Concrete Steel and Paint [trailer]

Produced by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza, this moving documentary follows a mural-making project that the Mural Arts Program did with inmates at Graterford State Prison and victim advocates as part of their restorative justice work. To find out more:

Joined By Divisions [excerpt]

Produced by Ted Passon, edited by Valerie Keller. This startling and informative documentary juxtaposes myriad stories, experiences and opinions to paint a disturbing picture of the history and persistence of police brutality in the City of Brotherly Love.

Acting Out [excerpt]

Category: Juvenile justice system
Broadcasts: PBS WHYY in Philadelphia

This feature-length documentary is a portrait of several young men living in a juvenile detention center that flies in the face of stereotypes about who ends up in the juvenile justice system. The focus is a theater workshop that took place at Saint Gabriel's Hall, a juvenile detention center outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 6-week workshop under the tutelage of a trained actor, the boys perform in a series of skits, protraying hardened criminals, victims of crime, family members of criminals, law enforcement officers... all to stimulate discussion and reflection about their lives and what led them to commit crimes, and to show the viewer how varied this cross-section of young men is in terms of personality, attitude, ethnicity, life experiences... they're not who you might expect.

Unconventional Coverage [excerpt]

Categories: political activism, protest, dissent
Full Title: "Unconventional Coverage: The Message and The Means"
Awards: WINNER, Best Documentary, Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema's Festival of Independents, 2001
Broadcasts: PBS WHYY in Philadelphia, FreeSpeech TV - available on The Dish Network

This feature-length documentary, created and produced by video collective BiG TeA PaRtY, is a comprehensive look at the protests at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 2000. Dismayed by the local media's coverage of the protests, which treated them as a nuisance, spending more time telling people how to avoid traffic jams than exploring why people would take to the streets to express dissent, BiG TeA PaRtY set out to show the world what the protests were really about. Besides a thorough investigation of the plethora of voices and issues throughout the course of the week-long convention, the video also reveals a carefully targeted attack by the police dept that stripped many of the marches of their visual messages, and also how the police rounded up and arrested leaders and facilitators to make the protests seem more disorganized and random. There is discussion of the planning and organizing that goes into a large-scale protest, the tactics of jail solidarity, interviews with people who were arrested and mistreated, interviews with ordinary people about their opinions of protesters and politicians, mention of the necessity of independent media to cover such events, and so much more! Basically this documentary is a primer for the modern protest movement, and a refreshingly ground-up view of the reasons for and importance of dissent in the political life of the U.S.

Designing a Traditional Future [excerpt]

Categories: world cultures, maintaining a traditional culture
Screenings: Fabric Workshop and Museum

This video documents an unusual project of a Philadelphia art gallery, museum and residency program known as 'The Fabric Workshop and Museum'. Artists from FWM traveled to a Papua New Guinea to visit the Maisin Tribe and learn how to make tapa - a cloth made by beating the pulp of the Paper Mulberry Tree. The tapa cloth is then decorated in traditional patterns using dyes made from plants that grow in the area.

Through this unique collaboration, the Philadelphia artists also learn about this largely self-sufficient tribe struggling to maintain its culture and way of life in the face of constant pressure from the outside world to sell their land and the trees that grow on it, which provide, among other things, their source of food, housing, and the tapa cloth that serves not only a practical function but a spiritual and cultural one.

Homeless Diaries [excerpt]

Categories: homelessness, poverty in America

This documentary, written and directed by Frances Negron-Muntaner, focuses on "Tent City" which was a city block full of temporary structures created on an abandoned lot in Philadelphia, not only as living space for homeless people and families waiting to get into city housing, but also a public protest against government neglect. The film explores homelessness, the way the media portrays homelessness, and also the filmmaker's relationship to the largely Puerto Rican American residents of Tent City, as her documentation of their struggle brings up thoughts and questions in her mind about her own Puerto Rican heritage and the struggle of Puerto Ricans in America.

No Secrets [excerpt]

Category: HIV drug testing
Full title: "No Secrets: Understanding and Resolving Community Distrust in Government-Sponsored Medical Research"
Award: National Educational Media Network's Bronze Apple Award

This video was created by the Substance Abuse Research Unit at the University of Pennsylvania's VA Medical Center, as part of an ongoing project about HIV-preventive vaccine testing. In order to test the vaccines, the participation of members of three communities hard-hit by the AIDS virus - gay men, African Americans and intravenous drug-users - is critical, yet researchers often approach these communities without any understanding of their attitudes and fears, and the reasons for the history of distrust of government-sponsored medical research.

This video, by interviewing members of the three communities needed to test HIV-preventive vaccines about their feelings about medical research, attempts to further explain that distrust to educate the scientists who want to work with those communities.