BESS O’BRIEN DOCUMENTARY FILM SERIES. A series of four films directed by Bess O’Brien opens February 28th at Lyndon State College. O’Brien and her husband Jay Craven run Kingdom County Productions, a nonprofit arts organization that produces films and theater productions and offers art education programs.
Although O’Brien’s films cover challenging subjects—heroin addiction, youths in foster care, the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, and domestic violence—they are all important issues prevalent in Vermont. “So much of the media that people see comes from more urban areas and from the film industry in L.A. All that is great, but when you’re living in a rural community you need stories that come from the place you live in,” O’Brien explains.
The series kicks off on February 28th with “Here Today” an exploration of heroin addiction in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The stories include a 22-year-old mother whose first three children were put up for adoption because of her drug habit and the man who heads a local Division of Drug and Alcohol whose daughter is an addict living in California.
When “Here Today” toured the state in 2002-2003, it was screened to legislators at the State House, and O’Brien believes it helped bring about change. “At the time we toured the film there was a lot of controversy about opening Vermont’s first methadone clinic. The film helped convince legislators and others to open the Burlington Methadone clinic and other treatment centers.”
“Ask Us Who We Are” will be shown March 13th. This film deals with the challenging lives of youth in foster care. It highlights the heartbreak many foster care youth carry through their lives at the same time revealing the resilience and determination they possess to survive and thrive. The lives of foster care parents and kinship families are also shown. “This film is about the inner journeys people take and how they interact with each other,” O’Brien said.
“Shout It Out,” a musical that follows a group of Vermont high school students through their tumultuous teens, is based on O’Brien’s live musical “The Voices Project.” It shows academic pressure, teen pregnancy, friction with parents and peers, cutting, class issues, first love, and fear of the future combined with nostalgia for the past. All songs were written and performed by Vermont teens. It will be screened on March 27th.
The last show of the series is “Journey into Courage.” The documentary tells the story of six Vermont survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse who created a play and began traveling around to perform it. The women ultimately discover their own power through artistic and political expression. The movie airs April 24th.
The Bess O’Brien Documentary Film Series is being presented in response to a recommendation by LSC President Steve Gold in hopes of making art and arts programming more accessible to students and the community at-large. The films will be shown in the College’s Academic and Student Activity building room 100; start time for each is at 7 p.m.
All films are free and open to the public; Bess O’Brien will be in attendance for each screening. For more information, contact O’Brien at Kingdom County Productions at (802) 357-4616.