Filmmaker In Residence Monika Navarro’s documentary “Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas)” premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS

March 23, 2010

Filmmaker in Residence Alum Monika Navarro gets the opportunity to tell the story of the emotional journey of her uncle, a U.S. Military vet deported to Mexico, and uncovers the secrets of her family’s past in her new INDEPENDENT LENS documentary, “Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas)”.

In 1999, two brothers were deported from the US to Mexico. Within two weeks, one of the brothers overdosed on heroin in a seedy Tijuana hotel room, his body unclaimed for two months in a mass grave. “Animas Perdidas” explores the family drama that unfolds from the lives of these two men, both raised in the US and veterans of the US military, who were deported from the only country they knew and had sworn to protect. Interviewing family members, and weaving together family photographs, letters, and verité footage, Navarro’s film explores larger questions of national identity, immigration, and U.S. border tensions as her family confronts its dark but resilient past.

“Animas Perdidas”; (Lost Souls) is Monika Navarro’s debut documentary feature, funded in part by an Emerging Artist’s Grant from the City of Ventura Council for the Humanities. Animas Perdidas was selected to screen at the 2006 IFP Market as a Work-in-Progress in the Spotlight on Documentaties. Monika is a first-generation Mexican-American and was raised in Ventura, California. She has lived and traveled in Mexico, and served as a youth delegate in 2000 with the Chiapas Media Project. Monika received her BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University in 2003, and currently lives in Massachusetts.

Congratulations to Monika!  We hope you will all tune in and watch her masterpiece.

To find out when “Lost Souls” is airing near you, please check PBS Schedule.  “Lost Souls (Animas Perdidas)” is a co-production of ITVS in association with WGBH-Boston and LPB.

Lost Souls can be purchased at Shop PBS: Lost Souls
Lost Souls (Educational) can be purchased at Shop PBS: Lost Souls


2010 has already been a good year for MY PERESTROIKA

February 24, 2010

Filmmaker In Residence Alum Robin Hessman went to SUNDANCE with her directorial debut, MY PERESTROIKA, and has returned with rave reviews.

After attending the screening at SUNDANCE, Variety Magazine says: “Robin Hessman’s debut feature is a documentary of considerable charm and nonjudgmental insight. It’s skedded for PBS broadcast next year, with fest travel and offshore sales (primarily tube) assured in the interim.”

You can read the full article at Variety Magazine.

MY PERESTROIKA, is a glance into what happens when to ordinary citizens when their communist country changes, over the course of a few years, into something resembling capitalism.

Using previously unseen materials from Russian archives, Soviet children’s television shows, cartoons, home movies, training films, and feature films, the documentary interweaves the visual world’s records with the narratives of people who came of age during Perestroika

The documentary is a co-production with Red Square Productions (US), Bungalow Town Productions (UK) and ITVS International, in association with American Documentary and YLE FST Finland. It has received support from the Ford Foundation, the LEF Foundation, the NEH, the Radziwill Documentary Fund, The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, the WGBH Lab, IREX, and the Joukowsky Family Foundation.

MY PERESTROIKA will be broadcast in 2011 on the PBS independent film series, POV, marking the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR.

Congrats to Robin Hessman! Her dedication and hard work has certainly paid off.

THE WAY WE GET BY wins Movies for Grownups Award

February 3, 2010

THE WAY WE GET BY was named Best Documentary in AARP Magazine’s annual Movies for Grownups Awards, which recognize outstanding productions for the 50-plus audience. AARP Magazine (“world’s largest circulation magazine”) announced the 2010 winners last week, and features them in its March/April 2010 issue.

Of THE WAY WE GET BY, the editorial staff says, “To witness the face of personal problems is to know that patriotism doesn’t always wear a uniform.”

THE WAY WE GET BY is an independent film produced in association with WGBH through the Independent Television Service LINCS (Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations) initiative, directed by Aron Gaudet and produced by Gita Pullapilly, both alums of our Filmmakers-in-Residence program.

For more info, visit

Filmmakers in Residence Alum head off to Sundance this week

January 25, 2010

We’d like to give a quick shout out to our Filmmakers in Residence Alum: Robin Hessman (My Perestroika),  and Chico Colvard  (Family Affair). Both will be screening films at The Sundance Film Festival. If you’re in  Utah, make sure you stop by and say “hello”!

Learn More About Filmmakers in Residence >>

Channeling the Martha Within (minus that whole megalomania and prison sentence thing)

April 17, 2009

Channeling the Martha Within (minus that whole megalomania and prison sentence thing)

Monday marks the 113th Boston Marathon, which got me thinking that making a film is like running a marathon. A marathon that involves carrying a shotput in one arm and throwing a javelin with the other while running hurdles every step of the way.

Whether these hurdles are creative, technical or financial, they can crush your epic celluloid career before you can say Camera d’Or. The important thing is to know that every filmmaker encounters hurdles. The other important thing is to figure out what gets you to clear those hurdles so that you can make it to the #%$@ finish line.

