In September 2013, POV caught up with filmmakers Samantha Buck and Danielle DiGiacomo of Best Kept Secret to find out what’s happened since the camera stopped rolling.
POV: What has happened in the lives of teacher Janet Mino and students Erik and Robert since the end of this film?
Janet Mino is teaching and developing a program called The Valentine Center that will help autistic students transition into adulthood. We have some amazing, generous, business leaders who are helping to use a business incubator in New Jersey to help her start this. It is already a 501c3, and it will combine work training and programs with recreation. Janet is currently raising money.
Her website is being revamped but we will be sharing it with everyone on the Best Kept Secret website when it is ready. People will be able to make tax deductible donations.
Erik’s foster Mother Alyce Barnhardt says that he is doing fine. However, he has not been able to return to Burger King and needs a job coach.
We have reached out to Robert’s Aunt but she has not returned calls. We did hear through the grape vine that his Aunt had to give him up and is back living with his mother. We are all heartbroken about Robert’s situation.
POV: How have audiences reacted to the film?
Well, they have overwhelmingly loved the film. There are so many different people from so many different backgrounds, experiences, and walks of life who have seen it, and all of them agree — even if they do not have a loved one on the autism spectrum — they know what it is like to love a child, or be a parent and so they emotionally relate.
Audiences are inspired by how incredible Janet Mino is, as well as the parents. The love, hope, and sheer commitment of these incredible people inspires everyone who sees the film. We have not been at a screening where Mino has not received a five minute standing ovation. It is amazing. As well as standing ovations for Erik and Quran. I think it is a film that everyone can really relate to, whether they are personally connected to autism or not. But I love to see teachers watch it. My twin sister is a teacher, and she has a special connection to the film; she wants all her teacher friends to watch.
POV: Has the film screened in front of legislators? What’s the reaction been?
We are planning a congressional screening in October 2013 that is being hosted by Senator Menendez and Senator Durbin. We hope it will help bring more awareness to new legislation they have introduced, The AGE IN Act. Senator Menendez has been a huge advocate. Governor Deval Patrick has seen the film and has been very supportive. Mayor Booker knows and has supported the film in the past as well.
POV: What are you working on next?
We are developing a fiction film that is inspired by the lives of real women in politics in Dallas, Texas in the early 1980s.