It was 1992, and the Rodney King riots were being felt across the country, especially amongst the high school students filing into Sarah Feinbloom’s Ancient History class at Boston Latin School in Massachusetts.
“My students were riled by the riots. They couldn’t concentrate. I felt like what I was teaching was irrelevant. What they really wanted to talk about were issues of police brutality, violence in their neighborhoods, the fact that they couldn’t sleep because they heard gunshots in the night, and they were scared.”
Feinbloom veered off the curriculum and started talking with her class about civil rights, and soon she and her students were collaborating on her first film, "Youth to Youth: A Video About Violence." With no film school experience, Sarah improvised as she went along.
“I wanted my students to cultivate a deeper understanding of how personal and systemic violence affects them and even in small ways do something themselves to prevent it. So we went out together and interviewed students, police officers, a Vietnam veteran, a rape survivor, and created segments about the ways people confront and experience violence. I was hooked on documentaries after that. I saw how important it was for young people to be able to tell their own stories and have safe spaces where they could discuss what was really going on in their lives.”
"Youth to Youth" ended up being shown in classrooms around the country, and this first foray launched a lifelong journey of framing social justice, diversity and human rights issues through documentary film.
Feinbloom, an award-winning filmmaker and educator, was one of the first directors to bring the voices of young people reflecting on religious diversity to the media spotlight. Her 2002 documentary "What Do You Believe?" highlighted the spiritual lives of American teenagers, leading Feinbloom along with Dp and co-producer Klara Grunning-Harris into the homes of Muslim, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Native American teenagers. "What Do You Believe?" premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival, has sold more than 2,000 copies, was voted "One of Ten Best Videos for Young Adults in 2003" by the American Library Association, and aired on PBS.
“When I started touring with the film, it was often those kids that were in the minority at their schools that approached me. Muslim and Pagan girls said it was the first time they had ever seen something about themselves on screen. Some conservative Christian students said it was the first time they had ever really considered someone else’s religious perspective.”
Using her film as a centerpiece, Sarah created and led workshops nationally on interfaith dialogue and violence prevention and has been featured at conferences including the American Academy of Religion, Ford Foundation Difficult Dialogues, and the National Association of Multicultural Educators. However, her main goal has always been to reach young audiences.
"Teens are often the subject of stories about alcohol and drugs, crime reports, and educational statistics, but rarely are they asked for their intellect and perspective. I want people from different backgrounds to watch my films, talk about them, discuss them – together. I want them to talk about being alive."
Sarah’s filmography is expansive, showcasing a number of pertinent social concerns. Her film "Earth, Water, Woman" spotlights the Fondes Amandes Community Re-Forestation Project in Trinidad and Tobago, and its charismatic Rastafarian leader Akilah Jaramogi, in their ongoing efforts to transform barren hillsides into a vibrant, healthy ecosystem. "Daughters and Sons: Preventing Child-trafficking in the Golden Triangle" took Feinbloom to Thailand, where she profiled a program that rescues children before they are trafficked into the sex-industry, and subsequently won the award for Best Short in Child Advocacy at the Artivist Film Festival and helped raise over $250,000 trafficking prevention.
“I am especially interested in stories that offer solutions to what might seem like intractable problems, stories that offer hope and don’t just leave us in despair.”
Although most well known for her activist documentaries, Feinbloom also dabbles in lighter subjects. "In Search of the Heart of Chocolate," a “chocumentary” featured at Palm Springs International Short Fest, follows Feinbloom as she searches for the origins of her chocolate obsession, interviewing chocolate enthusiasts along the way, delving into chocolate cake, art, fantasy, chocolate croissants, spirituality, sex, love and hot fudge, and journeying into the past to uncover chocolate’s special place in our hearts.
Sarah’s success in documentary filmmaking, her experience as an educator, and her long time involvement with New Day Films prompted filmmakers to reach out to her for assistance with educational sales and community impact campaigns. After working as a consultant with several great projects, such as Jarreth Merz
’s Sundance Film An African Election
, Sarah founded the boutique documentary distribution company, Good Docs, in order to share her expertise with fellow independent filmmakers and generate revenue from sales in the educational market.
Good Docs’ curated collection highlights labor and civil rights struggles, environmental activism, juvenile justice reform, multicultural visibility, the fight for gender equality and much more. Their titles include several award-winning documentaries, including Amir Bar-Lev
's "Happy Valley
," Richard Ray Perez
's "Cesar's Last Fast
," Darius Clark Monroe
’s "Evolution of a Criminal
," and Grace Lee
’s Peabody Award-winning film "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs."
“They have been an indispensable partner with us in the educational market,” Grace Lee
praised. “Good Docs has personally reached out to dozens of institutions and individuals, with a keen eye to the different disciplines that might appreciate my film, and there are many more than I had even imagined.”
Sarah’s right-hand woman, Alana Hauser, is the Educational Research and Outreach Coordinator at Good Docs. While earning her bachelor of arts in Latin American Studies and Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis, Alana worked at Whole Kids Foundation, Meals on Wheels and More, and the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project. After moving to Los Angeles, Alana looked to film to reflect the poignant micro-narratives she had collected over the years.
“Good Docs is a perfect synthesis of my knowledge and passions, as it uses film to shape social discourse and connect audiences with stories that are too often invisible from the public eye. “
Alana also interns at Sundance Institute Women’s Initiative and works for the La-based non-profit WriteGirl, constantly working to advocate for stronger representations of women in the media.
Feinbloom and Hauser make up a powerful Good Docs team, searching for films with the potential for positive social change, spreading the word about social activism, and supporting filmmakers both creatively and financially throughout the process. For further information about Sarah Feinbloom see http://sarafinaproductions.com or go to http://gooddocs.net to find out more about Good Docs and their work.