Celebrate Summer with a Food Truck Dinner and Free Film June 7

Kick off summer by joining the Diversity Film Series for the documentary film Soufra, an inspirational story of women in a Lebanese refugee camp who start a successful catering business. Come early with the family to enjoy dinner at a middle eastern food truck that will be available outside of the venue.

SOUFRAFilm_Manal Hassan and Maha Hajjaj_VegetableShopping (1)
photo by Lisa Madison

A stirring tale of women’s empowerment, Soufra shows how societal change can begin with small steps. Directed and produced by Thomas Morgan with executive producer Susan Sarandon, Soufra follows the unlikely and wildly inspirational story of intrepid social entrepreneur, Miriam Shaar — a refugee who has spent her entire life in the decrepit and dangerous Bouj El Barajneh refugee camp just south of Beirut, Lebanon. The film follows Miriam as she sets out to change her fate by launching a catering company with a diverse team of fellow refugee women. She calls the catering company ‘Soufra’, an Arabic word meaning a long table filled with many good things to eat, or dining table.

Miriam Shaar    photo by Lisa Madison

As the documentary unfolds, the women begin to share recipes from their homelands, which leads to the creation of original dishes. At one point, Miriam takes her staff to a cooking class to improve their skills in food presentation and delivery. She also hires a marketing manager. The documentary chronicles Soufra’s first contract to supply food to schools, and the establishment of a stand at the souk (market), then the burgeoning business of catering for parties, and, finally, the purchase and equipping of a food truck.

The women find that the dignity that their work lends to them and to their families allows the women to see beyond the despair of the camp, to buy necessities they have not been able to afford, or to send a child back to school. Miriam’s own toughness in the face of these multiple delays and setbacks is remarkable to see, and it soon becomes clear that its importance reaches beyond her immediate circles — she carries the hopes of thousands. This wonderful film acknowledges these issues — and the bleak context of those who despair setting out to sea in tiny boats in an attempt to reach Europe –while maintaining an intimate atmosphere that brings personal stories to the fore. It’s a documentary full of small details that open up broader perspectives, and it serves as a reminder that refugees have the same ambition and desire to improve their own lives and others’ as people lucky enough to come from stable countries


“Just don’t watch it when you’re hungry.” Jennie Kermode, EyeforFilm.co.uk

“A stirring tale of empowerment.” New York Times

“The film deftly balances the personalities and culinary creativity with the fundamental matter of day to day political struggle.” Hollywood Reporter

Only ONE screening! 

Thursday, 7, 2018, @ Ellen Driscoll Playhouse / 325 Highland Ave / Piedmont 94611

5 – 6:30 PM: Middle Eastern FOOD TRUCK will be parked outside Ellen Driscoll (see menu, below!)

6:30 – 7:30 PM, SCREENING (NB: EARLIER than usual, to coordinate with the food truck!)  Film has subtitles.

food truck menu
Popular Oakland “Shrimp Falafel” Food Truck!

Great Speakers for 4/26 & 28 Screenings of Birthright: A War Story

See more about the film itself in the blog entry below

Ruth1April 26:  Dr. Ruth Shaber, M.D. is currently director of the Tara Foundation. She served as chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of Women’s Health for Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. Dr. Shaber is also on the Medical Advisory Committee for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


Carole JoffeApril 28: Carole Joffe, PhD, who appears in the film, teaches in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF. She is also a professor emerita of sociology at UC Davis. She is the author of many articles and books on the status of abortion and contraception in America, and has received lifetime achievement awards from the National Abortion Federation and the Society for Family Planning.

Is Our Reproductive Health Reality becoming a Handmaid’s Tale?


Birthright: A War Story examines what has happened to women’s reproductive rights in America since the historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 legalized abortion. Director Civia Tamarkin traces the strategy the anti-abortion movement has used to make reproductive choice unavailable, even if it is still legal: For over 40 years it has played the long game, working state by state to pass laws that chip away at women’s reproductive healthcare options. The war story that “Birthright” traces is a war of attrition.

Tamarkin presents haunting, personal stories of women trapped in the confines of these new laws, interwoven with expert voices of activists and historians. We learn how women are being jailed, physically violated and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America. One couple, Robb and Danielle Deaver, share the horrors they endured as a direct result of Nebraska’s law banning abortions after 20 weeks, predicated on questionable science and similar to laws in 25 other states.


In California, where access to reproductive care is relatively secure, many may not realize how successful the anti-abortion forces have been in rewriting state law, and using courts and religious doctrine, to govern women’s reproductive rights. Birthright: A War Story also highlights that for women with financial means, abortion is likely to remain accessible and safe. But for low-income women of all ethnicities, especially those on Medicaid and in a growing number of states, access to abortion and contraception has already become scarce and dangerous; they are caught up in a draconian web of laws and corporate policies surrounding reproductive medical care of all kinds.

