New Day Blog

April 19, 2014  kathyhuang

“B” the Change: New Day Becomes a B Corp

bcorplogoNew Day Films is proud to announce that we have become a Certified B Corporation.  This is particularly meaningful and appropriate for New Day because being a Certified B Corporation means meeting higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability - intrinsic goals and values of our cooperative since its inception in 1971.

Our mission at New Day films is to provide media that educators, activists, and others can use to challenge, inspire and catalyze debate about vital issues. Because we are independent voices, we do this work without the backing and support of media conglomerates or powerful advertisers. Joining the ranks of Certified B Corporations extends the reach and power of our progressive voices, and is thus another way for New Day to create social change.

Certified companies use the “power train” of their businesses to help solve social and environmental problems. In many ways, the decision to join the community of Certified B Corporations was a no-brainer. As documentary filmmakers, we collaborate often with subjects, production teams, educators, activists, and community. Ethical sourcing and good employment practices, and a strong commitment to social responsibility and environmental sustainability, are the themes of many of our 300 films. Aligning our principles with a legal structure that mirrors these principles is a logical and exciting next step for our cooperative.

A major difference between Certified B Corporations and traditional corporations is that Certified B Corporations have demonstrated a measurable commitment to values beyond the bottom line. They consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders, but on their stakeholders (workers, suppliers, consumers and communities) as well.

In an era of expansive and expensive media campaigns, it is often hard to discern the difference between companies that actually do good and companies that do good marketing.  B Corporation Certification makes this distinction clear, and will no doubt become an important yardstick for measuring the success of companies in the future.

B Corporation Certification is essentially to business what “Fair Trade Certification”  is to coffee, or “USDA Organic Certification” is to milk. Certified by the nonprofit B Lab, B Corporations must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and clarity. “The process of becoming certified was extensive but easy,” says New Day member Lidia Szajko. “Over a period of several weeks we gathered data from various branches of our organization, along with verification documentation, to complete an extensive questionnaire covering areas of corporate accountability, governance metrics, transparency, diversity, community practices and environmental sustainability. By the time we had completed the assessment we had already surpassed by 50% the minimum threshold for certification.”

The goal of B Corp Certification is to inspire businesses to not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. Currently there are over 990 B Corporations in 60 industries in 32 countries redefining what success really means in the business world. New Day is the first film distribution company in the United States to be awarded the B Corporation Certification. We pursued Certification because it is becoming an increasingly known and respected benchmark of independently verified progressive business practices, and we have always believed that our business has a higher purpose than just making a profit – we make social change.


April 19, 2014  kathyhuang



April was an award-winning month for three New Day filmmakers. Heather Courtney and Lynne Sachs received Guggenheim Fellowships and Luisa Dantas received a Webby Award.

Heather’s fellowship will help support a documentary film she is co-directing and co-producing with fellow New Dayer Anayansi Prado. Currently titled The Unafraid, the verité, multi-year film will follow the lives of several undocumented youth now faced with the post-high school reality of being banned immigrants in a state they have called home for most of their childhood, and the growing underground movement that is helping them.

Lynne’s fellowship will support the production of Tip of My Tongue. In this mixed media project, six New Yorkers born on six different continents in the early 1960s will “visit” every year of their lives in a creative experiment that will become both a live performance and a film. Each participant will explore the relationship between their lives and the times in which they have lived. Using the backdrop of the horizon as it meets the water throughout NYC, Lynne will use her camera as an activator in the resurrection of complex, sometimes paradoxical, reflections. Objects such as buttons (from an old dress or a presidential race), empty bottles (aspirin, wine or milk) or hair (a baby’s, a dog’s or an old woman’s) will take on a magnified presence. In this way, traditional timelines will be replaced by a multi-layered, filmic architecture that speaks to the nature of historical expression.

Luisa’s Land of Opportunity is an online interactive experience. Rooted in post-Katrina New Orleans, Land of Opportunity looks at the often contentious process of community redevelopment in the face of crisis and disaster. Through perspectives that travel across media, including a film and an experimental web platform, the project explores the fundamental question: What kinds of communities do we want to (re)build in the 21st century? From New Orleans to New York, from Katrina to Sandy, Luisa and her collaborators, along with partners in sister cities, are creating multifaceted stories highlighting a diversity of voices and approaches designed to foster engagement and inspire action around the core issues happening to cities and towns near us all.


April 19, 2014  kathyhuang

New Day Films for June Events

LGBT Pride month


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual rights are getting a lot of attention, but there is still no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination. Our LGBT collection, which includes several new titles, addresses the many issues facing this community.

