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TOP 10: Katie Couric Makes Documentary Debut at Sundance

Still from "Fed Up", documentary at Sundance

Katie Couric Makes Documentary Debut at Sundance: Sandy Cohen–news.yahoo.com–1/20/14–Photo from ‘Fed Up’/Sundance Institute

Interview: Director Jehane Noujaim Faces Chaos in Cairo to Film ‘The Square’

Jehane Noujaim, director of "The Square"

Jehane Noujaim, director of The Square

UPDATE 8/17/14: Jehane Noujaim wins two Emmys for her documentary The Square, which won 3 Awards at the Creative Arts Emmys 2014! Jehane won the Emmy for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming. Noujaim was awarded a second Emmy Award for Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming along with her other three Directors of Photography: Muhammed Hamdy, Ahmed Hassan and Cressida Trew. The editing team for The Square—Pedro Kos, Christopher de la Torre and Mohamed El Manasterly—were awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming. Congratulations, Jehane and The Square team!

UDPATE 1/25/14: Jehane Noujaim wins Directors Guild of America award for The Square.

UPDATE 1/16/14: Netflix ‘original’ documentary The Square lands Oscar nomination.

By Patricia Caso/January 10, 2014
Photo Credit: Noujaim Films

Jehane Noujaim is an Egyptian-American director currently on the Oscar shortlist for The Square, her fifth feature-length documentary. For two years, danger and chaos were part and parcel of  her quest to chronicle Egypt’s 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square. Undaunted, Jehane (@JehaneNoujaim) and her team followed the emotional stories of activists Ahmed, Aida, Khalid, Magdy, Ragia and Ramy.

“If audiences can feel like they experienced a revolution live, experience being in Tahrir Square, and what it felt like to be in the shoes of Ahmed, we will feel like we would have accomplished something.”  Jehane Noujaim

After seeing this film, I was taken by the courage it took for Jehane to so personally depict what she calls “the civil rights movement of our time.” I grabbed some time with her by phone to learn more about her direction and vision for this thought-provoking  film…  [Read more…]

TOP 10: Why a 14-Year-Old Girl Decided to Sail Around the World Alone

Laura Dekker--14-year-old sailor and subject of documentary Maidentrip

Why a 14–Year-Old Girl Decided to Sail Around the World Alone: Price-Waldman–theatlantic.com–1/4/14–Photo: Jillian Schlesinger

TOP 10: A Breast Cancer Heroine: Ann Murray Paige

Ann Murray Paige, breast cancer survivor

A Breast Cancer Heroine–Ann Murray Paige: Kristin Meekhof–huffingtonpost.com–10/1/13

Filmmakers Expose The Failures Of Public Schools In Documentary

Documentarians Henri Hebert and Kimberly Goodman for "Dream With Me"

Documentarians Henri Hebert and Kimberly Goodman

By Stacey Gualandi/August 13, 2013
TWITTER: @dreamwithmefilm

Henri Hebert (@henrihebert) first began her career as an intern and assistant to Pam Burke, the founder of The Women’s Eye. Cut to two decades later and she is now a full-fledged documentary filmmaker. And she’s not shying away from the tough subjects.

We wanted to answer the question: Why do 1.2 million high school kids drop out of our public school system every year? We walked away from our producing careers so we could film an entire year…”  Henri Hebert

When I first met Henri Hebert, she and her producing partner Kimberly Goodman were working on their fifth documentary short film, Dream With Me. This labor of love explores America’s public educational system. But the story behind the making of the film shows the not-so-glamorous world of independent producing.

Henri candidly revealed to me how the process took its toil financially; how it almost ended a friendship; and whetherin the end—the journey was worth all the heartache…  [Read more…]

TOP 10: ‘Alias Ruby Blade’: From Freedom Fighter to First Lady

Kristy Sword Gusmao/Photo: Alex Meillier

‘Alias Ruby Blade’–From Freedom Fighter to First Lady:  Nina Strochlic–dailybeast.com–4/28/13—Photo: Alex Meillier @ Ager Meillier Films Inc.

Mary Skinner’s Special Film “Irena Sendler–In The Name Of Their Mothers”

Mary Skinner documentarian

By Pamela Burke

UPDATE 3/20/13: For more current information about the Irena Sendler film, visit this facebook page.

UPDATE 2/26/12:  This documentary just won the 2012 Gracie Award for Outstanding Documentary in Public TV

Mary Skinner is a former marketing executive turned documentarian. She’s recently released the remarkable film: Irena Sendler, In the Name of their Mothers, the story of a group of young Polish women who outwitted the Nazis to save thousands of Jewish children from certain death during WWII.