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Like tens of thousands of other women who are part of the crafty grrrl movement, I have found that when the going gets tough, the tough get glue gunning. So much so that my family now refers to me as Brown Martha. I have a closet full of quilling paper, embroidery floss, Gocco gear, soap making molds and eight years worth of Ready Made Magazine to back up my credentials, so minus the martinet persona + insider trading that goes along with such a title, I’m sort of proud of this nickname.

As such, when I came across something called a case bound tunnel book at a local Paper Source, I knew I had found the newest jewel in my little empire.

Look mommy, it's a case bound tunnel book!

Look mommy, it's a case bound tunnel book!

Whee! This was my first attempt at a case bound tunnel book, which, in case you can’t tell, is the grown up version of a pop-up book. It took about four hours from start to finish and I made a number of errors along the way. I probably also have some nerve damage from gripping an Exacto knife for that long, but that’s a small sacrifice in the long quest for Empire. Regardless, four hours spent doing something creative and not related to my film helped me sit down and do other uncreative, film-related tasks (like transcribing and translating hours and hours of interviews). Which is why I thought that I would mention it here.

* * *

I realize that some Lazy McLazingtons skipped all of the calorie zapping, wrinkle eliminating, life transforming secrets in the first five paragraphs of this post, so here are the Cliff Notes:

  1. Like filmmaking, many crafty endeavors involve problem solving.
  2. And creative problem solving in on one project can bleed over into other projects.
  3. Besides which, a film can take years to make. In the meanwhile it’s helpful to have pursuits that offer more immediate, tangible, creative gratification.

* * *

If you share my penchant for decoupaging and glitter gluing your way out of your creative funks, you might also enjoy 43 Folders, a blog dedicated to “improving the quality of your career and life by managing your attention in a way that allows you to work your ass off on the creative projects that matter most to you.” Check it out then get back to work!

Amidst all the green, a whole lot of Red

February 20, 2009

Amidst all the green, a whole lot of Red

I kept thinking that I would post something (at least once!) while in India.

But a shoot takes a lot out of you. A shoot in India, even more. Starting with electrolytes. Note to self: next time you’re stomach is not in top condition and you are negotiating the 75+ degree difference between a New England winter and the swamp that is south India, try not to pass out again from dehydration during a great interview where someone is telling you about his days as a heroin addict, how he balances his communist politics with a job for a multi-national car manufacturer and why he named his daughter after this Soviet-era cosmonaut.

Nonetheless, this first shoot was, by any measure, a success. Now the real work (capturing, logging, transcribing, translating, sequencing, cutting, re-cutting, re-re-cutting) begins.

* * *

The day after we left for Kerala, The Economist ran a piece on its blog about the recession’s one-two punch to Kerala’s remittance based economy.

The Gulf gaveth, the recession taketh away

The Gulf gaveth, the recession taketh away

The lush state of Kerala in the south of India generates most of its foreign exchange either by exporting people or importing them.

It earned almost 20 billion rupees ($500m) from foreign tourists in 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available) and about 245 billion (in the same year) in remittances from Keralites working abroad, 89% of whom go to the Gulf.

The state has an astonishing 24.5 emigrants per 100 households. Kerala’s per capita output is one of the lowest in India, but its per capita expenditure is one of the highest…[And] the Gulf economies where most of these NRKs work are slowing. Some construction projects are on hold. As a result, Kerala may have to brace itself for a wave of reverse migration. [link]

Then, this article on laid-off foreigners leaving Dubai turned up in the New York Times on Feb. 11th, the day before we got back to Boston.

One of many abandoned luxury cars destined to go on the auction block in Dubai. Going, going...long gone.

Going, going...long gone.

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town. [link]

We passed most of Feb. 10th on an utterly depressing 15 hour layover in Dubai. Think Las Vegas on steroids, minus the fun. Reading this article on Feb. 11th made me wonder what lies ahead for the restaurant staffers whom we chatted with during the layover: a waitress who had a two year old baby back in Manila, a newly arrived young waiter from Cape Town, a restaurant manager from Colombo, and of course, service workers aplenty from Kerala.

