Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thrilled to View @SwimTeamTheFilm Last Night @FairfieldU with @FairfieldGSEAP

Very proud to applaud, celebrate, and congratulate my colleagues, Drs. Alyson Martin and Emily Shamash, Co-Directors of Special Education at Fairfield University, and their promotion of Lara Stolman's documentary Swim Team. Last night, the movie was screened on our campus at the Quick Center. When I arrived, I talked with many individuals on the GSEAP Advisory Board stating, "I sadly can't stay long. I will only be able to catch the first 20 minutes."

Well, that changed quickly.

I stayed for the entire film and Q & A with Lara Stolman. Her storytelling, the cinematography, and the pure emotion of families featured in the film had me mesmerized - it was the fastest two hours I've spent in a long time. For years, I've shown another POV film, Lost Boys of Sudan, to graduate students, teachers, and high school students and I know that the work they feature is outstanding. Lara Stolman's film, however, was inspirational, emotional, thought-provoking, touching and educational. In short, it was remarkable.
Lara Stolman is an award-winning television news and documentary producer whose work has appeared on NBC, MSNBC, TOLC, AMC, VH-1, and the New York Time's Website. For Swim Team, her first feature documentary film, she was named an IFP Documentary Lab Fellow, awarded the New York Women in Film and Television Arbus Disability Awareness grant, and was provided funding from the Aetna Foundation, Easterseals, and the Karma Foundation. Swim Team has been screened at over 30 international film festivals and won 10 awards.
If I could give out an award, I would offer it to Ms. Stolman, too. Before I was English educator, I put myself through graduate school by working with adults with dis/abilities, including several who were autistic. This background brought me to seek a school that was fully inclusive and that held high standards for all students - the J. Graham Brown School. For over a decade I enjoyed promoting the personal excellence of my students, including those who were on the autism spectrum and had tourette syndrome. At Syracuse University, too, I cherished my courses in Dis/Ability studies and grew fond of the socio-cultural perspectives and questioning institutions that followed medical models of labeling, inhibiting, and doubting. That is partly why Swim Team held my attention.

The larger hook for me, however, was the authentic storytelling of Lara Stolman. In such a short space of time, her mesmerizing cinematography, interview-skills, and narrative pace did a phenomenal job of helping me, as a viewer, connect to the young men she featured and the families that supported them. Here, she tells the story of out-of-school success that occurred from competitive swimming - another example that every student is more robust than the ways our schools calculate, label, and grade them. If you visit the website, many of the accolades and awards can be read, all of them deserved.

As I watched the film, I also thought about my work with Hoops4Hope, and the promotion of life skills needed on and off the court and field, and in this case in and out of a pool. Lara Stolman demonstrated Ubuntu with her film, one can be who they are because of all of us together, highlighting the importance of focus, integrity, self-esteem, self-awareness, sense of humor, respect, and responsibility that young people need to have to be successful. Here, too, I recognized that these life skills are family skills, especially in promotion of the young men (and women) to be their best.

I wish to thank my colleagues, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and our advisory board for making this film a possibility for our campus. It was truly remarkable and I will be thinking about it for some time. Our students were introduced to a phenomenon and I was very impressed to see so many members of the Fairfield University swim and diving teams in the audience. I hope they were touched as much as I was.

Wow. Simply Wow. 

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