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Children took advantage of an obstacle course and various other games at this year's event. – Photo courtesy the YMCA of MV

On Saturday, May 2, more than 400 Island kids and families tested all things fun and healthy at the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard fifth annual Healthy Kids Day.

The day was all-inclusive and free, provided at no cost thanks to the Y for All Financial Assistance and Community Outreach Program, supported by Y donors and volunteers.

Kids and families were encouraged to try everything healthy, and were provided with a passbook with the incentive of collecting stamps at each activity, a goodie bag to take home, and a T-shirt to tie-dye. They hopped, crawled, and ran around, from the obstacle course with Y health and wellness trainers to the Wee Ones obstacle course in Y Child Watch, carnival games with pushups, jumping rope and medicine-ball tossing with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Island Wide Youth Collaborative, paddleboard balancing with Island Spirit Kayak, farm-animal petting with the Farm at Lotus Pond and the Farm Institute, gardening and potting activities with Island Grown Schools, healthy food activities with the Y Café, block printing with Althea Designs, dancing with The Yard and Rise, tie-dye with the Y Camp Terra Mare, Gaga Pit games, bounce house, face painting, chalk and community murals, clown parade, and Sharky Mascot fun. The day was fun-filled and healthy all around.

Kids who attended gave it a big thumbs up, and could be heard shouting “This is the best day ever!”

Every year, Healthy Kids Day at the Y aims to get more kids moving and learning, so they can keep up the habit all summer long — a critical out-of-school time for kids’ health. When kids are out of school, they can face hurdles — or gaps — that prevent them from reaching their full potential, related to hunger, water safety, learning, safe spaces to play, and health. Each year, the Y helps our Island youth “hop the gap” and achieve more, providing a safe place to learn, stay healthy, and build friendships.

“The Y is so much more than sports, swimming, gymnastics, and a place for kids to hang out. We support families in their efforts to instill healthy habits at home,” said Jill Robie Axtell, executive director of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard. “We know that it can sometimes feel like a challenge. So at Healthy Kids Day, we encourage kids to stay physically and intellectually active all summer long, and give families tips they can easily replicate at home. It’s free and open to the community!”

In celebration of YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, the Y shared the following tips to help families develop healthy habits:

  • Try, try, repeat: There are many great-tasting fruits and vegetables that many kids have never heard of, let alone tried. Grab a new fruit or vegetable and encourage everyone in the family to try at least a bite.
  • Play around town: Challenge the family to play on a different playground every week. Identify playgrounds at a variety of parks; expand definitions of playgrounds to include nature trails, a nearby stream, and a bike path.
  • Families at play for an hour a day: From walking to gardening, or swimming to shooting hoops, make playful movement a part of your family’s day. To get 60 minutes of moderate activity throughout your day just add 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there.
  • Foster a passion for reading: Read to and with your kids. Help children read at every age and every stage of their development.
  • Make sleep a priority: Doctors recommend 10 to 12 hours of sleep a day for children ages 5 to 12 and 7 to 8 hours per night for adults. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining our healthy immune system, metabolism, mood, memory, learning, and other vital functions.


The Pathways team celebrates another season at the Chilmark Tavern. – Photo courtesy Pathways

The latest season of Pathways Living Room Studios wrapped up this past Saturday night, with a celebration of artists, writers, musicians, and performers for their innovative projects in the arts across the Island. Throughout the fifth annual Honoraria awards evening, musicians, artists, and writers, including Mait Edey, George Davis, Claudia Taylor, David Stanwood, Roberta Kirn, Sian Williams, Annette Sandrock, Matt Stamas, and Nikki Patton presented selected original music, songwriting, and poetry, with celebratory community support. Tony Tobia introduced his new music compositions, performed by pianist Adele Dreyer, baritone saxophonist Steve Tully, and violinist Atzic Marquez.

The event also honored Island organizations for their innovation in the arts, including Featherstone for its work on poetry programming for the Pathways/Featherstone/Noepe Summer Festival of Poetry; The Yard’s David White, for choreography residencies, and Jesse Keller, for children’s dance; Noepe Literary Center for development of new writing programs; Film Truth Productions’ Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth for a new film project in the arts and climate regeneration; and Martha’s Vineyard Sound’s Phil DaRosa for designing the 2015 summer music festival.