Dubai is a major destination for Malayalis (people from Kerala, known as such because they speak Malayalam) and while in India, we heard a number of stories from young men who had recently returned home after getting laid off from jobs in Dubai and other Gulf states. The conundrum of Kerala is ever more apparent in the current economic slowdown.  This very well written article (from a series of insightful NYTimes articles by Jason DeParle examining the consequences of global migration) puts it best:

Plagued by chronic unemployment, more Keralites than ever work abroad, often at sun-scorched jobs in the Persian Gulf that pay about $1 an hour and keep them from their families for years…Far from escaping capitalism, this celebrated corner of the developing world is painfully dependent on it.” [link]

* * *

Amidst the verdant greenery of Kerala, a whole lot of Red

Amidst the verdant vegetation of Kerala, a whole lot of Red


January 15, 2009


v. Doubt ·ed, doubt·ing, doubts

1. To be undecided or skeptical about.

2. To tend to disbelieve; distrust or suspect.

When our firmly held beliefs are called into question, we are often asked to present our skeptics with some degree of proof. In the field of law, this measure of proof must reach beyond a reasonable doubt. This legal standard is designed to cause any reasonable and prudent person to take pause in advance of condemning a defendant to time behind bars or worse. It is within this context of careful deliberation that the audience is asked to critically weigh all of the evidence – before passing judgment on Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the role of the (suspected) pedophile priest, Father Flynn, in the film Doubt.

Adapted from John Patrick Shanley’s play, Doubt sets a bleak stage right from the movie’s opening scene. We get our cue that a tragedy is lurking in the surrounding grey skies and desolate streets inhabited by swirling dead leaves. A low angle shot of a church towers over the audience as the camera quietly ushers us in. Pushing past the congregation, we see Father Flynn at the podium poised to deliver his sermon. “What do you do when you’re not sure?” he asks. “Doubt,” he goes on to say, “can be as powerful and sustaining as certainty.”

When I was growing up, my father was a well-respected man – a pillar of the community – deacon of the church. Like Father Flynn, he was to be trusted. It was not uncommon for

parents to leave their children with my father from time-to-time – for our families to go on fishing and camping trips together. From my sisters’ point of view, this cache of  favor he had with the community presented an enormous challenge. If they were to reveal that our father had molested them for years, whom could they tell? Who would believe them? Doubt.

Meryl Streep, as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, confronts Father Flynn and accuses him of having an “inappropriate” relationship with the only black student at an otherwise all white Catholic school. Her evidence against him is circumstantial – nothing that would ever hold up in court – certainly not against a “man of the cloth” (keep in mind the film takes place in the 1960s). Moreover, Sister Beauvier is not a charming soul, nor likeable and adored by the alter boys like Father Flynn. He always has sweets in his pocket, shiny objects to hand out and kind words to spare. Father Flynn shows the ostracized black student favor among his peers. By stark contrast, Sister Beauvier is stoic, a stickler for the rules and casts aspersions on others. It would be all too easy to suggest that Sister Beauvier’s claim stems from a clash of personalities – jealous of Father Flynn’s popularity among the students. And who would believe the black boy? Why would he tell when certain to be met with doubt? What if Father Flynn is telling the truth?

Child molestation is a taboo, because it is not supposed to happen, but in fact it does and by those we know and trust… so family members and people like priests are often implicated. But what does it mean to admit that someone we care deeply about and trust is capable of committing such an unspeakable crime? Who among us is prepared to accept that our friend, neighbor, colleague – family member or priest – is a pedophile? Accepting the truth of that reality is often contingent upon what is more convenient – or less problematic to believe. Proof.

As young girls, my sisters believed that the only way to  prove my father’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, was to have him “caught in the act.” Sister Beauvier sought to elicit a confession from Father Flynn. Both standards of proof require detailed maneuvering and in no way guarantee the intended results. In fact, even a well-laid plan can backfire and have dire consequences for all. There is no happy ending.

For both men, their lives are restored: Father Flynn gets to relocate to another parish with greater prestige and responsibilities, while my father was able to rebuild his family – a new wife, two children, as well as seemingly “normal” father-daughter relationships with my sisters, their kids and grandchildren. And this is the part of the story that never gets told – not in Little Children, The Woodsman, Capturing the Friedmans, Deliver Us From Evil, or Doubt. In each of these films, what we find are victims and offenders – and once the crime is revealed, the two are forever torn apart; never to reunite in any congenial way. But this is not the case. Children, like my sisters and the black alter boy in Doubt, often find themselves caught in situations of captivity, where they are conditioned to have an attachment to their offenders.  Moreover, they, like anyone else, long for a loving family and place to go for the holidays and those special occasions. Family, like religion, often shapes our identities, so it stands to reason that the very victims themselves would gravitate toward those things, too. The choice really comes down to whether it’s easier to live a life with or without family and faith – even if betrayed by them. For the victims, we can look at this choice as a form of reparations; a quest to reclaim what was taken from them by their offenders. This is not, however, an act of forgiveness. Forgiveness can only come after the offender has both acknowledged the harm of what has happened, expressed remorse, apologized and tried to make amends.  But that rarely happens and for my sisters, as well as the end result in Doubt, there is no exception. There is another kind of forgiveness that is more of a unilateral act on the part of the victim-survivor; that is, to let go of the anger, resentment and grief because they no longer want to be tormented by it. In this sense, forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.

Although Doubt does not capture all of the intricate details that make up the complex relationship between victims and offenders, there is no question that this is a deeply compelling story – delivered by a powerful cast.