Father’s Dayfathers-day

Fathers have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend with their children, according to a recent Pew Research report. Our films on fatherhood show how diverse and ever-changing the role of a contemporary father is.


March 18, 2014  kathyhuang

The Teacher-Filmmakers of New Day


As a cooperative of independent filmmakers, New Day Films has always been distinct from other educational distributors. But New Day stands out in another respect as well: a significant percentage of its filmmakers also work as educators in colleges/universities, high schools, and community organizations. As a result, we create films that work well in the classroom, and teach in a way that incorporates film.

“Filmmakers and teachers are both storytellers at their core,” notes Rebecca Richman-Cohen, who teaches at Harvard Law School and Columbia University, and who made War Don Don and Code of the West. “To be a good storyteller, I’m constantly challenged to think about ways to engage my audience, be it in a movie theater or a classroom.”

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

“Teaching, especially at a community college, really gives me a great perspective on how students read and think about media, which affects the potential they see in themselves,” adds Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, faculty at Diablo Valley College and maker of Wonder Women!

Having the skills to communicate in a visual medium is a real asset to 21st century teaching. “Being a filmmaker and photographer makes me think how strong visuals can be,” comments Leena Jayaswal, associate professor at American University and maker of Crossing Lines . “Students tend to learn the concepts in a thorough and deeper way if there is a visual associate, whether it is a short video, a longer documentary or a still image.”

Crossing Lines

Crossing Lines

The connection between education and social issue filmmaking also relates to content. “Both professions have a lot of similarities: they are challenging, involve something new every day, and aim to make a difference in the world,” remarks J Clements, a high school teacher in Spokane, WA and maker of three New Day films including Man Oh Man and Means of Grace.

“When discussing issues of diversity, films help showcase how wide our world can be,” adds Jayaswal. “Being in New Day, I’m aware of so many more social justice films. It’s opened a world of ways for me to showcase topics that are often difficult to speak about—race, gender, religion, adoption, sexuality—and take classroom discussion to a deeper and more thoughtful level.”

Guevara-Flanagan says that one of her personal favorite New Day films is Wet Dreams and False Images. “Students all identify with it, and as a short film it leaves plenty of time for discussion. It uses humor to engage with an important social issue, and the character is transformed over the course of this very short journey.”

Wet Dreams and False Images

Wet Dreams and False Images

Vanessa Warheit, maker of The Insular Empire, has successfully paired New Day’s There Once Was An Island with the pioneering 1922 documentary Nanook of the North in her high school classrooms. “Not only do the two films open in startlingly similar ways, but showing them in tandem allows students to discuss issues of ethnographic filmmaking, voice, documentary technique, and ethics—all in a couple of hours.”

In designing our digital delivery system, New Day’s teacher-filmmakers were instrumental in creating a model that would be user-friendly for educators. “With New Day Digital, it’s such a simple process for students to screen films outside of class,” comments Richman-Cohen. “Students can link to films from our library website and watch anywhere, anytime. This means that I can assign feature-length films the same way I would assign a book.”

University of Arizona professor Bev Seckinger, maker of Laramie Inside Out, shares her strategy for maximizing use of films on campus. “I have been organizing screening series and events on my campus for over 20 years, always funded by small contributions from numerous departments and student organizations. In tight budget times, this is an excellent way not only to raise the necessary funds (and sometimes to bring the filmmaker to campus), but also to fuel interdisciplinary discussions about issues that can be looked at from many points of view. This past fall, for example, I helped organize a campus visit by New Day member Kim Bautista to screen her film Justice for My Sister.  We raised funds from Anthropology, Gender & Women’s Studies, the Institute for Children, Youth and Families, Journalism, Latin American Studies, and Film & Television to support the screening, which was programmed in a journalistic ethics course.”

Justice for my Sister

Justice for My Sister

Like Bautista, many New Day filmmakers travel to campuses for in-person Q&As and classroom visits, and are adept at stimulating student discussions about content as well as sharing behind-the-scenes stories. New Day is currently experimenting with new ways that teacher-filmmakers can use Skype Q&A sessions to virtually enter the classroom. Notes Seckinger, “Skype now makes it possible to expand the opportunities for education, with simpler logistical arrangements and for less expense than physically flying filmmakers to campus.”

Whether taking advantage of technical innovations, knowing how to communicate through a visual medium, or utilizing years of practical teaching experience in the classroom and in their filmmaking, New Day members bring a unique combination of qualities to their work. As Richman-Cohen puts it, “As a filmmaker I think about the interactions my work will inspire.  As a teacher, I participate in them every week!”


