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  • Desire

    Desire

    Independent videomaker, Julie Gustafson, invites a diverse group of teenage girls from New Orleans to make autobiographical videos exploring their developing sexuality and identity. An unprecedented long-term collaboration, DESIRE weaves together the girls’ video work, the stories of their changing lives, as well as the family, social and economic contexts in which their desires and choices are shaped.

    The film begins in a primarily African-American housing project named ‘Desire’ and follows the lives of teenagers across diverse racial, political, class, and cultural backgrounds. Cassandra, Kimeca, Tracy, Peggy, and Tiffinie collaborate to tell their own stories of struggle and wrestling with questions of sexual identity, body image, family, future plans, and the pressures of finding one’s way in the world. As the film unfolds over the next five years, DESIRE honors each of the young women’s challenges and achievements, making clear that their ‘choices’ are linked not just to hopes and dreams, but to actual educational and economic opportunity– too often tinged with the racial disadvantage. In one remarkable scene, Kimeca, turns the camera on Gustafson, prompting her to share her own story of teenage pregnancy and the difficult decisions she made about abortion.

    As John Anderson from Variety said: “Top-flight editing and a pace that never falters help “Desire” movingly tell the stories of its five subjects.” Justin Lane Briggs of The New School concurs: “The films the girls make themselves are shockingly honest and revealing…The result is a poignant and moving work, which stirs up a massive cloud of thoughts and issues without ever settling on one side of them… Cassandra and Tiffanie will haunt your dreams.
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  • Casting the First Stone

    Casting the First Stone

    Set against the background of the Supreme Court’s historic decisions on women’s reproductive rights, this documentary looks at the abortion controversy through the eyes of six women activists on both sides of the barricades in Paoli, PA. CASTING THE FIRST STONE focuses on six women who regularly confront each other from opposite sides of the picket line. Three believe that abortion should be an inalienable right. The other three believe it constitutes murder. Shelley Miller, director of a Paoli, PA women’s health clinic, endures constant harassment from anti-abortion groups camped outside the clinic’s doors. Joan Scalia, a Catholic and mother of six, defies her husband to join the most audacious of these anti-abortion groups called Operation Rescue. Sharon Owens, a clinic counselor, minister’s wife and adoptive mother of three, is closer to the middle. She cannot decide when human life “begins,” but feels a religious obligation as a Christian “to be in the place where hard decisions are being made.” Chronicling the daily lives of these and other women, director Julie Gustafson visits anti-abortion blockades, counseling sessions, a visit with a young mother whom protestors persuaded to have her baby, and Planned Parenthood’s emergency board meetings following the Supreme Court’s 1989 Webster v. Missouri decision that allowed states to deny some of the protections set by Roe v. Wade. Appearances include Randall Terry of Operation Rescue, Bill Baird, a longtime pro-choice activist and Faye Wattleton of Planned Parenthood.

    CASTING THE FIRST STONE makes clear that the conflict over abortion is not just political but also about the role and the rights of women in society. Clinic counselors, shaped by first wave feminist activism of the 1960s and 70s argue they are not promoting abortion but are “providing women with choices.” Other pro-life women reply, “You know what offends me about feminists? They say they are speaking for me.” Continue reading

  • The Trial of the Avco Plowshares

    The Trial of the Avco Plowshares

    In July 1983, seven United States citizens entered AVCO Systems Division, a manufacturing plant for MX and Pershing II missiles in Wilmington, Massachusetts. They threw blood on blueprints and computers to protest the buildup of nuclear arms. AVCO PLOWSHARES documents the ensuring trial, which includes dramatic testimony on civil disobedience and the question if a greater moral imperative exists beyond the letter of the law. Acting on their own behalf, the defendants argued “the justification defense” to claim their duty as citizens to warn of impending nuclear threats. Jean Hollady, a nurse and mother of four, asks those in the courtroom to picture the threat of one MX missile, containing ten warheads, representing “the equivalent of 260 Hiroshimas.” Frank Panopoulos, an anti-poverty worker, explains, “we were there so these weapons will not be made.” John Schuchardt, a former Marine and an attorney, ask the jury, “in light of weapons with the (equivalent power) of 335,000 pickup trucks full of TNT… please tell me what I could have done.” Expert witnesses and commentators from retired Rear Admiral Gene LaRocque, Daniel Berrigan, and George Wald concur that because of anti-Soviet weapons in Europe, nuclear war could be “eight minutes away.” Howard Zinn says in defense, “creative, inventive, dedicated action is needed by Americans in this courtroom and everywhere else to prevent that risk to the world.”

