Subject:White House screening of That's A Family! Huge Success
Date:Thu, 21 Dec 2000 11:31:46 -0000
From:Debra Chasnoff
cc:"Sue Rochman"

(WASHINGTON, December 20, 2000) Women's Educational Media presented "That's A Family!" to an audience of more than 100 leaders of national children's, family, education and civil rights organizations at the White House this past Saturday. The first film for children to explore all family types, "That's A Family!" takes a tour from a child's point of view through a diverse range of family structures. The children who star in the film come from families that include single parent, multiracial, divorced, guardian, adoptive and gay- and lesbian-headed households.

Ben Johnson, Assistant to the President and Director of One America, welcomed the audience to The Presidential Hall and spoke about the need for more educational tools that encourage appreciation of differences of all kinds. Some of the speakers at the event included Debra Chasnoff, Director of "That's A Family!", Rose Ochi, Director of Community Services, Department of Justice; Shay Bilchik, Executive Director, Child Welfare League and Ginny Markell, President, National PTA. Speakers at the reception included Jane Smith, President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women, and Connie L. Matsui, Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

"We're honored to have been invited to screen "That's A Family!" at the White House and to have the support of such a powerful and impressive group of educators, children's advocates and policy makers," said Debra Chasnoff. "It's clear that people are rallying behind this film because of its inclusive message about respect and its potential as a resource to help prevent prejudice and violence."

"'That's A Family!" should be seen by both young people and adults," said Shay Bilchik, Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of America. In his remarks, Bilchik spoke about the film and the powerful impact kids can have when speaking to other kids. The Child Welfare League of America, he said, wants to distribute the film to its 1,000 agencies to ensure that as many kids as possible have the opportunity to benefit from its important message. "The children and families profiled are compelling and emotionally engaging," said Bilchik. "They make us aware of the many different kinds of families in America today and how much children need to feel that their particular family is normal."

In her remarks, Ginny Markell, called the film "a starting point for all of us to understand our differences." Pointing out the strong connection between the PTA and the issues of tolerance, respect and dignity for all, Markell said, "It's time for us to get out of our silos...and get more vocal about what is important for all children and all families." In 2001 the National PTA will spearhead a new campaign dealing with these important issues and "That's A Family!" will be among the resources provided to PTA members, Markell said.

Commenting on the importance of reaching out to children and schools, Julian Potter, Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of Public Liaison, said, "The White House is pleased to bring together leaders from educational, family, civil rights and faith-based communities to share with them an innovative tool that will help us teach our children about tolerance, diversity and respect for all American families."

Two of the families featured in the film-Breauna and her parents Gregg and David, and Fernando and his mother Maria, a single parent-traveled to the White House from San Francisco for this screening. "I think it's good that this film is screening at the White House," Fernando told the audience, "because it makes it seem that this film is important. And it is!"

Many speakers underscored that this screening was a springboard to an ongoing commitment toward the development of more tolerant and violence-free schools. Connie L. Matsui, Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of the USA, pledged to use "That's A Family!" as a tool in upcoming programs as did leaders of the National Education Association, the YWCA of the USA, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, National Council of Negro Women and SAA Families of the 21st Century (Stepfamily Association of America) and scores of other religious, educational, civil rights, and service organizations at the screening.

Directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Debra Chasnoff and executive produced by Helen S. Cohen, "That's A Family!" is the first in a three-part media series for children entitled Respect for All. A vital resource for schools and family service organizations, "That's A Family!" addresses important themes such as school safety, preventing prejudice and recognizing family diversity as the cornerstone to building awareness of, and respect for, differences of all kinds. The film is being distributed with a curriculum guide to schools, religious congregations, social workers, counselors and other organizations that work with children and families.

About Women's Educational Media
Founded in 1978, Women's Educational Media produces and distributes inspirational documentary films and videos on economic and social justice issues. Its highly acclaimed film, "It's Elementary-Talking About Gay Issues in School," has aired on more than 100 PBS stations and is used in teacher-training programs throughout the U.S. Director Debra Chasnoff's previous documentary, "Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment," won the 1991 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Women's Educational Media
2180 Bryant Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone:415 641-4616 Fax:415 641-4632


Nontraditional-Family Video's Makers Set for White House Screening
Documentarians would like to fight potential prejudices by showing film to younger students

Carol Ness, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco -- Two San Francisco families are heading to the White House for a special screening of "That's a Family," a video about children's experiences growing up in different kinds of households.

The video, made by San Francisco filmmakers Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen, depicts gay and lesbian parents, single moms, guardians and children who are adopted. It was made to be shown to elementary and middle-school children.

"I'm really excited," said 12-year-old Fernando Calles, who lives in the Mission District and is a sixth-grader at St. Peter's. He and his mother, Maria Calles, a home health aide, appear in the video and will be making their first trip to Washington.

Fernando wants many people to see the video, in which he talks about growing up without a father.

"Some people are prejudiced and stuff against different families, like gay families. It's important to know that they can still be a family -- it doesn't have to have a mom, a dad, a son and a daughter," Fernando said.

Also going are Gregg Cassin and David Dickson and their daughter, Breauna, 12, a sixth-grader at Hoover Middle School in the Sunset.

The Dec. 19 screening, set up by the White House Office of Public Liaison, will show the video to about 150 representatives from dozens of groups around the country that deal with children, families, education and civil rights. Neither President Clinton nor Hillary Clinton will attend, according to White House spokeswoman Victoria Valentine.

"The film itself breaks new ground . . . as a resource for children that is inclusive of gay and lesbian issues," said Chasnoff, who is White House-bound along with the families and everyone who worked on the video. "For the White House to embrace it in this way is tremendously significant and, I think, a statement of recognition about what we need to be doing in this whole country to prevent prejudice."

She added that she's relieved to have been given the opportunity before Republican George W. Bush replaces Clinton next month.

"I feel like I don't know if we'd have another chance to be in the White House in the next four years," said Chasnoff, who won an Oscar in 1991 for her documentary on General Electric.

Since its San Francisco premiere in June, "That's A Family" has been shown in cities around the country. Chasnoff and Cohen's Women's Educational Media has been working to introduce the video in elementary and middle schools around the country.

The capital screening will take place in the Old Executive Office Building with a reception next door at the White House.

Valentine said the White House Office of Public Liaison reaches out to many different communities and the video "represents a tool for discussing some things we've discussed throughout the year -- safety, school tolerance, diversity." But the meeting didn't mean the White House was endorsing the video, she added.

However, the video has been endorsed by both of California's U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. It has been screened or supported by a wide variety of groups, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Middle School Association and the Girl Scouts.

Chasnoff and Cohen's "It's Elementary," a 1996 film about bringing gay and lesbian issues into elementary school classrooms, has been widely circulated in education circles but stirred up a firestorm of protest from the religious right wing when it was shown on public television last year.

E-mail Carol Ness at

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Last updated 12/21/2000 by Jean Richter, richter@eecs.Berkeley.EDU