March 18, 2014  kathyhuang

New Day Films For May Events

Asian Pacific American Heritage Monthasian-american

The 2014 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month theme is “I Am Beyond,” which according to Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center director Konrad Ng “recognizes the depth, breadth and richness of America’s Asian Pacific heritage.” We have new titles in our Asian American Studies collection.

Jewish American Heritage Monthjewish

According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Religion and Life Project, one-quarter of Jewish Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent of the general public. Our Jewish Studies films show the incredible diversity of this community.

Mental Health Monthmental

Even though one in 5 American adults has experienced a mental health problem, stigma and discrimination against people suffering from mental illness is still widespread. Check out our collection of films relating to mental health.


February 23, 2014  johnmkane

New Day Films for April Events

earthdayEarth Day
With the Polar Vortex and California’s extreme drought, climate change is on everybody’s mind. Four of our new titles address environmental issues head on.

arabArab-American Heritage Month
Today, an estimated 3.5 million Arabs and Arab Americans live in the United States. Check out our collection of films on this rich and diverse community.

poetryNational Poetry Month
Poetry is popping up everywhere, including some highly unexpected places (Audre Lorde was quoted last week by a Dallas sportcaster reporting on Michael Sam’s coming out). Check out New Day titles that are perfect for National Poetry Month programming.


February 23, 2014  johnmkane

New Title - March

by Andrea E. Leland

The Black Caribs, on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, is a little known indigenous group of people. YURUMEIN (Homeland) is a 50-minute documentary that recounts the painful past of these Carib people – their near extermination at the hands of the British, the decimation of their culture on the island, and the exile of survivors to Central America over 200 years ago.


February 23, 2014  johnmkane

Life is a Stage: Three New Day Documentaries on Performance


After 25 years of making experimental documentaries, I learned something that turned my ideas about filmmaking upside down. I was working on Your Day is My Night, my most recent documentary film, and I came to see that every time I asked a person to talk in front of my camera, they were performing for me rather than revealing something completely honest about their lives. The very process of recording guaranteed that some aspect of the project would be artificial. With this documentarian’s conundrum on my mind, I decided to take a look at three films in New Day that tackle head-on the intricate, thought-provoking relationship between performance and documentary. Instead of pretending to witness the world from the vantage point of a fly on the wall or a bird in the sky, these films explore the notion that through the theater, and thus on stage, people can most candidly articulate the struggles and joys of their own lives.

Nancy Kelly’s Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives follows an 18 year-old Honduran girl who, with the help of a troupe of immigrant teenage actors, reckons with the sexual and cultural violence of her past.


Trust: Second Acts in Young Lives

Lynne Sachs: How did you get involved with this theater company?
Nancy Kelly: I had been looking for a theater company that was working with immigrant teens and the working poor. Then I found the Albany Park Theater Project (APTP), and I knew that I had to make a film about their work. I started talking to people about the extraordinary successes that APTP was seeing when they used community arts engagement programs with teens. I wanted to know how and why that was happening. The moment I saw the performances those young people were putting on, I knew I had to make a movie about their endeavors. Marlin, our teen protagonist, has lived a very traumatic life. She opens up to the theater company members, to the camera and thus to audiences in the theater and in the film over the course of the whole production. After watching Trust, teens in workshops often announce, “I want to join a theater company! Where can I find one?”

LS: But you live in San Francisco and the theater is in Chicago! That must have made the filmmaking very challenging. How often did you fly back and forth?
NK: Over and over and over again. I started the film in 2004 but Marlin didn’t show up until 2008.

LS: That’s a long time, even for a documentary. What happened in between?
NK: Honestly, we filmed and edited the entire film four times. One of those times, we started filming too late in APTP’s playmaking process. Another time APTP stopped working on the play because its co-founder died. I always suspected we would succeed when we were able to film someone telling his/her story to the company in the sacred story telling circle. In 2008, Marlín joined APTP and started revealing her story in bits and pieces to some members of the ensemble. She not only told her story to the company, she agreed to our filming it!

LS: What made Marlin’s story so special and how did it help you shape your film?
NK: Marlin’s story stood out because it was so compelling and there were so many layers of trust – her trusting the young theater company members not to talk about it outside of the theater company, her trusting me to tell her story, her trusting herself to make her private story public, and finally her trusting the theater audience and the film audience to empathize with her real life experience.

