On April 10, Chatham University will celebrate women in film and media with a special event. Sponsored by Chatham’s Film & Digital Technology Program and the Steeltown Entertainment Project, the evening will showcase five Pittsburgh-based women filmmakers who will speak on their careers, the challenges they face, and what inspires them.
The panel includes Julie Sokolow, a self-taught documentarian who made waves with Woman on Fire, the story of Brooke Guinan, New York City’s first openly transgender firefighter. The film, which was acquired by Starz, depicts Guinan’s journey as she seeks acceptance in an overwhelmingly macho profession at the FDNY, where her father and grandfather also served. It also takes an intimate look at her personal life with her loving, but traditional family and boyfriend. In addition to Woman on Fire, Sokolow directed Aspie Seeks Love, a film about the dating struggles of a writer with autism.
Other panelists include Njaimeh Njie, a filmmaker, photographer, and founder of Eleven Stanley Productions, a multimedia production company dedicated to nonfiction storytelling. Her first solo project, Power(ed) by Grace: Musings on Black Womanhood, was a photo and video exploration of black women’s lives in Pittsburgh. Her work has been screened in the Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Festival and the Black Bottom Film Festival. According to her website, she’s currently working with residents in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood to develop a series of mural installations commissioned as part of the Temporary Placemaking and Public Art project, through the Office of Public Art and Neighborhood Allies. (Read more about her in our interview Pop Up Premieres Founder Njaimeh Njie Sees Black And Gold.)
Panelist Olivia Vaughn is a producer at the Pittsburgh production company, Animal. She produced Fursonas, an award-winning feature documentary on Furry subculture, and Echo Torch, a sci-fi short by local filmmaker Chris Preksta. She is currently producing the documentary feature Blood Memory, about America’s Indian Adoption Era. (To learn more about Fursonas, check out our interview with film’s director, Dominic Rodriguez.)
Panelist Kristen Lauth Shaeffer is a director, editor, and Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Technology at Chatham University. Her short film Mercury in Tuna screened at festivals in Pittsburgh and all over the world. She also made 349, a collaborative animation and installation project that converted a videotaped dance performance into a series of still frames. She has received grants from The Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Pittsburgh 250 Community Connections for her work as co-creator and executive producer of Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives.
Panelist Adrienne Wagner is a cinematographer and editor. Her short documentary My Grandpa’s Garage, a personal biopic about her grandfather’s life-long love of collecting, was featured in film festivals throughout the country. She also served as DP for the feature film Bystander and currently produces video content for Hello Neighbor, Pittsburgh’s refugee mentorship program, as well as other nonprofits.
The event takes place at 7 p.m. in Chatham University’s Beckwith Auditorium, Buhl Hall (in the Science Complex). It includes a screening, panel discussion, and Q&A, followed by a reception. This event is free and open to the public.
In Canada, hundreds of women – a majority of them indigenous – have become victim to a decades-long epidemic of disappearances and murder. On March 16, Chatham University and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will delve into this atrocity with an International Women’s Day screening of the documentary Finding Dawn.
Finding Dawn puts a human face on a tragedy that has received precious little attention – and one which is surprisingly similar to the situation in Ciudad Juarez, on the other side of the U.S. border. Dawn Crey, Ramona Wilson, and Daleen Kay Bosse are just three of the estimated 500 Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past 30 years. Acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh embarks on an epic journey to shed light on these murders and disappearances that remain unresolved to this day. She begins at Vancouver’s skid row where more than 60 poor women disappeared and travels to the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia where more than two dozen women (all but one Native) have vanished.
This film illustrates the deep historical, social and economic factors that contribute to the epidemic of violence against Aboriginal women. It highlights the disturbing, worldwide culture of impunity that allows murders of women – especially those who are poor, indigenous, or sex workers – to go unsolved and unpunished.
