How to See the Film
3Conversations in April is now on the festival circuit, and has been accepted and shown widely, from California to Russia! And as of this writing it has won four awards, including ‘Best Documentary’ at the Hong Kong National Film Festival.
The real purpose in making the film, however, was only partially to succeed on the festival circuit. The more lasting, and in my view more important, goal of the film is to invite the viewer to think about and ultimately engage in discussion on several themes of the film, around family, communication and the multiple relationships that naturally form with and about a person with I/DD. And of course the theme that runs under all of these is that of health care disparity for people with disabilities as well as the staff who care for them. The second class status of this population and the staff who serve them was apparent the second the pandemic started heating up and I tried to make that salient fact come through.
On the theme of relationships — if we were to look simply at the two main characters, the man with autism who is nonverbal and his sister, the film reveals how a family member might try — desperately and unrelentingly — to achieve something resembling pure communication with their relative. (Do we ever learn what Alan makes of my prattling over the phone?)
But there’s another relationship that is only vaguely understood and rarely addressed directly, and that’s what happens between the family member and the direct-care staff. How does that relationship play out? It was my intention to portray the staff-family dynamic from the vantage of both the family and the staff member. (It’s revealed through facial expression and body language, never explained in so many words in this verite documentary.) In the several different kinds of conversations, some entirely one-sided, you’ll see longing and an inexhaustible sense of hope on the part of the family member while something wholly different is going on for the staff person. In these extraordinarily difficult times,there’s definitely a sense of having too much put on their shoulders, borne of worry, fear, exhaustion and no doubt feelings of being exploited. A minimum wage proclamation in New York pointedly did not include direct care staff and others in their work category. It is now currently more lucrative for an entry-level staff person to work at McDonald’s than in a group home. With such a basic level of valuation, where do the staff person’s interests lie? With so much complexity and competing interests, where does the individual with disabilities fit in? The sibling (or parent)? How does so much that is left unsaid affect each of these individuals?
The filmmaker thus invites advocacy organizations, service-providing agencies and academic communities to watch the film through live screenings and lead (with the filmmaker’s assistance and participation if desired) a discussion on these themes, and of course, others not conceived of by the filmmaker. Letting the energy and interests of the group direct the discussion is almost always best m.o.
The logistics are good. The film running at just over 11 minutes, is an ideal length to allow for both viewing and a solid 1/2 hour + discussion.
The opportunities for a tailor-made event are probably limitless. At the Sibling Leadership Network Conference this past June — all virtual — famed sib pioneer, writer and organizer, Don Meyer, led off the screening from his home kitchen in Seattle, where he demonstrated how to make Pasta Puttanesca! We had an international audience, spread out from Seattle to Eastern Europe and after we all attempted this dish in our own kitchens, an audience of pasta slurping attendees sat down at our respective dining room tables to watch the film. A thoughtful discussion and live Q&A followed, centering on the theme of the conference, ‘strength through connection.’
On one occasion at a NYState non profit organization, the resulting discussion among parents and staff was spirited and impassioned, focusing on advocating for State-led protection against Covid.
Discussion is now underway with one of the larger national service providing organizations to create a screening event with an audience of a combination of direct care professionals and family members.
So I would like to make myself available to work with any interested non-profit organization, agency or academic department in creating a tailor-made viewing experience that would work for you and your constituents and/or staff.
Finally, the art of on-line screenings has advanced significantly over the last year and a half, as you probably well know, and the technical aspect is seamless, and in my opinion, a lot of fun.
If you’d like to discuss the options, and all the variables please contact me at Susan@oneeyedCatproductions.com
sending all my best,