LS: What is your approach to distribution?
NK: We had a series of grants to develop a teaching guide for Trust. We now have a group of facilitators all over the country who use the guide. They do an amazing workshop called “Exploring Power Through Body-Sculpting: A Theater Workshop.” I’ll give you an example so you can imagine it. A group of about 70 teenagers from the National Council of La Raza writes their definition of power, where they have power in their lives and where they don’t. Then they watch film clips from Trust and they talk about how their lives connect to the film. They say things like, “I would never reveal so much about myself the way Marlin did!” Then the facilitation leaders encourage them to do body “sculpting” exercises where they express their own definitions of power without using any words.

Directed by Patty Berne and Leroy Moore, Sins Invalid witnesses a Bay Area performance project that celebrates artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists, all of whom are people with disabilities. Both the original live theater piece and the film explore the body, sexuality, beauty, and disability justice. The film takes an astonishingly cinematic approach to the documentation of original performance pieces, offering audiences a deeply resonant interpretation of what it means to use theater as a mode of personal expression and collective healing.


Sins Invalid

Lynne Sachs: How did you decide to turn the performance into a film?
Patty Berne: We love the way that the original performance relies upon an artistic alchemy that happens right there on the stage and the way that transformative potential becomes activated in the space during a live show. At the same time, a live performance doesn’t have the same reach as a film. We want our film audience to have the experience of being in a theater with us.

LS: Where was your first screening?
PB: Osaka, Japan - the birthplace of my mother – for the Kansai International Queer Film Festival! They flew me all the way across the ocean to do a presentation about the intersections between disability justice and queer justice.

LS: What was the response to the film?
PB: There was quite a cross section of professors, queer community members and students in that audience. People demonstrated respect by being attentive which is really different from our Bay Area audiences which tend to hoot and holler. One of the first responses was from a gender non-conforming person who said that they had always had difficulty with their body and in fact hated their body, and that the film allowed them to find an appreciation for their body. Responses like those make it so gratifying to do this work.

LS: Tell us about the people who made this film?
PB: Sins Invalid is a disability justice based performance project. We have two programs – a cultural program and a movement-building program. This reflects the key interests that Leroy and I share: a deep appreciation for the arts, and the power of art to shape public discourse, and a commitment to justice for all communities. We knew that films that included disability were often considered “niche” films, and we wanted to have a space where artists with disabilities were spotlighted. You see, both Leroy and I come from organizing backgrounds. My life as a queer disabled woman of color led me to organizing in queer and immigrant communities as well as to doing anti-violence work. Leroy, who is an African American disabled man, led us toward racial justice, police brutality and homelessness.

LS: How do you use images to deal with both disability and sexuality?
PB: The film speaks to people’s hegemonic expectation of sexuality – meaning that we hope to disrupt the typical visual narrative told about bodies and sexuality by including the truth about disabled bodies. Disability is an embodied experience, and as such disability oppression is scribed in our skins. So we have to reclaim our skin and bones in order to liberate ourselves. Simply put, we are trying to say, “Disability looks like this.”

LS: What were some of your challenges in shooting the film?
PB: As novice filmmakers, we had no idea what kind of treasure hunt we were on. Making a film is such a completely different beast from putting on a performance. Leroy and I would lose objectivity, and the more experienced filmmakers on the project would pull us back. We had a difficult time in the beginning because we did not have clarity of direction. On top of it, our first editor and I did not see eye to eye; there was tension between our visions for the film. Then we started working with Robert Arnold (a New Day filmmaker), who is a brilliant editor! He brought his nuanced understanding of the human condition to the editing of our film.

LS: Why do you think New Day is going to work for you all?
PB: We always knew that we needed to learn enough about distribution to honor the love that it took to make the film. I really like that New Day is collectively run. Politically, we are committed to owner-members being in control of their distribution. We looked at other potential ways of distributing and realized that nowhere else could possibly be such a good fit.

In Meerkat Media Collective’s Stages, a group of older Puerto Rican women and inner-city youth come together in New York City’s oldest community center to create an original play out of the stories of their lives. Weaving together themes of immigration, identity, and aging, Stages offers an intimate portrait of an unlikely ensemble of multi-generational, non-professional actors who find enormous personal strength through the experience of making a play about their own lives.



Lynne Sachs: What is the Meerkat Media Collective?
Jay Sterrenberg: We are an interdisciplinary group of filmmakers, artists and educators who worked as an ensemble to make Stages. Many of us have a background in theater and social justice, which informed our desire to explore the power of theater to change lives. In fact, our approach to working collaboratively parallels the making of a theater piece. We assemble a team of creators with a shared vision who want to accomplish a common artistic goal within a set amount of time.

