A moving and intimate story of a family in transition, REAL BOY follows the journey of trans teen Bennett as he navigates adolescence, sobriety, and the physical and emotional ramifications of his changing gender identity. Through the process, his mother Suzy makes her own transformation — travelling a difficult road toward accepting that the daughter she raised as Rachael is now her son, Bennett.
“The struggle to find our identity, to be our true self is universal,” said Lois Vossen, Executive Producer of Independent Lens. “The discovery of who we really are, versus who we believe we are meant to be, is at the core of Haas’s remarkable film.”
Through observational storytelling that is alternately heartbreaking and humorous, REAL BOY offers a clear-eyed look at a family tested by a change they never imagined, the complexity of addiction, the healing power of music, and the unbreakable bond between mother and child.
Filmed over the course of four years, REAL BOY is a love story about a mother and son who rediscover connection with each other and find support from their communities, reminding us that families are not only given, but chosen. REAL BOY is screening around the country as part of the Indie Lens Pop-Up Screening Series. The film premieres on Independent Lens Monday, June 19, 2017, 10:00 PM ET/PT (check local listings) on PBS.
Produced and Directed by Shaleece Haas. Read more about the film and watch the trailer here.
Why kill your own food? AN ACQUIRED TASTE delves into the inner conflicts of a new urban breed of young people: locavore hunters. Defying factory farms, a young, mindful generation learns to hunt as a way of connecting with the source of their sustenance.
Vanessa LeMarie-Workman’s feature debut is “a profound reflection on what makes us human.” Scott Staats, Portland Tribune.
World Premiere at the 2016 San Francisco Green Film Festival. Watch the trailer and read more about the film here.
REAL BOY will have its world premiere at the British Film Institute’s Flare Festival 2016 in London, UK. Tickets and more information available here.
The North American premiere will be at the Independent Film Festival Boston (IFFBoston 2016). Tickets and information here.
REAL BOY is the coming-of-age story of Bennett Wallace, a transgender teenager on a journey to find his voice – as a musician, a friend, a son, and a man. As he navigates the ups and downs of young adulthood, he works to gain the love and support of his mother, who has deep misgivings about her child’s transition. Along the way, Bennett forges a powerful friendship with his idol, Joe Stevens, a celebrated transgender musician with his own demons to fight.
British Film Institute: “REAL BOY is often raw and breathtakingly honest, but it is to the film’s credit that it never judges its characters. It is impossible not to feel a sense of awe at the resilience, courage and maturity of young trans people.”
UPDATE: Andrew Gersh was presented with the IFFBoston 2016 Karen Schmeer Award for Excellence in Documentary Editing for his work on REAL BOY. From the jury statement: “The film seamlessly incorporates archival footage from YouTube, Skype and 90s-era camcorders in a way that feels organic, transformative and true.”
Produced and Directed by Shaleece Haas. Read more here.
From Variety: “The setting of Chau, Beyond the Lines is initially a small Peace Camp for children suffering birth defects caused by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. It’s tucked away in the back of a Ho Chi Min City maternity hospital and one of the kids is Chau, a boy who longs to be an artist. With stunted growth in his extremities imposing physical limitations, the process of painting is a struggle, but Chau’s passion is palpable. The film, which follows him over the course of a few years, showcases his struggle with inspiration, notes a culture of discouragement among the nurses in the hospital who think his dream is unrealistic and follows his efforts to ultimately achieve independence.”
Chau, Beyond the Lines has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Congratulations to Director/Editor/Producer Courtney Marsh and Producer Jerry Franck. Andrew Gersh was an editing and story consultant on the film. Read more here.
Daddy Don’t Go premieres at DOC NYC 2015. Tickets available here.
What lies at the root of America’s fatherhood crisis? Daddy Don’t Go takes an intimate look at the struggles of four diverse, disadvantaged NYC fathers to beat the odds stacked against them and defy the deadbeat dad stereotype. Fighting against homelessness, unemployment, bureaucracy and, in some cases, a criminal past, Alex, Nelson, Roy and Omar want nothing more than to honor their responsibilities and provide for their children. Daddy Don’t Go offers a moving portrait of what it means to be a good father, despite life’s circumstances.
Directed by Emily Abt, Co-Director Andrew Osborne. Read more here.
In this short film, part of the New York Times Op-Doc series, a former Pentecostal preacher starts a secular congregation in the heart of the Bible Belt.