“It was sad to me that few people outside of Poland knew anything about these people.” Mary Skinner

The story is told through the perspective of 95-year-old Irena Sendler, her co-conspirators, and several of the children they saved. Mary was always struck by the story and the “moxie” of the women.

Irena Sendler

She alerted us to her documentary as it was about to be broadcast on PBS in May, writing that it was an inspiring story of feminine moral courage that she hoped people would view. We wanted to know more about this powerful and moving film. Mary filled us in on the details of her journey to make it…

[Read more…]

Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Dr. Kathy Magliato Empower By Example

Womens Foundation: Dr. Magliato and Jennifer Newsom

Dr. Kathy Magliato and Jennifer Siebel Newsom/Photo: pilarreflections.com

By Stacey Gualandi/November 29, 2011

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, couldn’t have said it better. If young girls don’t have positive role models in media or female mentors in leadership positions, then how do they know what they can achieve?

“Recognize your power. Stand in your power. Use your voice.” Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Edelman’s quote is at the center of “Miss Representation,” a documentary that explores how the media misrepresents women and underrepresents them in positions of power. Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the actress-turned-writer, producer and director of this poignant film and was one of two outstanding guests of the Women’s Foundation of California Leadership Speaking Series, “Amazing Women…Inspiring Stories,” recently at the Skirball in Los Angeles.

Newsom was joined on stage by Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of very few female cardiothoracic and heart transplant surgeons in the world, and the author of “Heart Matters: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon,” a book that addresses the #1 killer of women, heart disease. I couldn’t think of two more dynamic guests to kick-off what will be an ongoing series of innovative women leaders by the Women’s Foundation. Each of these women has achieved great success in two very different fields.

Dr. Kathy Magliato

Dr. Kathy Magliato/Photo: pilarreflections.com

Newsom says she started in Hollywood at the ripe old age of 28. “I was told by my agent to lie about my age and take my MBA off my resume.” Before she and her husband, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, had children, she began examining the role of media.

“I really started to question the lack of American culture that was celebrating tabloid and reality TV. I questioned what it would be like to raise children in that culture. When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, I became more concerned. Then I witnessed the 2008 campaign with Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton and the messages that we were sending to young people, in particular about women’s value lying in her beauty and sexuality and not in her capacity to lead.”

So she set out to “give my voice, to empower young girls and to right wrongs in our society.”

Dr. Kathy Magliato book coverDr. Magliato says it’s not just a Hollywood phenomenon. “If I go to work as a female heart surgeon – I work with primarily all men – if I wear a skirt, my IQ drops 40 points. People don’t want to know that you can be educated, pretty, and accomplished. People just want to see what they want to see. I bet a lot of women here cover up who they are because somehow you have to dumb it down to be respected.”

Literally what motivated these women to pursue their passion was being told they couldn’t do it. “The more people told me I couldn’t be a heart surgeon, the more I wanted to do it,” says Dr. Magliato. “I have a concussion and seven stitches in my forehead from hitting the glass ceiling over and over and over again until you finally break it. Sometimes nobody really helps you break it; you just have a thick head and get through it.”

Jennifer Newsom/Photo: pilarreflections.com

Jennifer Newsom/Photo: pilarreflections.com

Newsom said there were a lot of doubters when it came to making her film. But one woman, entrepreneur Regina Kulik-Scully, was instrumental in getting the film made, she says. “This is an example of how women can support each other and how necessary it is that we do it if we are going to lift our culture up.”

Now after the success at the Sundance Film Festival, and the airing on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, people are jumping on the “Miss Representation” bandwagon.

With achievement comes advice, and both these panelists were eager to share. “It’s simple. Time,” says Dr. Magliato. “We are only given a certain amount of time to do the best we can. I really feel like every day I get up and I try to do my best. I see people who live who should die, and I see people who die who should live. When you stand on the precipice of life and death every day, you really appreciate the time you are given because it is finite. So use it well, and use it wisely.”

“We are planting a seed for this to grow above and beyond what we’re doing here.Dr. Kathy Magliato

And what better way to use your time, Newsom says, than to change the way media value women. “This isn’t a women’s movement. This is a human rights movement. Recognize your power. Stand in your power. Use your voice. Vote with your remote, vote with your dollar, vote with your voice. Media need to inspire us.” I’ve watched her documentary, and I agree with Newsom. After seeing it, as she says, “You won’t consume media the same way.”

Both women are hopeful events like this will get their message to the masses. “I feel we are planting a seed for this to grow above and beyond what we’re doing here,” says Dr. Magliato. “The key is empowerment, and that’s really a journey that starts today for these women.”