LS: What made this theater group so special that you felt compelled to make a film about them?
JS: The Evolve Theater Project brought together teenagers and seniors in New York City to share and perform original stories from their own lives in a way that explodes stereotypes, reveals common ground and builds community. Many of the participants were immigrants and had never acted before or done anything like this in their lives. We were part of their rehearsals from day one, filming every minute of their process. Through this particularly intimate approach, we witnessed how the performers’ lives were impacted and how their worldviews shifted, all while the cameras were rolling.

LS: What was your process for editing the film after you had gathered all the material?
JS: We filmed 111 hours of footage that our team of 12 co-directors watched each week. Once we had a rough-cut, we asked for feedback from our participants because it was a film about their lives and stories, their agency and their re-telling. We took full responsibility for crafting the film but we wanted to be sure that it reflected their experiences. This openness did result in a few bumps in the road. Once, we filmed two of older women resolve a major fight they were having through a theatrical improvisation exercise. That scene unfolds in one single take, which to us was absolutely key to the integrity of the film. We wanted to reveal these awkward moments in a way that was both truthful and accurate. After our first work-in-progress screening, however, one woman let us know right away that she was upset – she said the other woman lied to us about the cause of the fight and thus the film wasn’t true to her experience. We ultimately tweaked the scene, but I still think it retains its power and authenticity.

LS: Tell us about the first screening of the film.
JS: We had our world premiere in New York City in a crowded 500-seat theater. This was the first time our subjects and our crew saw the film in a public venue. The energy in the crowd that night led to our winning the Audience Award for best documentary in the HBO NY International Latino Film Festival! For our participants, having the chance to witness an audience responding so passionately to their stories on screen was really transformative. To our surprise, many of our screenings have actually felt like an extension of the play itself, since the audience seems to get so involved in the process itself.

LS: Have you had any distribution surprises?
JS: In addition to continued demand from colleges and universities, Stages has been embraced by senior centers. We’ve been invited by Leading Age, a broad coalition of non-profit homes and services for the aging to screen at their events around the country. It’s been broadly embraced as a compelling model for how art can make a difference in the lives of older adults.


February 23, 2014  johnmkane

New Day Filmmakers Win a Bunch of MacArthur Foundation Documentary Grants!


New Day has delivered dynamic, provocative films to educational institutions for nearly four decades. What is often unseen are the years of researching and fundraising that precede filming and editing, often a hard and discouraging slog. But for five New Day filmmakers, this hard work was rewarded recently when the MacArthur Foundation announced its 2014 slate of documentary production grants (a total of 18 major awards).


From The Dictator in the Dock by Paco de Onis

The new projects cover diverse subjects. Deirdre Fishel , the director of Still Doing It: The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65, revisits issues facing older Americans with Care, about the challenges facing home-based elder care providers. She is joined on this project by Tony Heriza, one of the filmmakers of New Day’s Concrete, Steel and Paint. Jamie Meltzer, the director of La Caminata, received funding for Freedom Fighters, about a group of exonerated men who start a detective agency to overturn wrongful convictions. Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy and Paco de Onis continue to examine human rights in Guatemala with 500 Years, which explores the impact of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt. And Theo Rigby, Director of Sin País, received funding for Immigrant Nation, a multi-platform project that explores the interconnectedness of U.S. immigrants, past and present.

“MacArthur’s media grantmaking supports work that combines exceptional storytelling with high quality journalism about under-reported but important social issues,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “This year’s documentaries illuminate serious issues in approachable, creative, and engaging ways, including two multi-platform projects that will be interactive and encourage audiences to share their own stories.


January 20, 2014  johnmkane

New Day Films for March Events

womenWomen’s History Month
“Celebrating Women of Character, Courage, and Commitment” is the 2014 theme chosen by the National Women’s History Project. Visit our wide collection of films about women in sports, science, activism, art, the environment and more.

disabilitiesDevelopmental Disabilities Awareness Month
According to the United Nations, about 10% of the world’s population lives with a disability, making them the world’s largest minority. Our collection Disabilities: New Perspective has added some exciting new titles this year. Check it out!

criminal-justiceNational Criminal Justice Month
Today, the US has 5% of the world’s population but holds 25% of its prisoners. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, half of all federal inmates are incarcerated for non-violent drug-related offenses. African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. Our films go behind the facts to explore the lives of people involved in, and impacted
by, the criminal justice system.