“In much of America, tolerance rules, but in some communities, especially in the Bible Belt, churches can still compel conformity in ways that make atheism a very costly choice. As we have followed the topic, we have met young people estranged from their families and others fired from their jobs. Perhaps most poignant for us are the people we’ve met who sit quietly in the pews every Sunday, pretending to share in a faith they do not have. The time we have spent with Mr. DeWitt has helped us to see that the freedom of religion we cherish in this country is meaningless — unless it is accompanied by an equally valid freedom from it.”
A film by Jason Cohn and Camille Servan-Schreiber of Bread and Butter Films. Watch here.
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) brings its signature journalism to public television in Fall of 2014 with Reveal, a four-part series presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Reveal is a first-of-its-kind television show that brings viewers deep into investigations and captures the drama and high stakes of the reporting process. Beginning with a lead documentary and closing with shorter, high-impact stories, each hour-long episode digs into crucial and often under-reported issues: from “Her War,” which explores why women veterans make up the fastest growing segment of the nation’s homeless population to “State of Surveillance,” a look at new technologies that are revolutionizing policing and alarming those who fear that privacy and civil liberties will be eroded. Hidden stories, uncovered; that’s what Reveal is all about.
Andrew Gersh’s work on REVEAL includes the premiere episode ALONE: Teens in Solitary Confinement and Generation Z: Child Soldiers of the Zetas.
Deep in the dusty expanse of the Nevada desert, over 60,000 people from around the world join together in a week-long bacchanalia of art, self-expression and music. The once forsaken landscape is transformed into a temporary Shangri-La that doesn’t end until a towering effigy is set alight and burned to the ground in a ritual frenzy. This is Burning Man, a legendary event that is notoriously hard to explain or document. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams.
This in-depth look at the annual art-happening/rave/desert retreat was filmed at a critical juncture for the venerable event. Facing ever-larger crowds (topping 60,000 people in 2012) and shifting priorities, the organizers struggle to maintain their integrity, both in each other’s eyes and in the public’s, amid a box office crisis that left many of their core supporters and artists without tickets. Given unprecedented access to the backstage discussions and complicated planning of both organizers and participants, the filmmakers create a portrait of an event that, at its best, is a life-changing experience for many. Writes the New York Times: “Since we can’t all attend Burning Man, we can be thankful for “Spark,” which is probably the next best thing.”
SPARK: A Burning Man Story opens August 16th in New York and Los Angeles, followed by theaters nationwide. SPARK will also be available through iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and many on-demand cable systems beginning August 17th. Produced and directed by Steve Brown & Jessie Deeter. Read more at the official website.
After a special US premiere screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, The Revolutionary Optimists begins its nationwide theatrical run on March 29th in New York and April 19th in Santa Monica, followed by 58 ITVS Community Cinema screenings around the country throughout May. Following the theatrical run, the film will premiere on television June 17th on PBS’s Independent Lens.
Lawyer turned social advocate Amlan Ganguly doesn’t rescue children; he empowers them through education and activism to battle poverty and transform their lives and communities. The Revolutionary Optimists follows Amlan and the children he works with—Shika, Salim, Kajal and Priyanka—as they staunchly fight against the forces that oppress them. Utilizing theater and dance, and supported by Amlan’s own considerable charm and skills of persuasion, these young activists are campaigning for clean water and improved sanitary conditions in their communities and struggling to ensure that children laboring in the brick fields on the outskirts of Calcutta are receiving an education.
Shot over the course of three and a half years, Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham’s film vividly captures the vibrancy of India while taking us on an intimate journey with these children, during which we witness not only the changes they are able to make in their neighborhood, but also the changes within each of them.
Produced and Directed by Nicole Newnham & Maren Grainger-Monsen. Read more at the official website and in The Hollywood Reporter.
SPARK: A Burning Man Story will have its world premiere at the 2013 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, TX. For this year’s festival, 109 films were selected from a record-breaking 2,096 submissions.
Each year, 60,000 people from around the globe gather in a dusty windswept Nevada desert to build a temporary city, collaborating on large-scale art and partying for a week before burning a giant effigy in a ritual frenzy. Rooted in principles of self-expression, self-reliance and community effort, Burning Man has grown famous for stirring ordinary people to shed their nine-to-five existence and act on their dreams.
SPARK takes us behind the curtain with Burning Man organizers and participants, revealing a year of unprecedented challenges and growth. When ideals of a new world based on freedom and inclusion collide with realities of the “default world,” we wonder which dreams can survive.
Produced and Directed by Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter. Official Website