New Documentary Film Series to Critically Examine Issues of Diversity
by Michael I. Niman
Beyond Boundaries: Dare to Be Diverse
There is no face of diversity. That’s the point. Diversity is diverse. It’s what makes us each unique, and collectively, keeps our community dynamic. It wards off monotony and boredom. It’s why people flee heterogeneous suburbs to feed on the life of more chaotic city centers. This tapestry of difference that feeds culture and fuels art also leaves many of us vulnerable to attack, at the mercy of generations-old economic and cultural feedback loops that lock in discrimination. Diversity is what makes us beautiful. It’s also what draws out the ugliness in society to pray on that beauty. A year-long film series hosted by the Burchfield-Penny Art Center and curated by the SUNY Buffalo State Communication Department critically examines the many facets of diversity, celebrating beauty and courage while exposing hate and discrimination.
The first film, The Homestretch (2014), to be screened next Thursday, September 25th at 6:30pm, follows the lives of three homeless Chicago teens as they struggle for shelter and food, navigating a system of shelters, foster homes and soup kitchens while working to finish school. The film explores the larger issues of kids violently forced from their family homes because of their emerging sexual preference, along with kids running from a plethora of other horrors. One of the kids was kicked out by her family when she came out as gay. Another chose life on the streets as a step up from the foster care system. Yet the focus of the film isn’t really their oppression, but their resilience, and in that resilience, celebrates their humanity.
All of the films in the series will be followed by 30 minute panel discussions with activists and community leaders, or in some cases, discussions with the filmmaker. After The Homestretch, the audience is invited to stay and join in a discussion about homeless youth with Candice Fletcher-Pacheco, Development Director for Compass House, Marvin L. Henchbarger, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Youth Services and Jennifer Ditta, Program Manager of the Second Chance Home—a part of the local non-profit group Homespace.
The next two films in the series will be BiPolarized (October 16th) and 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story (November 13th). BiPolarized follows the life of a man, Ross McKenzie, who, at age 21, was diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder, spending the next two decades medicated. The film uses McKenzie’s story and his search for alternative therapies to examine the steep increase in the diagnosis of mental illness and the spike in prescriptions for toxic psychotropic drugs to treat them. 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story examines the case of Kenneth Young, who at age 14, was an accomplice in four strong-arm robberies carried out by his mother’s crack dealer. A year later, a Florida court sentenced Kenneth to four consecutive life sentences for his part in the crimes. The film examines his struggle to win release from jail after over a decade spent mostly in solitary confinement in the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison.
The series will continue through the spring of 2015 with more films and discussions. The series is supported by the SUNY Buffalo State Office of Equity and Diversity and Office of Student Life. Watch these pages for additional information.
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