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Social Issues


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

In October 2019, 30-year-old Shamony Gibson tragically died 13 days following the birth of her son. Two months later, the film team began documenting Shamony’s surviving mother, Shawnee Benton Gibson, and bereaved partner, Omari Maynard, as they began to process what happened and figure out their new normal.

In April 2020, 26-year-old Amber Rose Isaac, died due to an emergency c-section. Within weeks of Amber’s death, Omari reaches out to Amber’s surviving partner Bruce McIntyre and a lifelong bond is formed. Together, Omari and Bruce begin the fight for justice for their partners with their families and community by their side, while caring for their children as newly single parents. The film witness these two families become ardent activists in the maternal health space, seeking justice through legislation, medical accountability, community, and the power of art. Their work introduces a myriad of people including a growing brotherhood of surviving Black fathers, along with the work of midwives and physicians on the ground fighting for institutional reform. Through their collective journeys, the film brings us to the front lines of the growing birth justice movement that is demanding systemic change within our medical system and government.

This is a special screening on Saturday, April 6 at 1pm at Ringling College. A panel discussion will follow. The panel is led by Dr. Washington Hill, Founding Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, Senior Physician CenterPlace Health.

Admission to this event is free.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Audience Award Winner: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival. In 2019, inmates of a Washington DC jail are given the opportunity to attend a father-daughter dance held in the prison gym. After a ten-week “responsible fatherhood” counseling program, and much soul-searching on both sides of the bars, the men reconnect with their offspring for just a few hours. But while the contact may be short, this sensitive, powerful documentary shows that the effects can be far-reaching. Co-directed by Natalie Rae and Angela Patton, CEO of Black advocacy group Girls For A Change and founder of the ‘Date With Dad’ program documented here, Daughters places its focus on these girls who are left behind when men are incarcerated. With the ages of the daughters ranging from five to 15 years-old at the start of filming, both their and their fathers’ frankness and honesty give this documentary an emotional authenticity which challenges many stereotypes around incarceration and serves as a poignant reminder that maintaining family bonds can be both healing and empowering. We get to witness a lot of joy, but Rae and Patton don’t shy away from more challenging moments, including heartbreak, skepticism, reluctance to engage, and anger. While this life-changing program is not a magic bullet, it emerges as one very important step on the road to change.


Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Directing Award: US Documentary, Sundance Film Festival. In 2021 an investigation of unmarked graves at an Indian residential school and long-circulating, long-denied, rumors of physical and sexual abuse at St. Joseph’s Mission, a Catholic-run Indigenous boarding school that operated until 1981 in British Columbia, ignite a reckoning in the lives of survivors and their descendants, including the film’s co-director whose father was born—and nearly buried—at the school. Both intimate and epic, Sugarcane follows co-director Julian Brave NoiseCat and others as the investigation ranges from the school grounds to the Vatican. Drawing on their backgrounds in activism and journalism — as well as NoiseCat’s own personal connection to the story and community — the filmmakers deftly weave together multiple strands to form this compelling, heartbreaking narrative. Demonstrating unparalleled humanity, compassion, and grace for the affected Indigenous communities in North America, their powerful documentary operates from a place of pure and total empathy. At the same time, NoiseCat and Kassie recognize the resilience of the survivors and their descendants, and their unflagging determination to seek answers to long-buried secrets.

Goodbye Julia

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Wracked by guilt after covering up a murder, Mona tries to make amends by taking in the deceased’s southern Sudanese widow Julia, and her son Daniel, into her home. Julia’s and Mona’s lives are starkly different. Julia leads a precarious existence with an otherwise happy son and husband, while Mona is childless with a controlling spouse, albeit enjoying relative luxury. As unrest breaks out, heightened racial prejudices shatter Julia’s life. She comes to be hired as Mona’s domestic worker, but even as their relationship deepens into that of confidantes, hidden guilt and secret dreams threaten to surface and unravel. Set in Khartoum during the years prior to South Sudan’s independence and beautifully shot with a soft warmth and authenticity, Goodbye Julia deftly weaves the personal into complex sociopolitical contexts, delivering a thoughtful drama at once tender and tense.