    Despite permission to film this trial for broadcast, the presiding judge, Edward M. Viola, restricted distribution to educational venues after screening the work-in-progress. Continue reading

  • The Pursuit of Happiness

    The Pursuit of Happiness

    A video exploration of the Declaration of Independence’s most ambiguous “self-evident truth” through portraits of six people whose paths intersect at a maximum security prison in Pittsburgh, PA. Molly Rush is a mother of six and a member of the Plowshares Eight who faces jail for damaging nuclear missiles at a GE plant. Rush doesn’t “pursue happiness,” but finds meaning in acting against the threat of total annihilation. Her husband, Bill, an engineer and family man struggles to understand her apocalyptic fears and worries about their children. Molly visits a fellow activist in jail, Warden George Petsock, who opposes breaking the law for any reason. At home, Petsock dreams of retiring and purchasing a mobile home. His wife Ida May ponders the happiness she sacrificed in thirty years of supporting George’s career. Finally, two “lifers,” Ron Grimm, a Vietnam veteran, and Walter Henderson, an African American who works in the prison garden, contemplate the paradox of pursuing happiness while incarcerated and if that right was really meant for everybody.
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  • Home (Part 4)

    Home (Part 4)

    The fourth and final sequence of Julie Gustafson and John Reilly’s documentary HOME which portrays a young man who gives up his job to care for his terminally-ill mother in her home. He sums up a mejor theme of the video: “she has never turned her back on anybody, so why should I?” Co-produced by the Television Laboratory of WNET and aired on public television in 1979. Tom Shales of THE WASHINGTON POST wrote, “HOME has immediacy and impact possible with no other medium but television, and an inquisitive compassion that turns cold video images warm and real.” Originally shot in 3/4″ Color and B&W video. See HOME Parts1-3 on Media Burn at https://mediaburn.org/video/home-pt-1-of-2/ Continue reading

  • Home (Parts 1-3)

    Home (Parts 1-3)

    Through eloquent portrayals of four different life experiences—birth, aging, marriage, and the death of a parent—HOME explores the changing social dynamic of American families during the 20th century as many life events and roles begin to shift from homes to institutions. The tape opens with the birth of a baby, not in the sterile atmosphere of a hospital, but in a home-like clinic staffed by midwives. The second portrait focuses on a widow growing old in a nursing home, who is disappointed because her adult children have no time or room for her in their homes. The third celebrates the marriage of two divorcees that hope a traditional wedding will fortify their union. The final sequence portrays a young man who gives up his job to care for his terminally-ill mother in her home. He sums up a major theme of HOME: “she has never turned her back on anybody, so why should I?” Co-produced by the Television Laboratory of WNET and aired on public television in 1979. Critic Tom Shales of THE WASHINGTON POST said, “HOME has immediacy and impact possible with no other medium but television, and an inquisitive compassion that turns cold video images warm and real.” Originally shot in ¾” Color and B & W Video. See the final sequence, HOME Part 4 at https://mediaburn.org/video/home-pt-2-of-2/ Continue reading

  • Joe Albert’s Fox Hunt and Other Stories from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

    Joe Albert’s Fox Hunt and Other Stories from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey

    In JOE ALBERT’S FOX HUNT, documentary team Julie Gustafson and John Reilly experiment with the short story form in a series of vignettes about the people and environmental issues facing the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the last remaining open wilderness between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Once considered a wasteland, the Pine Barrens have become a battleground of conflicting interests between developers, conservationists and longtime inhabitants. Colorful characters include the developer of Crestwood Village, a 6000 unit housing project aimed at urban dwellers seeking a piece of the American Dream; a small town mayor who believes in biblical stewardship of the pristine aquifer that underlies the area; and Joe Albert, a fox hunter and member of the “Pineconers,” a bluegrass group whose music descends from early English settlers. Albert laments, “I never thought it would go. I always thought it would be there. That’s what the Indians felt.” Completed in 1979 and aired in 1980 on public television stations in New York and New Jersey. Anne Wooster of the VILLAGE VOICE said, “Autobiography and politics intermingle in personal tales from the last wilderness in the Eastern Megalopolis…a complex and compelling orchestration of passions.” Continue reading

  • Giving Birth

    Giving Birth

    An examination of American birthing traditions focusing on four couples and four different types of childbirth: a standard hospital delivery with high technology and anesthesia, a Leboyer “birth without violence,” a Caesarean section, and a midwife-assisted natural childbirth using the Lamaze method. The first collaboration of husband and wife documentary team Julie Gustafson and John Reilly, GIVING BIRTH illustrates the joys and pains of childbirth in intimate, video vérité portraits. Through interviews with Frederick Leboyer, Elizabeth Bing and Margaret Mead, GIVING BIRTH contextualizes emerging ideas and techniques for birthing. As Mead says, “There are cases when childbirth is surgery, but there is no reason we should take a life process and treat it always like a disease.” One of the first video documentaries produced by WNET’s pioneering TV Laboratory, GIVING BIRTH aired nationally on public television in 1976 to critical acclaim. The Scripps Howard News Service said, “Splendid… absolutely candid…The medical, physical and spiritual points of view explored.” According to John Cashman of Newsday, “Men should see it…Women should see it…Explicit and absolutely real.” Originally shot in ¾” Color and B & W video. Continue reading

 
 
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