The Finding Dawn screening event begins at 5 p.m. at Chatham’s Laughlin Hall. Dinner is included. Welsh will give a post-screening interview via Skype with Dr. Prajna Parasher, director of Chatham’s Film and Digital Technology program. There will also a discussion on human trafficking of women and girls led by Dr. Mary Burke, professor of psychology at Carlow University and founder of the Project to End Human Trafficking.
Registration for this event is closed. Those interested in attending can email Nayab Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to a waiting list.
Chatham University will highlight leaders in sustainability and environmentalism during their latest spring Falk School of Sustainability & Environment speaker series. As part of the lineup, the school will feature two documentaries. See schedule and details below:
A self-described “steward of the earth,” Nance Klehm has built a reputation among environmentalists as an ecological systems designer, a permacultural grower, a horticultural consultant, and a teacher and speaker. Weedeater trots alongside Klehm through various landscapes, gathering together a collection of her thoughts and philosophies on everything from wild, uncultivated weeds to human waste composting to soil. The film attempts to sketch Klehm’s character as well as reflect the depth and complexity of her intimate relationship with the earth and all of its inhabitants.
Includes a talk by Klehm.
Power of One Voice
The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson examines Carson’s legacy and the continuing implications of her environmental work. The documentary pulls insights from a variety of speakers at the 50th-anniversary celebration of her groundbreaking book, Silent Spring.
Includes a discussion with Patti DeMarco, former director of Chatham’s Rachel Carson Institute.
Both events take place at the Esther Barazzone Center on Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus.
Last month, four organizations – the Chatham University Women’s Institute, New Voices Pittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation, and the Women’s Law Project – launched Just Films. The series includes ten documentaries covering a wide range of issues such as immigration, human trafficking, trans families, and paid leave. Many of the films were made by women and will screen in Pittsburgh for the first time.
On October 27th, Just Films welcomes Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker for the Pittsburgh premiere of Yemanjá: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil.
Directed by Donna C. Roberts and Donna Read, and narrated by Walker, the documentary depicts the Candomblé religion in Bahia, Brazil, a vibrant culture which evolved from the ways of enslaved Africans. Elder women leaders tell stories of Candomblé’s history, social challenges and triumphs, grounded in strong community, and Earth-based wisdom and practice.
Walker will participate in a post-screening panel along with Roberts and Candomblé priestess Dr. Rachel Elizabeth Harding. Dr. Huberta Jackson-Lowman, president of The Association of Black Psychologists, will serve as moderator.
All Just Films events are free and open to the public. The series will continue through June 2017.
The Sembéne Film & Arts Festival partnered with Chatham University‘s Global Focus Program to co-present six screenings as part of the Program’s Environmental Justice Film Series. On October 4th, the event will spotlight Bitter Seeds, a documentary about a mounting agricultural and humanitarian crisis in India.
The final film in Micha X. Peled‘s Globalization Trilogy examines th epidemic of suicides among India’s cotton farmers, which has claimed over a quarter million lives. Ram Krishna, a cotton farmer at the epicenter of the suicide crisis region, is struggling to keep his land. Manjusha, the neighbors’ daughter, is determined to overcome village traditions and become a journalist. Krishna’s plight becomes her first assignment.
The Bitter Seeds Environmental Justice Film Series screening will take place at 6 p.m. at Chatham’s Sanger Lecture Hall. Admission is free. Pizza and popcorn are provided.
On Nov. 14th, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) will present Just Gender, a film that explores diversity within the transgender community, as well as the depth of transgender experience in day-to-day living.
The documentary from director George Zuber serves as a comprehensive look at alternative gender identity and gender expression, and as a passionate cry for social justice for those affected by this long-misunderstood condition. Featuring dozens of personal stories from transgender citizens, Just Gender provides a substantial journey into the wide spectrum of experiences and situations that make up this community, from cross-dressers to those who undergo sexual reassignment surgery, from childhood to adulthood, from family life to work, to marriage to social life. Narrated by Bebe Neuwirth.
Just Gender screens at 7 p.m. in Chatham’s Eddy Theater. A panel discussion will follow. The GLCC will also accept toiletry donations for its homeless services for LGBT youth and adults. Admission is free.