Individual visual artists who were honored with creative time to develop new artworks include Walker T. Roman for painting; Heather Goff for digital drawings, Ronni Simon for sea-glass sculpture; Paul Lazes for his photography project, Powerful Women of MV; Valerie Sonnenthal for her oceans photography – both underwater and wilderness; Laura Roosevelt for arts writing and photography; and William Waterway for his oceans photography.

Performing artists honored with support for time to create new music and/or dance include Tony Tobia for performance of new music compositions; Phil DaRosa for music and songwriting; Joe Keenan for sea songs; Kim Hilliard for songwriting; and Martha Eddy for global water dances.

Writers honored with support for creative time for new poetry, writing, and spoken words include Susan Puciul for poetry; Sian Williams for novel writing; Holly Nadler for writing on the arts, performance, and culture on Martha’s Vineyard; Annette Sandrock for travel poetry; and Claudia Taylor for a new poetry manuscript, text, and design.

The event also honored a handful of off-Island or New York–based arts organizations that include Trisha Brown, with support for reconstruction and repertory; Godfrey Muwulya, with support for choreography and drumming classes for African children; and Elaine Summers Dance & Film Company, with support for dance and multimedia.

In her welcome talk for the awards presentation, Pathways artistic director and founder Marianne Goldberg shared her vision for the annual honoraria: “This year we have again invited over 25 artists, writers, and organizations to accept the challenge and encouragement of a Pathways honoraria — to forge time to conceive and build new work. Projects in poetry, spoken word, and writing; projects in visual arts, from painting to photography to digital forms; and projects in performing arts, from music composition to songwriting to dance, are each awarded for the potential for individuals or collaborative teams to reach beyond what we have accomplished before. To start again, with what we call a seed project, the very beginnings of the desire to build from perhaps tender or raw ideas in dream form, is to realize the as yet unknown. It is exactly this initial unknowing which I consider at the heart of forging creative time. For if we already know how a question of discovery or inquiry will turn out, then we will have missed the most important process — the artistic expedition, a rocky, and sometimes precarious, yet exhilarating journey and time of immersion and flow.”

Works created with Pathways project’s support will be shared with the community at Pathways Gathering Space next season, and across the Island year-round. Arts programs supported at sister organizations are presented through their home venues.


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Over 70 alpacas showed off their new haircuts on Saturday. – Photo by Michael Cummo

On Saturday, Island Alpaca held its eighth annual Shearing Day event, where a team of handlers removed the winter coats from 70 alpacas. Islanders and off-Island visitors watched the full process of harvesting the fleece from the herd, and witnessed the start of the fleece-to-fiber transition, at the farm’s annual harvest. The team from Island Alpaca and expert shearing team Matt Best from New Hampshire and his assistant Nate Trojanski from Connecticut, along with a crew of helping hands, worked for nearly 8 hours. Working efficiently, they averaged less than seven minutes per alpaca.

Alpaca handlers Charles Ronchetti, left, from Lexington, and David Hannon of Edgartown prepare Angelito for shearing. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Alpaca handlers Charles Ronchetti, left, from Lexington, and David Hannon of Edgartown prepare Angelito for shearing. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The process began with each alpaca stretched out on a thick, padded mat on the ground, with its front legs tied together and back legs tied together. This method allowed the shearer to work faster and get a more even cut, and is less stressful for the alpaca this way (think the calming principle of the ThunderShirt for dogs). It allowed for better control shearing, and helped to prevent any nicks on the alpacas’ bodies from the clippers. A large piece of paper was placed under each animal to collect the animal’s blanket, or most-coveted stomach, back, and chest fleece, the softest and most usable fiber. Other hair, from the animal’s necks and legs, was collected separately.

The total weight of the fleece for Island Alpaca Co.’s harvest has yet to be determined, but individual alpaca produce between two and 12 pounds of fiber depending on age, genetics, environment, and nutrition. The farm is expecting 550 to 600 pounds, and every bit of the harvest will be used. Each alpaca fleece was bagged and separated by the individual alpaca name. Half of the harvest will be transported to Fall River, where Island Alpaca fleeces are washed, sorted, and used for making hats, gloves, scarves, socks and boot and shoe insoles. The other half of the harvest, the prime blanket section of the fleece, is transported to southern New Hampshire, where it will be processed into yarn for sale at their gift shop on-Island and online, and for knitters who make products for the local farmers’ markets and gift shop.