Newsom added, “If magazines put Dr. Magliato on the cover instead of Jersey Shore stars, the Kardashians, the Housewives of X,Y and Z, I think you would start to see a new America.”

Women's Foundation Speaker Series

The conversation concluded with a private viewing of the exhibit “Women Hold Up Half The Sky,” inspired by the Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn bestseller, ” Half The Sky,” and sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of CA.

I had the chance to speak with Judy Patrick, the CEO and President of the Foundation, to know more about their ongoing speaking series, the exhibit, and their accomplishments.

EYE: Why was the Women’s Foundation of California established?

JUDY: The Women’s Foundation was created in 1979 to address the disparity in funding to women’s and girls’ issues. We make strategic grants to organizations run by and for women who have historically been under-served. We also fund organizations that, because of the issues they address or the communities they engage, have limited access to mainstream and traditional funding sources.

The Foundation has awarded $29 million in grants and assistance to over 1,200 community-based organizations in each region of the state. We raise every dollar we give away. Our goal is to fund bold community-led solutions, apply a gender analysis to complex issues, and communicate complex issues in a way that inspires public will to act.

Judy Patrick, Women's Foundation of CA

Judy Patrick/Photo: pilarreflections.com

EYE: Why did you want to sponsor a “Leadership Speaking Series?”

JUDY: We wanted to create a unique space for women to come together, network, build community and have conversations about big, meaty topics. The “Amazing Women…Inspiring Stories” Speaking Series provides an opportunity for women to hear candid stories and experiences from other powerful women about both the obstacles they face as well as strategies for overcoming them.

In addition, this series seeks to highlight how women’s leadership benefits communities and inspires other women to step up and develop the skills, knowledge, experience and connections they need to make a difference in their families, communities and our state.

“We understand the urgent need for more women leaders in politics and advocacy…” Judy Patrick

EYE: You’re off to a great start! Why were these women chosen?

JUDY: “Miss Representation,” Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s new film, highlights the pressures on women that derail them from pursuing leadership positions, particularly in politics. We understand the urgent need for more women leaders in politics and advocacy and believe that movies such as Ms. Seibel Newsom’s are critical in making this happen.

Dr. Kathy Magliato is a pioneer in her field and embodies the courage and imagination it takes to succeed in a male-dominated field. We work to help women and girls increase their presence in traditionally male-dominated subjects such as math and science. For example, our book, “It’s a Money Thing,” trains girls in financial literacy.

Half the Sky bookEYE: Many people know about the Kristof/WuDunn book, “Half the Sky.” The exhibit “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” is sponsored by your Foundation. What is the significance of the exhibit?

JUDY: There are frightening similarities between some of the situations faced by women worldwide – situations that are described so poignantly in Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book – and situations faced by women in California.

I’ve seen first-hand young girls being pimped on the streets of Oakland and victims of domestic violence who carry the scars of their abuse. I’ve shared meals with people whose water is drawn from a tap that is too polluted to drink, walked through communities with no paved streets and no access to public sewers systems. I have also been moved by the women from these communities who everyday find the strength and courage to work to change these conditions.

Two organizations we funded are highlighted in the exhibit: CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) and “A Window Between Worlds.” We funded these organizations because they put their leadership and passion to work in changing women’s futures.”

“Not just women lose when there isn’t more equal representation. Communities lose.”

EYE: What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

JUDY: The Women’s Policy Institute (WPI), which we launched in 2003. WPI builds the leadership capacity of community-based women. The 1-year program provides hands-on training in public policymaking. We recruit up to 35 fellows each year from among our statewide grant partners and other community-based, research and philanthropic organizations.

Since 2003, WPI Fellows have worked to pass more than 27 new pieces of legislation, addressing issues such as human trafficking, childcare, and public assistance. Of these, 14 bills were passed into law. Success for WPI Fellows is not only measured by a bill becoming a law.

Women's Foundation of CaEYE: How difficult is it to encourage women to take leadership roles? Is the tide changing?

JUDY: We see change happen every day. The Women’s Policy Institute does an incredible job of helping women to step into leadership and powerful civic engagement. Women need to be civically engaged in three key ways: 1) As voters; 2) As office holders; 3) As advocates. The U.S . is lagging behind most of the world, coming in at 71st, when it comes to women in political office. We have just six governors. Only 15 percent of our city’s mayors are women. And just 24 percent of our state legislators are women.

Not just women lose when there isn’t more equal representation. Communities lose. After years of working on public policy in Sacramento and helping to bring more women into the public policy process, I can tell you that having women involved in all aspects of public policy makes a difference in the quality of public conversation.

TWITTER: @womensfoundca

TWITTER: @RepresentPledge

TWITTER: @kathymagliato