This week New York filmmakers Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, Anne De Mare, Kirsten Kelly and Laverne Berry are joining us to present award wining film The Homestretch, about the problem of youth homelessness, and works in progress including Dance with Me “a universal story of children struggling to be accepted for who they are, not for what they look like or what they cannot do as easily as their peers.”
The story unfolds at Dancing Dreams, a revolutionary physical therapy program that uses dance to improve mobility and to build self-confidence for a diverse group of children, ages 3-17 who have physical disabilities. What’s different about Dancing Dreams, which draws a multi-cultural following, is the contribution of teenage volunteers, recruited directly from high schools, assisting in the classes weekly, working without pay and virtually without initial training. With their own hands and bodies, they literally support the dancers, from toddlers to teenagers their own size, which has a clear impact on the self-esteem of helped and helpers alike. It is the blueprint for a replicable program in any community, anywhere. The participants of Dancing Dreams learn trust and empathy from each other, vaporizing social constructs learned at an early age. And then after months of working together, decked out in glitter and costumes, tap shoes and tutus, they put on a show for close to 1000 people. Thus we have the framework for a larger story about self-expression, acceptance, lending a helping hand, and the value of inclusion.
The filmmakers will host an informal lunch with students to discuss the ins and outs of documentary filmmaking, a discussion following the screening of The Homestretch that will address issues related to the production and promotion of the film, and will direct a table reading of the script for work in progress Mazie Mullins Goes to War and take students through the process of taking a project from written script to animated short.