Notes from Susan: Inocente MSU Screening

Notes from Susan: Inocente MSU Screening


Notes from Susan: Inocente Screening at MSU


Photo credit Alexandra Hidalgo

By Susan MacLaury

Last week I reunited with Inocente, the subject of our film Inocente, to go to Michigan State University to do two screenings and Q and As of the film. We were hosted by Carleen Hsu, Professor of Practice in the Department of Media and Information and Film Studies Program, who was joined by faculty and staff in other departments to make our trip possible.

We showed the film first to Carleen’s film production class, attended by about 100 students, and later that night we did a second screening and Q and A for about 75 students, staff and faculty in one of the university’s libraries. Inocente was beguiling as always, and won the hearts of everyone with her honesty and grace. Her explanation of why she takes in homeless animals – even a very mean rabbit named BunBun – is humorous but very touching.

What also moved me tremendously was being honored at a dinner hosted by Michigan’s CAMP Program (College Assistance Migrant Program). We had a chance to meet wonderful staff and students, most of whom had worked in the fields as did the kids in our film, The Harvest (La Cosecha)

Inocente summed up the day by saying: “This film will continue to be relevant as long as homelessness, undocumented immigrants subject to deportation, and lack of support for the arts continue.”

If you are interested in hosting a screening of one of these films, please contact
Screenings at schools and universities must go through the films’ distributors (we can put you in touch).
Please be aware that the subjects or filmmakers are usually not able to attend but they do require that hosts provide travel and lodging and a speaking fee.


Earth Day 2017 Movies and Children’s Health

Earth Day 2017 Movies and Children’s Health


Earth Day 2017 Movies and Children’s Health

This Earth Day, we want to highlight the health consequences of environmental issues, especially for children, and some of the films that address them. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 are attributable to unhealthy environments.[1]  Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental risks including unsafe water, inadequate sanitation, air pollution, second-hand smoke, hazardous chemicals, and climate change.

An issue that Shine has highlighted through our documentary film The Harvest (La Cosecha) and farmworker rights campaign is poisoning from pesticides that could be life-threatening.  Pesticides are widely used in the fields and despite some US regulations about their safe use, many agricultural workers, including children, fall sick.  Even children who are not working in the fields but who are just living nearby, can suffer pesticide poisoning either from drift, water contamination, or from pesticides brought home on their parents’ clothing.  Unfortunately, the US has not been at the forefront of addressing these issues. The EPA recently decided to not ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, despite their findings that it could be dangerous for us, and especially dangerous for farmworkers and young children.

In addition to The Harvest check out other farmworker rights films such as:

Food Chains
King Corn
Food Inc

Other environmental factors that affect children’s health include waste, especially the growing problem of electronic and electrical waste (such as your old mobile phone) that is improperly recycled. It can expose children to toxins which can lead to a whole host of health issues including lung damage, cancer, and reduced intelligence.

Check out:

Plastic China

With climate change, our entire world and our future are in jeopardy.  But this weekend, thousands of people will be joining the March for Science on earth day with another Climate Change March the following weekend.  It’s encouraging to see so many people coming together to help save our planet and future generations.

If you want to learn more about environmental issues affecting us and especially children, we hope you’ll check out the above documentary films.  And if you are looking for more environmental films to watch check out our previous list from Earth Day 2015.



A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA

A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA


A Statement from Shine Global on Funding for the NEA

A still from Shine Global's 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

A still from Shine Global’s 2012 Academy Award®-winning short documentary, Inocente

As you may have heard, the recently proposed FY 18 federal budget eliminates funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with 16 other independent agencies.  Shine Global wishes to join the hundreds of artists and organizations expressing dismay over these cuts.  The NEA plays a vital role in the cultural life of the US, as well as being an economic driver of a thriving arts and culture industry.

The budget of the NEA represents a tiny portion of the overall Federal Budget – about 0.004% or 46 cents per American per year.  Founded in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, the NEA’s current annual appropriation amount is just under $148 million.  To compare, this is one third of what the US budget allocated last year for military bands alone.  And internationally, the Canada Council for the Arts budgets eight times as much, on a per-person basis, with plans to double that by 2021.  Cutting these programs will not balance the budget but will have an extremely negative effect on those benefiting from the work of NEA-supported artists and organizations.

Each year, the NEA supports programs of art and education in every congressional district of the US, strengthening the creative capacity of our communities, celebrating our rich cultural heritage, and promoting equal access to the arts in every community across the country.  Most of the NEA’s grants are awarded to small and mid-sized nonprofit groups, and many are targeted at both urban and rural economically disadvantaged communities.

We at Shine have seen first-hand the impact of the arts on people.  Our Academy-Award® winning short documentary film Inocente followed the story of a homeless 15-year-old girl who found hope and support through an after-school arts program in San Diego.  She now is a working artist but has served as an inspiration for the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen the film.  Inocente was even screened for members of Congress in 2013 to show them a personal angle on the importance of funding for the arts.