These developments are now a public health crisis which is increasing maternal mortality, turning pregnant women into criminals, and challenging the constitutional protections of every woman in America. This is the real-life “Handmaid’s Tale”.

“…a compelling documentary that is a must-see.”
Film Pulse

“Birthright: A War Story packs a powerful message: that reproduction has become perilous for women in America.”
The New York Times

TWO FREE screenings of Birthright: A War Story

Thursday, April 26, 2018 // Ellen Driscoll Playhouse, 325 Highland Ave, Piedmont 

6:30 Reception // 7:00 Film // 8:45 Discussion with Dr. Ruth Shaber, M.D., currently director of the Tara Foundation. She served as chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of Women’s Health for Kaiser Permanente of Northern California. Dr. Shaber is also on the Medical Advisory Committee for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Saturday, April 28, 2018 // The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St., Oakland (Food for purchase)

 3:00 Film and Discussion with Carole Joffe, PhD, who appears in the film, teaches in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UCSF. She is also a professor emerita of sociology at UC Davis. She is the author of many articles and books on the status of abortion and contraception in America, and has received lifetime achievement awards from the National Abortion Federation and the Society for Family Planning. 


#Me Too for Low Wage Workers: Rape on the Night Shift & Discussion in March

Every night, as most of us head home, janitors across America, many of them women, begin their night shift. They are often alone or isolated in empty buildings — and vulnerable to sexual violence on the job.

feet & mop

With women around the country coming forward with accounts of sexual assault and misconduct by men in politics, media and entertainment, Rape on the Night Shift explores sexual abuse in the janitorial industry.   Immigrant women working as night janitors are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, and  many are afraid to come forward about abuse out of fear they’ll lose their jobs or be deported.This is not a rumorDespite those risks, women went on camera to break their silence, “I felt trapped in a world where I could not speak,” Leticia Zuniga, a night shift janitor, told the investigative team about her alleged assault by her manager. “More than anything, I thought about my kids. That’s why I endured so many awful things.”

From San Francisco’s Ferry Building, to the malls of Minnesota, to big box stores across the country, the investigative team — with correspondent Lowell Bergman, producers Andrés Cediel and Daffodil Altan, and reporters Bernice Yeung and Sasha Khokha — found violations across the janitorial industry involving companies large and small. With firsthand accounts from female janitorial workers like Zuniga who say they have been sexually abused by their coworkers and supervisors, the collaborative investigation explores the steep price many women in the janitorial industry pay to keep their jobs and provide for their families, and examines why such cases are often difficult to prosecute.

“Nobody listened to me,” said janitor Georgina Hernandez. “These are women with money, women in Congress, and they get help. They get the attention. They are women who are worth something. But I am a woman who is worth something, too.”

The film was made in 2015 and updated in 2018 to show how the government, businesses and law enforcement are responding to the problem — and how they reacted to the Rape on the Night Shift investigation itself: “I was sad. I was angered. And I wanted to do what we could do, from the state, to be able to protect these women,” says California Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez, who introduced a bill requiring sexual harassment training for all janitors in the state, directly inspired by the investigation. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in 2016.  The updated version also shows how many of the women changed after reporting the sexual abuse they suffered.

As the #MeToo conversation spreads beyond the worlds of Hollywood, media and politics, Rape on the Night Shift is a powerful look at the impact of sexual abuse on some of the most vulnerable women in the workforce.


  • Wednesday, March 7, 2018 @ Ellen Driscoll Theater, Piedmont 
    • 6:30 PM Reception
    • 7 – 8 PM Screening
    • 8 – 9 PM Andres Cediel, documentary filmmaker and a producer of the film who is also a Professor of Visual Journalism at UC Berkeley, and Sasha Khoha, a reporter on the film as well as a Radio Host of California Report at KQED will hold a panel discussion and answer questions about the film.
  • Saturday, March 10, 2018 @ The New Parkway Theater, Oakland
    • 3 – 4 PM Screening
    • 4-5 PM Post-film discussion with Producer Andres Cediel, documentary filmmaker and Professor of Visual Journalism at UC Berkeley.


January 11 & 13: Two Great Films on Economic Inequality

In January, the Appreciating Diversity Film Series will present two important films that focus on the ways American institutions and policies have contributed to racial segregation and discrimination in this country.

       The House We Live In exposes how government policies, particularly around housing, have adversely affected minorities. After World War II, with the support of the GI Bill, housing boomed, and segregated suburbs like Levittown popped up all over the country. Real estate practices and federal government regulations (including “redlining”) directed government-guaranteed loans to white homeowners and kept non-whites out.

redlining graphic

This discriminatory access to housing and to home loans led not only to greater segregation, but also to a decline in housing investment in minority neighborhoods. The result of these policies was to exclude minorities from the net worth generated by rising housing values in suburban neighborhoods. Today the net worth of the average African-American family is about 1/8 that of the average white family, largely as the result of these policies.

As Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, “To get beyond racism we must first take account of race. There is no other way.” As The House We Live In shows us, until we address the legacy of past discrimination and confront the historical meanings of race, the dream of equality will remain out of reach.

       The Arc of Justice, subtitled “The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of a Beloved Community,” a film by Helen S. Cohen and Mark Lipman, follows the remarkable journey of New Communities, Inc. The title is based on a saying of Martin Luther King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The film follows civil rights activists from the 1960s who purchased land in Georgia in order to create a new community and facilitate economic development and greater power for African Americans. The film follows their successes and their struggles to maintain the community in the face of crippling drought and the Department of Agriculture’s racist farm loan policies. These policies were challenged in a lawsuit which ultimately resulted in the largest civil rights settlement in US History.

NCI-Store       The efforts of this Georgia community were an inspiration for the creation of community land trusts throughout the country, and even the world. As Congressman John Lewis recognized, “It was a courageous and brilliant idea to bring people together in a new way of thinking. Cooperative land ownership—not just an individual, but a community.”

       The Appreciating Diversity Film Series will host two FREE screenings of BOTH The House We Live In and Arc of Justice, followed by a panel discussions that brings these issues home today:

In Piedmont @ 7 pm, Thursday, Jan. 11

Ellen Driscoll Theater / 325 Highland Ave (at Oakland Ave)/Piedmont

Doors open, light refreshments @ 6:30 pm,

Film at 7:00 pm, followed by panel discussion

In Oakland @ 3 pm, Saturday, Jan. 13

The New Parkway Theater / 474 24th Street (btw Telegraph & Broadway) / Oakland

Film at 3:00, followed by panel discussion


Local Parents and Young Adults to Speak at Screenings of Growing Up Trans

On 12/7 (in Piedmont) and 12/9 (in Oakland), ADFS will be screening Growing Up Trans, a film that “…makes viewers feel the struggle, suffering and some of the victories for the children and their parents even as it provides a world of information on coming-of-age transgender.” — Baltimore Sun

One of the post-screening speakers will be Sara Kaplan, whose daughter transitioned to become her son two years ago. Below are excerpts from a blog post she wrote about her experience. (See more about the screening in the 10/30 blog post, below, and under the “upcoming screenings” tab.)

sarafamily11-28-17 at 2.32 PM

“I miss my daughter….

Not in terms of physical pain, but in terms of new emotional grief and heartbreak.

My daughter is gone because she has transitioned, at the age of eight, to become my son. I feel ashamed in many ways of mourning the loss. I think of parents who have lost a child, and of course it is not the same as what I’m going through. But this hurts badly, and she is gone….

As the mother of both a daughter and a son, I have always felt blessed to have a unique love and relationship with each. I had my girl first, and I was overjoyed. I had always wanted to be a mom and didn’t think I had a preference, but when I learned the baby was a girl, I was thrilled and relieved. I didn’t grow up with brothers or boys around…. By the time I was pregnant with our second and was told he was a boy, I felt more comfortable as a parent….

When she turned into a he, I wasn’t sure at first how openly to discuss it.

From my first post on my …[blog], I have included both of my children in my writings and photos. The first time I wrote about the transition, I had Internet trolls tell me that I must be forcing this on my child, that I’m a sociopath, that I am doing this for fame and publicity, and that I’m a horrible parent. But I felt that if I stopped writing about this child because of the transition, then I was allowing fear and shame to win. That is not my truth, and that would be the wrong message to send to my children and to the community I have built. I want to show my children that a life worth living requires living as honestly and openly as possible. I also know that it can be scary to be transgender, and I want my child to know that he is loved and accepted by us, every day, and as either gender.

So instead of hiding, I have decided to share parts of this journey as well: the new fears, and the new joys….

With my daughter, I feared wounding her in the way I have been wounded.

But now that this child is my son, some of my fears are different.

I worry that he will be bullied, targeted, and made to feel ashamed of who he is. I fear that he will be discriminated against. I worry that my need to please and my anxiety have been passed down to him, and he will need better coping mechanisms than he may be able to develop. I fear his reactions to learning how cruel and mean the world can be—and I fear my own….

As much as gender is a hot trendy topic right now, I didn’t give a crap about it before. I didn’t care about gender neutral bathrooms, blockers, hormones, North Carolina’s horrific new laws, transgender civil rights, welcoming school curriculum, gender activists, becoming an ally, suicide rates of gender fluid people, or anything to do with gender issues. …[N]ow it has to become part of my parenting….