No One Asked You

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. No One Asked You follows reproductive rights organization Abortion Access Front over five years at the frontlines of the escalating war over Roe Vs. Wade. Led by The Daily Show co-creator, comedian, and disruptor-extraordinaire Lizz Winstead, the intrepid team of activists and comics battles misogyny with comedy on their “Habitat for Humanity Meets USO Tour” to connect communities, eradicate abortion stigma and protect choice for all. Winstead and her merry band of activists take us to the very front lines, risking their own safety by coming face-to-face with clinic protestors by day and performing and raising awareness by night. An urgent and humorous account of the serious work that this audacious group is doing to battle misogyny and fight for reproductive rights in a divided country.

In Attendance: Andrea Raby, Producer

The Old Oak

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. The Old Oak is the last pub standing in a once thriving mining village in northern England, a gathering space for a community that has fallen on hard times. There is growing anger, resentment, and a lack of hope among the residents, but the pub and its proprietor TJ are a fond presence to their customers. When a group of Syrian refugees moves into the floundering village, a decisive rift fueled by prejudices develops between the community and its newest inhabitants. The formation of an unexpected friendship between TJ and a young Syrian woman named Yara opens up new possibilities for the divided village in this deeply moving drama about loss, fear, and the difficulty of finding hope from master filmmaker Ken Loach, who at 87 announced this is his final film.

Someone Lives Here

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. Carpenter Khaleel Seivwright builds small, life-saving shelters for unhoused people living outside in Toronto during the winter of the pandemic. Sick of seeing his city unable to care for its unhoused people, Seivwright quit his job as a full-time carpenter and dedicated himself to building insulated shelters—called “tiny shelters.” Innovatively using body temperature for heating, Khaleel’s efforts garnered international media attention, leading Toronto to propose a possible partnership—only to reverse its decision a week later. Capturing the ups and downs of Khaleel’s innovative intervention, Someone Lives Here also features the voices of those experiencing homelessness, including the articulate and philosophical Taka and the voices of the many citizens supporting the shelters (and a few against). By turns inspiring, sobering and maddening, and taking on issues that resonate in many big cities, director Zack Russell intricately follows a dedicated activist against a bureaucracy that clearly isn’t interested in anything beyond empty platitudes.

36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. In 2015, three Muslim-American students were shot point-blank while eating dinner in their home in Chapel Hill, NC. In 36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime, filmmaker Tarek Albaba makes a moving, impassioned case for justice for these innocents and for their community. The film charts the victims’ families’ agonizing pivot from trauma to advocacy as they struggle to prevent their loved ones’ deaths from being dismissed as the result of a random parking dispute. They courageously speak the truth about the hate crime that has destroyed their lives, about the overt and insidious ways racism plays out in our society and about the need to reform a hate crime system that is broken. This is a story about grace and the will to fight for the truth in the worst of circumstances.

Yours in Freedom, Bill Baird

Sarasota Film Festival 2024

Florida Premiere. In an America where more and more women and trans people are losing legal bodily autonomy, the history of Bill Baird’s long fight for women’s right to abortion is as relevant as ever. Called the devil incarnate, pervert, CIA agent, saint, the unsung hero of the birth control battle, the man who successfully challenged the U.S. law banning the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried people is the subject of Rebecca Cammisa’s powerful new documentary. Baird, now 91, looks back at his life and mission that began in the early 1960s when he became the clinical director of EMKO Pharmaceuticals, a company that manufactured and sold contraceptive foam. He saw a great deal of suffering in the hospitals he visited and was profoundly changed. Cammisa weaves in the present-day story of Jada Portillo, an Arkansas high school student whose research for presentation on the history of birth control connects her with Baird. An inspiring and deeply felt look at what one person achieves, and who he inspires, in the pursuit of justice.

In Attendance: Rebecca Cammisa, Director

Humanity Stoked

Sarasota Film Festival 2023

Featuring world-famous skateboarders, scientists, artists, musicians, activists and educators, all of whom are skateboarders. The iconic cast, respected as leaders in their fields, reveal their unique experiences and insights on being human. Their perspectives on issues that affect humanity’s ability to move forward together are shaped by their own backgrounds, and often inspired by their love of skateboarding. The conversations focus on understanding fear, depression, addiction, education, activism, philanthropy, racism, sexism, homophobia, and the environment. The film’s purpose is to inspire deeper thinking, more empathic perspectives, and open conversations about human issues.

Live Q&A with Producer/Director Michael Ien Cohen and cast member Chris Dyer.

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