Jennifer Redfearn is an Academy Award-nominated director. She directed and produced “Solar Come Up” a couple of small island neighborhood dropping their land to rising seas. “Solar Come Up” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011, screened in theaters throughout the U.S., and aired on HBO. “Contact the Gentle” (“Tocando la Luz)” was co-produced with ITVS and aired on PBS in 2016. It premiered on the Full Body Documentary Competition the place it received the Charles E. Guggenheim Award. Redfearn labored on the 2016 SXSW Viewers Award winner “Landfill Harmonic” as a subject director and consulting producer.
“Aside” is screening on the 2021 Scorching Docs Canadian Worldwide Documentary Movie Competition, which takes place April 29-Could 9. The fest is digital this yr because of COVID-19. Streaming is geo-blocked to Canada.
W&H: Describe the movie for us in your individual phrases.
JR: In a Midwestern state caught between harsh drug sentencing and rising incarceration for girls, three unforgettable moms – Tomika, Lydia, and Amanda – return dwelling from jail and rebuild their lives after being separated from their kids for years. Their tales overlap at a brand new reentry program for girls, run by Malika, an advocate previously incarcerated in the identical jail. Filmed over three and a half years, “Aside” traces their steps as they reconstruct lives derailed by medicine and jail.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
JR: In 2016, my associate Tim Metzger and I realized a couple of new reentry program in Cleveland, Ohio created to deal with the distinctive wants of girls transitioning dwelling from jail. Girls’s incarceration charges in the US have elevated over 800 % for the reason that starting of the struggle on medicine, and a majority of girls in jail are moms. Given the surprising stats, we had been eager to be taught extra about this system and the ladies in it.
We introduced our digicam on a analysis journey to Ohio the place we first met Tomika, Amanda, Lydia, and Malika. It was in December, and the reentry program was placing on a vacation celebration for the ladies and their households. A few of the ladies hadn’t seen their households in months. Tomika instructed us she was lastly prepared to inform her six-year-old daughter that she was in jail and he or she invited us to take a seat on the desk and movie this profound second along with her household. It was a tough second for everybody concerned, however we realized it was essential for an viewers to confront this facet of the story — the facet most of us don’t get to see.
On a private word, I had simply misplaced a number of essential members of the family, so I used to be pondering rather a lot about household, separation, and loss round this time. After witnessing the ladies seeing their kids for the primary time in months and reaching throughout an enormous divide to present love — and to really feel beloved — I knew this was an essential story to inform.
W&H: What would you like folks to consider after they watch the movie?
JR: The problems raised on this movie are a part of a a lot bigger dialog we’re having within the U.S. about inequality, racism, medicine, and mass incarceration. We made “Aside” as one piece of this wider dialog with a deal with maternal incarceration.
I hope the movie encourages audiences to grapple with how incarceration impacts moms, kids, households, and, because of this, total communities. How can we take the steps crucial to maneuver away from the present punitive mannequin to 1 that’s extra simply and restorative?
W&H: What was the largest problem in making the movie?
JR: The largest challenges we confronted needed to do with the logistical hurdles of filming in a jail surroundings, together with gaining and sustaining permission to movie over the three and a half years whereas personnel and politics shifted within the background.
W&H: How did you get your movie funded? Share some insights into how you bought the movie made.
JR: “Aside” was funded with a mixture of grants, in addition to co-production partnership with ITVS. An early grant from the Cleveland Basis helped us begin manufacturing and lower a pattern. Rooster & Egg chosen the movie to take part within the (Egg)celerator Lab, a year-long collection of retreats and mentorship that was extremely useful in shaping the movie and gaining extra help for it.
Further grants from Fork Movies, the Tribeca Movie Institute, and IDA Enterprise Fund helped increase the profile of the undertaking, and ITVS got here on board in direction of the tip of manufacturing. We additionally obtained grants from the LEF Transferring Picture Fund, Good Gravy Movies, and Mountainfilm.
We couldn’t have completed this movie with out the robust help of the Meadow Fund and our govt producer, Patty Quillin.
W&H: What impressed you to develop into a filmmaker?
JR: I believed I’d develop into a tropical ecologist, however the movie bug bit me in faculty after taking darkroom pictures programs and movie courses with filmmaker and video set up artist Salem Mekuria. I come from a big prolonged household of gregarious storytellers and talkers. I could be shy, so once I found pictures and documentary movie as a medium of expression, I used to be hooked.
W&H: What’s the most effective and worst recommendation you’ve obtained?
JR: Worst recommendation: Put it on a bank card.
Finest recommendation: This business is hard. It’s difficult to make a sustainable dwelling as a documentary filmmaker, and also you hear “no” rather a lot. Mentors and colleagues inspired me to keep away from taking “no” personally and examine rejection as a part of the method. It’s actually helped to have that perspective. Additionally, get your ego out of the best way and do what’s finest for the story.
W&H: What recommendation do you will have for different ladies administrators?
JR: The early documentary pioneers had been additionally technologists and builders. Along with the racial reckoning that’s shaping the business, a brand new wave of technological change is coming, probably on par with the invention of the Web. It would disrupt the media panorama once more, however it would additionally create new alternatives for storytellers and inventive entrepreneurs. I see extra males on this house proper now, and I’d like to see extra ladies and BIPOC storytellers on the forefront of this motion with the help to invent new instruments, new methods of telling tales, and new platforms for reaching audiences.
One other factor I’d like to say is the enterprise of filmmaking. My household didn’t have some huge cash once I was rising up, and I’m captivated with ladies’s monetary training and monetary empowerment. I want to see extra transparency from the enterprise facet and extra monetary training for rising filmmakers.
W&H: Title your favourite woman-directed movie and why.
JR: There are such a lot of notable woman-directed movies. I can’t choose one favourite, however let me provide you with two which might be on my thoughts recently. Garrett Bradley’s beautiful characteristic, “Time,” conjures up me for its visually and emotionally wealthy storytelling and chic use of music. It’s additionally boldly pushing the artwork type — as did her brief movie “Alone” — whereas powerfully confronting injustices.
The opposite film I need to point out is Barbara Kopple’s basic “Harlan County, U.S.A.” Being there day in and day trip with the putting miners allowed Kopple and her crew to deliver us an insider’s view into their lived experiences. And when the foreman, who violently threatens the strikers, tries to intimidate her, she holds agency and retains filming. It’s a putting instance of brave filmmaking and a outstanding murals, simply as very important now because it was 45 years in the past.
W&H: How are you adjusting to life throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you retaining inventive, and in that case, how?
JR: As director of the documentary program on the U.C. Berkeley graduate college of journalism, I’m shepherding college students by way of a year-long means of directing their first movies throughout one of the difficult occasions to make documentaries. I’ve poured my inventive power and time into that this yr and have beloved each minute of it.
W&H: The movie business has a protracted historical past of underrepresenting folks of coloration onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — unfavourable stereotypes. What actions do you suppose should be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world extra inclusive?
JR: There’s a gathering momentum behind this motion now, and there’s rather a lot the documentary subject can do to result in optimistic change. The business can work to degree the enjoying subject by instantly supporting extra filmmakers of coloration, each rising and mid-career filmmakers, to make movies and make a dwelling doing it.
We have to help extra folks of coloration in choice making positions reminiscent of funders and in curatorial and govt positions with distributors. And we will help efforts to reexamine how sources are apportioned in public media.
As makers, we now have a duty to pay attention to our potential blind spots when making movies, and to make sure we’re participating numerous voices in key inventive roles on our groups.