thirty minute documentaries include Kurukulla: Portrait of a Tibetan Buddhist Center in Boston and The Golden Years.

Tibet Will Be Free is a film in progress about Tibetan Buddhists in exile as a thesis project for a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film at Maine Media College. The film tells the stories of Tibetans living in exile, in India and the U.S. who seek a “free Tibet” and the preservation of their religion, culture and language. Though Tibet has been under Chinese rule for 60 years, there is now new hope with w newly elected Prime Minister and an active youth movement, both working outside of Tibet for a “free Tibet.”

Email: marilynvdp@hotmail.com


Karen Schoucair

Karen is an independent filmmaker from Lebanon, who has been living in Massachusetts for the past five years. She has done extensive work as a director, cinematographer, and editor. Karen’s latest body of work deals with the socio-political, as well as the rediscovery of her voice as an artist in an environment that expects one to conform to a set of societal standards. Any of the controversial subjects addressed through her films can be subject to conflict, if not within her country of origin, certainly within the household. Karen’s last film Beyrouth 87 is a reenactment of her childhood days during the Lebanese Civil War. She is currently working on the documentary Maid In Lebanon.

Maid In Lebanon exposes the little known world of the domestic worker in Lebanon. Thousands of African and Asian women leave their homes each year to work as maids in Lebanon, with the hope of securing a better future for their families. They have big dreams, yet little do they know what awaits them. The day they arrive at the airport, their passports are confiscated and kept with ”Madam” or ”Monsieur”. They will spend the next couple of years confined between the walls of their employer’s house, fulfilling their caring and cleaning needs, and sleeping in a minuscule ”maid’s room”. Behind closed doors, a lot of the women face exploitive situations such as the non-payment of wages, physical and psychological abuse, food deprivation, or restricted mobility and communication. The topic of the domestic migrant worker is a topic close to my heart. I have lived eighteen years of my life surrounded by maids that my mother used to hire. We treated them well, and by well I mean we did not hit them, rape or abuse them in any other way. My mother, however, followed what everyone else did in the country: she took their passports away. I remember how, as a teenager, that alone used to make me cringe. I heard my friends compare their maids while being served coffee: ”your girl is smarter than mine, she catches up on arabic words quickly, whereas my girl is stupid and lazy’. I was also told horrible stories of abuse that often concluded with the maid committing suicide, in order to free herself from her struggles. Having a maid is considered a social success for Madams. A Madam never misses the chance to show everyone her ‘servant’ the same way she would show off her new luxurious BMW. I grew up hating this mentality. I felt that something needed to be done. I needed to speak up.

• Maid in Lebanon: http:wix.com/karenschoucair/maidinlebanon
• Email: k.schoucair@gmail.com


Martha Swetzoff

Martha has a background in media production that includes experimental works, interface design for non-linear editing, interactive design, projection design for theater, including the original production of The Laramie Project, and her own short and long form films. One of these hour long films, Theme: Murder, about the unsolved murder of her father under the cloud of suspicion of being a “gay” murder, won awards domestically and abroad. Martha has taught at Harvard, UCLA and currently, the Rhode Island School of Design.
Steampunk Documentary
Steampunks are in a conversation with late 19th C aesthetics, technology and manners. They are revisiting this past for some, to re-imagine the future, for others, for fun. Many people involved cross over into “Maker” culture, a vigorous DIY community that encourages individual creation of all kinds as a response to consumerism. For me, I am curious about what this interest reflects on our present. Does it represent a kind of cultural anxiety in its return to another century?  Can its issues with disposable culture (clothes, technology, furniture, etc) and technology offer any kind of contemporary constructive criticism or is it an indulgence? What about some of the inherent contradictions, for instance, that the Victorian era was one of intense class divisions, racism, entitlements, and oppression? Is it possible that this period, which encompasses both a rise and fall of empire, has become a focus because it may suggest our future? And then, without social media, the Steampunk community would find it very hard to organize itself, and arguably would not have gained momentum as an active sub-culture. How to reconcile Victorian manners and the culture of the internet? And finally, how am I going to make the film?!

• Email: mswetzof@risd.edu