The NEA has supported our new IGNITE program which brings our films and companion materials to underserved youth who do not have regular access to high quality documentaries or the tools to engage with them.  With the support of the NEA, we are able to bring them a valuable and inspirational experience through the community film screenings.  In addition to sparking an appreciation for film, educating about new issues, and encouraging critical thinking, the IGNITE program inspires viewers to try new things, see the world in a new light, and have hope.  One middle school teacher reported: “I showed this film and taught the lesson plans to help a group of struggling 8th grade English learners, who have lost all hope and ability to “dream,” to once again believe in a better tomorrow.”  Youth themselves have reached out to tell us how inspirational a film was and how it has made them think differently about their own situation – and have hope for improvement.  This emotional impact is just as important as the exposure to film, new ideas, and learning opportunities.

The NEA not only supports Americans expressing our values and culture, but it also supports our economy.  According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, arts and culture is a $704 billion industry, comprising 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity each year and returns $22.3 billion in government revenue.

When Congress enacted the National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act back in 1965, they affirmed a conviction that the arts and humanities are vital to the health and progress of the US.  And they were building on a tradition of the Federal government supporting the arts.  In his first annual message, President George Washington told Congress “there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature.” And Presidents year after year continued to affirm the importance of the arts to our continued prosperity.  The United States Constitution itself mandates that Congress be empowered to promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

The arts are not a partisan issue.  Every president since the NEA’s inception has continued to support its work.  The arts and humanities serve us all and public support is vital to ensure our common participation and common heritage.

The proposed budget is under reviewIf you’d like to join the conversation, please visit the Americans for the Arts’s Action Center to send a customizable message to your elected representatives. Be sure to share on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media with #ArtsVote, #SaveTheNEA, #StandfortheArts and tag your elected officials.


International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film

International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film


International Women’s Day: Shine Global and Women in Film

Shine Global Women - Intl Womens Day 2017

By Alexandra Blaney

Today is International Women’s Day and Shine Global is very proud to celebrate the many women we have worked with over the years as filmmakers, subjects, and activists.  Over 70% of the films Shine has produced or been involved with since our founding, have been directed or co-directed by women while all of them have had female producers.  And on screen as well, we have shared the stories of many resilient and strong women and girls including Rose and Nancy in War/Dance, Perla and Zulema in The Harvest, Inocente in the Oscar-winning Inocente, Lois and Noor in Dancing in Jaffa, Pushpa in Waiting for Mamu, Phreeda Sharp in 1 Way Up, Aisholpan in The Eagle Huntress, and Fon and Eye on The Wrong Light.

In the film world, gender inequality both on and off the screen has become a push button topic.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation of major Hollywood studios just found that they “systemically discriminated” against female directors and the EEOC is currently in talks with those studios in an attempt to address the charges.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University has conducted extensive research and published many studies on women’s on-screen representation and behind-the-scenes employment.  They found that in 2016, only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films were women, which actually represents a 2% decline from the previous year and is on par with percentages achieved almost 2 decades ago, in 1998.  In independent film, outside of the major studios, women are better represented, accounting for 25% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. The Center for the Study of Women also found women are much more likely to work on documentaries than on narrative features. In the festivals they studied for the 2016 The Women in Independent Film Report, women comprised 35% of directors working on documentaries versus 19% of directors on narrative features. These numbers show there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity.

This behind the scenes inequality is reflected on screen as well.  While the number of female protagonists of the 100 top grossing films in 2016 increased from 2015 by 7% to make up 29% of film protagonists, in films helmed exclusively by men, women were only 18 percent of protagonists.  In films with at least one female director or writer, 57% of protagonist were women.  Overall, audiences were still more than twice as likely to see male characters than female characters in top grossing movies, even with such blockbusters as the female-starring Rogue One.

And why does this matter?  Media has a huge influence on our social and cultural behavior, especially on children who are engaging with media up to 7-10 hours a day.  Omission or negative depictions in media can have lasting consequences for children’s beliefs and values.  Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media operates with the belief that “if she can see it, she can be it” and has been working towards increasing representation of women both on and off screen.  We’ve seen this maxim at work first hand with The Eagle Huntress.  Since Aisholpan’s debut as the first female to compete at the Golden Eagle Festival, three more girls have entered.

An article in AAUW Outlook magazine titled “The High Cost of Hollywood’s Gender Bias” found that women on screen are mostly see in traditionally female-dominated occupations, such as teachers and waitresses, and underrepresented in high-level occupations, such as doctors and engineers. A Geena Davis Institute study that analyzed gender roles in popular films distributed between January 1, 2010, and May 1, 2013, found that women held only 13.9 percent of senior executive positions, and only men were depicted as partners in law firms.

While women are underrepresented as a whole, representation for women of color is even worse with only 24% of women on screen being non-white.

