Kori Cioca, US Coast Guard, and husband Rob in an emotional interview in The Invisible War.
The Invisible War has received big love and recognition from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. The New York Senator, who serves as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, plans to reveal a newly drafted bill next week that will address the issue of sexual assault in the military. She credited The Invisible War (premiering May 13 on Independent Lens) with shaping her approach.
“One of the reasons why The Invisible War was so effective: It put a face on this issue,” Sen. Gillibrand said on The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. “Those were real victims telling their stories. And that’s why, as Chairwoman of the Personnel Subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, my first hearing was on sexual assault and rape in the military, and I had the victims testify first to tell their stories.” Continue reading →
Victims of sexual assault in the military face a mountain range of obstacles before, and if ever, they find justice. Their judge could potentially be their rapist’s best friend. He chooses the jury and has the power to “change the charge, reduce the sentence, or even overturn the verdict.” And in some cases, such as that of Jessica Hinves, featured in The Invisible War(airing May 13 on Independent Lens), her judge “didn’t have any legal education, background, or knowledge.”
Add the Feres doctrine to the list of hurdles. In 1950, the U.S. Supreme Court passed the doctrine in response to three cases of military members injured from causes unrelated to the battlefield — one man in a building fire from a malfunctioning heater, and two from botched surgeries. As such, they weren’t liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which at that time prevented individuals from suing the military for injuries on the battlefield. The military didn’t want to worry about getting sued for the very thing servicemembers had signed up for. Continue reading →
The Invisible War (airing May 13 on Independent Lens) could hardly be broadcasting on a more relevant week. On Tuesday, the Pentagon released a report that showed a spike in military sexual assaults. It estimated 26,000 military members were assaulted in fiscal year 2012, up from 3,374 in 2011. This was announced two days after an air force officer in charge of sexual assault prevention was himself arrested for sexual battery.
Filmmaker Kirby Dick hoped The Invisible War would gather a critical mass of attention on the epidemic of sexual assault in the military and change policy. Already, since the making of his film, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta transferred the power to prosecute sexual assault from the level of unit commander to colonel. Still, Kirby Dick says we have a long way to go before the military justice system is truly just. Continue reading →
How would you define “asian fetish” (a.k.a., crudely, “yellow fever”)? According to Urban Dictionary, it is “a term usually applied to white males who have a clear sexual preference for women of Asian descent, although it can also be used in reference to white females who prefer Asian men.” They follow with this example: “Every time we go to the club, Dave goes straight for the Asian women. I swear, that dude’s got a serious case of yellow fever.”
The cultural blogger Angry Asian Man defines it honestly: “To put it bluntly, that gross-out fetish when dudes have an unhealthy obsession with Asian women. Chances are, you’ve met or know someone like this.” Continue reading →
Reality is a slippery medium. Just when a documentary filmmaker thinks she understands a story, people surprise her. Such it was for Debbie Lum. When she first started filming Seeking Asian Female, Lum hoped to dissect a cultural phenomenon that had affected her — “yellow fever” — by objectively interviewing “afflicted” characters. Instead, she not only got sucked into the story of one couple, but also became a makeshift marriage counselor and a character in her film. We recently spoke with Lum about racial stereotypes, the difficulty of remaining “a fly on the wall,” and some hilarious outtakes of her film.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
I hope by touching audiences emotionally Seeking Asian Female will inspire individuals to reevaluate how stereotypes and expectations negatively impact human relationships, love and marriage. I hope the film will bring into wider discussion the objectification of Asian women by Western men and the real-life complications that grow out of their fantasies. I hope the film will offer alternative, three-dimensional portrait of an Asian woman who is neither a “victimized prey” nor a “ruthless opportunist.” I hope the film will raise awareness about interracial relationships, cross-cultural relationships, and Chinese immigrants. I hope the film also raises questions about how stereotyped thinking impacts all communities, including those who are being stereotyped (in this case Asian Americans and women). Continue reading →
US/Mexican border fence, Southern Arizona Photo by Matt Nager
Juan Manuel, featured in The Undocumented (airing April 29 on Independent Lens), lived in the United States more than 15 years. Eventually, he was deported to Mexico, away from his children. He died crossing the U.S. border to see his kids again.
“I think Juan Manuel’s story is common for people that come from humble families,” said an attendee at Manuel’s funeral in The Undocumented. “They look to improve their lives by learning. They decide to go to the United States in search of something more. Instead they find themselves dead in the desert.” Continue reading →
Filmmaker Marco Williams, director of The Undocumented
Since 1998, more than two thousand dead bodies have been found in Arizona’s Sonora Desert — the remains of “border crossers” who perished en route to the United States from Mexico. In true cinéma vérité style, The Undocumented(premiering Monday, April 29, 2013 at 10pm) by acclaimed filmmaker Marco Williams, reveals the ongoing impact of immigration laws and economic policies on the very people who continue to be affected by them. By going beyond politics, the film also tells a story that is deeply personal. We recently spoke with Williams about the making of his film and the impact he hopes it will have on the national immigration debate. Continue reading →
Starting today, the fourth season of FUTURESTATES — public media’s #1 online series of independently-produced, socially conscious, science fiction short films — debuts a new futuristic episode from seven cutting-edge indie filmmakers every Wednesday, kicking off with today’s Elliot King is Third. In 2024, gender is identified by microchip implant, and trans people like Elliot are classified “third.” But can he change his identity in an attempt to build a safer life?
Scientists overwhelmingly agree that future generations will face serious challenges from climate change, and that human energy consumption plays a significant role in rising temperatures and sea levels globally. Yet despite the media attention this gets (especially around Earth Day), climate literacy rates are startlingly low in the United States. According to a recent NPR piece, two thirds of American students say they know little or nothing about the impacts of fossil fuel consumption on climate change. A recent report from the National Center for Science Education sounds the alarm, and makes clear that our schools desperately need new strategies and resources to address young people’s lack of knowledge about our world.
Climate education is largely ignored in science curricula, and mired in political debate. Professional development for teachers around these topics is almost non-existent, and quality educational resources are very hard to find. Teachers say they are often intimidated to teach about climate change due to the polarized political climate. The knowledge gap is unequal – private schools and wealthy school districts generally have more resources to teach science, while kids in the inner cities and rural areas fall far behind. Continue reading →
A world of change has happened since Jon Shenk filmed The Island President(airing April 22 on Independent Lens). After Shenk released the documentary in 2012, Maldivian leader Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign and arrested twice on the campaign trail to reelection.
Below, Jon Shenk reacts to the chaos in the Maldives, followed by an interview with Independent Lens from last year in which he reveals his documentary filmmaking fuel — pizza and coffee. Continue reading →