Posted on October 6, 2014Written by Mariah Wilson, Director of Volunteer
A recent study by WWF reported that the world has lost half its wildlife since 1970 – and humans are to blame. Between habitat degradation, deforestation, and poaching, we’re taking quite a toll on our planet’s biodiversity. But here’s the hopeful part: there are many who want to turn this trend around. Many for whom the call to help cannot go ignored. I feel strongly that my generation has an opportunity and duty to do something. We’re living in the era that saw environmental awareness become the norm, not the exception.
After stumbling across a sea turtle conservation program while on a trip in Costa Rica in 2007, I was inspired to embark on my own environmental adventure. A few years later, I set off on a volunteering voyage to two conservation programs on opposite sides of the world. One program in Africa focused on endangered and threatened animals, the other on coral reefs and oceans in the South Pacific. Not knowing what I might find, I decided to bring a small camera along and make a volunteering video diary of my experiences in order to inspire others to make their own cross-continental conservation excursions. Volunteer is the result of that journey – I hope you find it informative, inspiring, and that it makes you giggle a bit along the way. I mean, if chimpanzee farts can’t make you laugh, what can, really?
For those interested in volunteering themselves, here’s some more info on the places I featured in the film. Happy Travels!
Posted on September 2, 2014Written by: Aldo Bello, Producer/Director of DREAM: An American Story
In February of 2009, I came across a Washington Post Sunday Magazine story about Juan Gomez, an exceptional undocumented student from Colombia, and I knew that this would be the subject of my next film. Five years later, I finished DREAM: An American Story.
When I embarked on the making of the film, I was partly motivated by what I saw as an unfair characterization of the immigrants who were crossing our southern border. Some of the rhetoric alluded to an “invasion” of our country by gang members, rapists, murderers, in short, criminals. I felt that the heated rhetoric and mean spirited comments aimed at the most vulnerable members of the Hispanic community in this nation were unjust and simply untrue.
It seems as though the political climate surrounding the issue of immigration has not changed very much. It is still as divisive an issue as it was in 2009. The same black and white representations of a very complex issue dominate the news. The same heated rhetoric is being aimed at the children who, fleeing violence and repression, are presently showing up on our southern border.
But some things changed for me when I found Juan Gomez.
In finding Juan and getting to know his story, I also found a community of everyday Americans in the suburbs of Miami that went to heroic lengths to keep him and his family from being deported.
I found an emerging civil rights movement led by youth activists advocating for passage of the DREAM Act, a piece of immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students. The young undocumented students that make up the movement showed me what it means to be politically active in a democracy, and how to use that political advocacy to advance social justice. To me, they represent the best of what this great nation stands for, the use of democratic tools to change unjust laws. So I started following that strand in the film as well.
And I found immigration advocates, policy makers, politicians, organizations, and everyday Americans who want to change the system because the system is simply not working. Those that have seen it up close know that there is too much suffering, and pain, and injustice.
And so I hope that this film will provide you with a front row seat to what I have witnessed over the last five to six years: the consequences of a dysfunctional immigration system on individual lives; the heroism of everyday Americans; the rise of a national civil rights movement challenging a set of unjust laws.
I also hope that this film will provide you with the next great chapter of the continuing American story and the next great challenge to our notion of America as an “immigrant nation.”
I believe that as a nation, we have the power to emerge from this challenge with a new understanding of who we are as Americans, incorporating our history, ideals and tradition: A tradition that has always led us to ultimately embrace the new hopes and new faces of immigrants from all over the globe, and a history that has made us a shining beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.
Posted on August 3, 2014Written by: Matt & Katie Celia, Producer/Directors of Off the Floor
Every time we screen Off the Floor, we’re always struck by how people walk out different than when they came in. There is no greater reward as a filmmaker than watching your film turn stereotypes and prejudice into appreciation and respect. The film does for others what seeing Jagged, a contemporary pole dance company, perform four years ago did for us. It changes minds.
When we started filming we knew that we were capturing the evolution of a new art form. As with so many dance genres before it, pole dance is little understood by those outside the aerial community. More often than not, the mainstream media gives it negative attention rather than positive. Having seen the beauty, grace and athleticism of Jagged, we wanted to make a film that would change the conversation, a film that would bring it out of the shadows and tell the story of the women behind it. Like catching the perfect wave, we were lucky to find a protagonist whose personal journey paralleled that of others in the community. Every woman we interviewed in the film told a story of discovering this new art form and being surrounded by a positive support network that gave them self-confidence and empowered them with a drive they didn’t have before. In Off The Floor, we see Jessica Anderson-Gwin transform from a young woman with untested potential into an artistic visionary.
Posted on July 6, 2014Written by Maryanne Galvin
Our title REWILDING AMERICA: Lessons Learned from the Cape Cod Bear might suggest a singular focus on land dwelling wildlife. Nothing could be further from the truth. I toured with the film this spring, traveling to festivals across the USA, including two on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. At the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival and the Boston International Film Festival conversation turned to our ocean dwelling friends despite the fact that both states have seen a steady resurgence in their black bear populations.
The day after the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival wrapped, I was afforded the opportunity to bear witness to local environmental efforts. Several of us partook in an eco-tour of a local estuary. Moments after embarking, just a few yards from shore, I caught my first glimpse of something I’ve never seen in the water. Basking in the sunshine was a gentle giant, the marine equivalent of a land-dwelling elephant. Off the coast of Fort Myers (and much of the Florida coast) lives the state marine animal, the manatee. This particular manatee seemed unaware of its immediate threat— the other humans and me. Continue reading…
Posted on June 24, 2014OFF THE FLOOR is excited to announce its world premiere at the Manhattan Film Festival on Sunday, June 29th at 1:00pm. The filmmakers, Matt and Katie Celia, will also be hosting a documentary workshop about the editorial process of the film at the 14th St Apple Store on Friday, July 27th at 7pm.
OFF THE FLOOR is a feature length documentary about the emerging art of contemporary aerial dance and how it has evolved into a movement of feminine empowerment and self-expression.
The film follows the personal journey of one dancer, Jessica Anderson-Gwin, a trained hip-hop and modern choreographer with a unique vision of blending modern dance with aerial fitness. She forms the first ever contemporary pole dance company, Jagged, and with her passionate and visionary recruits learns what it takes to share an artistic vision with the world and bring one’s dreams to life.
To get tickets to the screening, please visit:
OFF THE FLOOR will be available at Dark Hollow Films in July 2014.