At Shine we are proud of our track record of women-lead films and we are part of the movement demanding gender equality in the film industry and across all professions. Women and girls deserve to be seen and heard.

Shine Board Member Profile: Kay Sarlin Wright

As part of a new series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.

Kay Sarlin WrightName:
 Kay Sarlin Wright
Joined Shine Board of Directors: November 2011 (previously on Advisory Board)
Title: Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at Empire State Development
Current Role at Shine: Member of the Board of Directors, Member of the Marketing Committee

Kay Sarlin Wright is the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at Empire State Development, New York State’s chief economic development agency, where she oversees public affairs and the Global NY division. Prior to joining the Cuomo administration she served as Associate Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and senior advisor for marketing, creative services and communications, and provided strategic advice on political and policy matters on the City, State, and Federal levels. Before DCA she was a Vice President of the Glover Park Group, where she was a communications advisor to major national corporations, non-profits, and political campaigns. She has also served as a Congressional Chief of Staff and Assistant Commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?
Shine was started by my parents in 2005.

In January 2005, my mother and I had lunch with an executive director of a non-profit focused on providing health and human services and we discussed the war in Northern Uganda. We learned how thousands of children walked hundreds of miles each night to sleep in the fortified city of Gulu. We couldn’t believe how little we knew and after lunch we found out that we weren’t alone — this was the UN’s number one most under-reported story of the year. And then the question became how could more people learn about stories like this and the answer was originally we could raise money to make one documentary. This lunch was a seminal moment in the creation of Shine and it’s hard to believe all that Shine has accomplished since then.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?
When we travelled to Africa to visit families who were living in IDP camps we met with many children, some of whom were featured in Shine’s first film War/Dance and we were very inspired by their strength. We quickly understood that whatever the mechanism would be for telling their story, at its core, the film would be about the incredible resilience of children.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?
My background is in communications and marketing and it’s exciting to work with the talented members of the Shine marketing committee to find new ways to forge partnerships and effectively communicate Shine’s mission of hope. It’s never easy convincing people to see films that focus on troubling topics, often without easy solutions, but Shine’s films create awareness and allow us to start discussions that can lead to real change.

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?
In the last ten years securing funding for documentaries has become increasingly difficult and every donation is very important to us.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the first two profiles of board members Dario Spina here and Keith Brown here.

Shine Board Member Profile: Keith Brown

As part of a new series, we want to introduce you to the Shine Global family and especially our outstanding and hard working board members who help move Shine forward.

Keith BrownName:
 Keith Brown
Joined Shine Board: August 2005 (Founding Board Member)
Title: Senior Vice President, HLN Programming
Current Role at Shine: Member of the Board of Directors, Member of the New Projects Committee
I am currently senior vice president of programming for HLN, the cable news network formerly known as CNN Headline News.  I have been working in news and documentaries since graduating from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1991.  I’ve worked as a broadcast journalist for many news organizations and networks including CBS, NBC and PBS,  as well as with Viacom as vice president of news and documentaries at Spike TV and senior vice president of news and public affairs at BET respectively.  Early in my career I spent 2-years in Central Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.  There I worked with women’s groups on issues that impact their children, families and communities.

I like to say I grew up in the most famous small town in America… Freehold, New Jersey, the hometown of Bruce Springsteen.  So I’ve gone from a small rural town to now as I also like to say the most famous urban community in the world… Harlem in New York City with my wife Maria Perez-Brown and our 8-year-old daughter Azuri.

Why did you join Shine’s board and why have you stayed on for several years?
I joined Shine as one of the founding board members when asked by Susan MacLaury and Albie Hecht to work on its first film, War/Dance.   I have been involved ever since.  The deep commitment Susan and Albie have to bringing to light the complex issues children face around the world and the hope their work inspires makes working on the board truly a remarkable experience.

What’s a favorite Shine moment for you?
One of my favorite Shine moments is when we received word that War/Dance was nominated for an Academy Award.  It was the culmination of all of the hard work Susan and Albie put into making the film and validation not only of the film, but their vision for the organization.  The organization going on to actually win an Academy Award (for Inocente) was a close second.  It helped us all realize the power of telling children’s stories in their own voice from their own perspective.

How do you use your specific skill set in your work as a Shine board member?
I work on the new projects committee which uses my background as a broadcast journalist in producing documentaries and as a development executive in selecting appropriate projects to fulfill the mission of Shine.   It also brings together my love for documentary filmmaking, my strong connection to Africa, and my work with children over the years.

What is a Shine challenge that you feel supporters should know about?
Even with the tremendous success of its films, Shine continues to need to let more people know of the work it does on behalf of children.  There are so many stories to be told that can have a tremendous impact on the lives of children everywhere.  So we need the involvement of people who share the mission of the organization to ensure these stories are told.

See the full list of Shine’s Board of Directors Members and Board of Governors Members here and read the first profile of board member Dario Spina here.