…[F]or now, for him, I see beautiful things happening. When I look at pictures of my child before the transition, I can see the unhappiness. I see the mask and the discomfort all over his face. I now better understand the forced smiles and exasperation. It hurts to look at the photos, to think he was there and didn’t feel seen. Or that she was there but feeling weighed down with a big bad secret. Looking at my son now, there is a comfort that pours out of his every pore. He is more confident and happy. He has less drama with friends at school, and his work is improving. He is persistent, consistent, and insistent that his inner person is a boy. He says that this is not a phase and that he is transgender.

And so we are pioneering a new path right now. We are parents in full support of our child. We are going to love him and accept his desire to present as a boy. We are not doing surgery or hormones at this point. There is nothing going on besides our love and acceptance. We are all in individual therapy and working with lots of professionals. We are signed up to participate in support groups, summer camps, gender fluid parenting workshops, conventions, play groups, and more.

My daughter is gone for now. Perhaps she will return one day. I don’t know. But my son is happy and here now. My motherly intuition is that he is here to stay.

… The other night, at bedtime, he grabbed my hand and thanked me for allowing him to be himself. All I could say was, “Of course. I love you so much!””

Growing Up Trans: An Intimate Conversation (with Transgender Children, Their Families, Friends and Doctors) December 7 and 9 in Piedmont and Oakland

The triumph… is that it makes viewers feel the struggle, suffering and some of the victories for the children and their parents even as it provides a world of information on coming-of-age transgender.” — Baltimore Sun

In the opening scene of the documentary film, Growing Up Trans, 9-year-old Lia Hegarty is on a surfboard splashing in the ocean. From the sun, sea and her gleeful little-girl calls as she catches a wave, the sound and images move to her bedroom, where she declares, “I am transgender. I was born male, and I identify female. But I like to say I’m a girl stuck in a boy’s body.”

Lia is one of eight youngsters featured in the Appreciating Diversity Film Series’ December screening of Growing Up Trans. Lia says she “transitioned” when she was “6 or 7” to being “more of a girl.” Now, she says, “I’m almost completely female.” This year, she adds, “I changed my name officially. So now, I’ve changed my name, my clothes, my room and my pronouns. That’s really all you need except for the fifth one that I still need: surgery and medicine to help me look like a girl.”

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Though Lia’s statement about her identity is disarmingly straightforward, Growing Up Trans examines the complexities in the situations facing transgender youth. Filmmakers Miri Navasky and Karen O’Connor go deep inside the lives of these children, their families and friends, tracing their path toward gender identity. Told from the perspective of parents, doctors, and most revealing of all, the kids themselves, the documentary takes a powerful look at this new generation, exploring the medical possibilities, struggles and choices transgender kids and their families face today. The film gives viewers a chance to observe not only how amazingly self aware and articulate the youngsters are, but also how easily accepted they appear to be by their young friends. The experiences of these real people provide a striking contrast with the media obsession with celebrity, abuse or bathrooms.

Chief among the decisions facing these families is whether to take “puberty blockers” that delay an individual’s maturation to give them more time before making more permanent decisions about hormone therapies, and then, whether to take hormone therapy. We observe the doctors’ conversations with their patients and their families, and come away with a greater understanding of the thoughtful struggles they engage in while trying to determine the best path forward.

The Appreciating Diversity Film Series will host two screenings of Growing Up Trans. The film will be followed by a panel discussion of parents and transgender youth in both Piedmont and Oakland.

In Piedmont @ 7 pm Dec. 7

Ellen Driscoll Theater / 325 Highland Ave (at Oakland Ave)/Piedmont

Doors open, light refreshments @ 6:30 pm,

Film at 7:00 pm, followed by panel discussion

In Oakland @ 3 pm Dec. 9

The New Parkway Theater / 474 24th Street (btw Telegraph & Broadway) / Oakland

Film at 3 PM, followed by panel discussion


Speakers Announced for 10/25 & 10/28 Screenings of CODE

The Appreciating Diversity Film Series is proud to present “CODE”, a lively and timely documentary that explores the rising organizations committed to educating and inspiring young women to see themselves in the field of coding. This acclaimed new documentary, by Director/Producer Robin Hauser Reynolds, will be followed by two impressive panels of speakers:

On October 25 in Piedmont: Stephanie Griffin, PUSD Director of Technology, with PHS CS students Gabriella Brown & Rafaella Gomes and technology leader Lisa Forssell from Apple. [7 – 9 PM @ Ellen Driscoll Theater, 325 Highland Ave, Piedmont 94611]

On October 28, in Oakland: Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar, who is featured in the film. [3 – 5 PM @ The New Parkway Theater, 475 24th Street, Oakland]

More details about the film in the blog entry below!