Throughout the shearing, the animals were noticeably calmed by the process of the hair removal, relieved from the heat and discomfort the extra hair provides in warmer months. Alpacas are shorn just once a year, in the spring, and without the annual shearing event the alpaca hair would continue to grow, getting out of hand and uncomfortable, like many of us can attest to when we ignore the hairdresser for too long.

Once they had been shorn, the alpaca happily milled about, trying to recognize one another with their new haircuts, sporting unique textured looks thanks to the marks from the clippers.

You can visit the newly shorn animals and check out their new ’dos at Island Alpaca, open every day from 10 am to 4 pm, rain or shine. For more information call 508-693-5554, or visit their site,



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A young woman and child in Guatemala. – Photo by Derrill Bazzy

To celebrate Latin American History Month and the just-past International Women’s History Month, Adult and Community Education of MV (ACE MV) hosted a presentation discussion on Tuesday night titled “Eyewitness Report from the Border Update: Women and Children in Detention.”

The event included a photography exhibition of Guatemala by local photographer and South Mountain architect Derrill Bazzy, and social justice projects from the spring session of the Fitchburg State University Arts, Education and Social Justice graduate course. The presentation also featured the group Nightmares and Dreams: Immigrant Voices, who did a staged reading of narratives depicting social injustices in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, including stories of women and children seeking asylum.

A diverse audience showed up, including several student attendees, among them MVRHS graduate Mariane Quintao, who came to the Vineyard at age 9, and was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at age 17, when she was pulled over in a car and did not have proper identification. Ms. Quintao spent more than a month in detention before being released to her father. As a result of her time in detention, she became depressed, and ultimately decided to leave voluntarily for Brazil, where she is now studying International Relations and is working on her thesis, “Immigration Detention of Children in the U.S. and Australia,” as well as being active in the “End the Detention of Children” campaign.

The presentation, along with arts/social justice scholarships for the Arts, Education and Social Justice graduate-level course from Fitchburg State University on-Island, in affiliation with ACE MV, was supported in part by a grant from Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council. For information on additional presentations and events by ACE MV, visit

Lynn Ditchfield if the founder and program director for Adult and Community Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV).

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Edgartown School third graders practice water safety just in time for summer.

Students of the YMCA water safety course Quinn Filiault, Tayla BenDavid, Reeland Oliveira and Leilane Dias conquer their fears by learning how to safely maneuver a small watercraft with the help of Elizabeth Lytle. – Photo by Michael Cummo

This past Tuesday, the Edgartown School third grade class visited the YMCA for the second installment of the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard Third Grade Water Safety program. The teachers relayed that the students couldn’t wait to come to the Y, and were talking about how excited they were all morning.

Each year, 125 Island third graders participate in the fun and educational program known as Third Grade Water Safety, as a part of the Y for All Community Outreach Program, kept alive through community financial support. Kelly Neadow, Y Aquatics and Camp director, says, “This program is designed to help educate our Island youth in safe water practices. By participating in two one-hour water-safety sessions, students learn how and when to use a personal flotation device safely, basic swim skills, basic small-craft safety, what to do if you capsize a small boat, and precautions for safely assisting those in trouble in the water without entering the water themselves. During each of the sessions the students also enjoy about 15 minutes of recreational swim time to have some fun, and end the session with a trip down the water slide — a program highlight!”

Edgartown School teacher Summer Clements, a graduate of Martha’s Vineyard schools, said, “Our kids are so lucky to have this program and the Y; we didn’t have this when I went to school on the Island. The kids are taking big chances in this program. Those who are scared or don’t know how to swim can cope by getting into the water and going down the slide.”

One of Ms. Clements’ students, Leiliane Dias, wrote before class, “I’m excited to go to the YMCA because I want to learn how to swim and get over my fears of deep water. Last Tuesday, I was afraid of swimming in deep water and I was using a life jacket.”

After their first visit, Edgartown School teacher Tess Temple says, “you could hear a pin drop in the computer class following their water-safety field trip. They were so exhausted from releasing so much fun energy in the pool all morning. This program is great, because it brings them together as a class.”

Fun and learning doesn’t stop here. The goal of the Y Water Safety and other free Y Community Outreach programs is to help keep our kids and community safe, active, and healthy all year long. As part of that mission, the Y hosts the annual Healthy Kids Day, which will take place Saturday, May 2, from 11 am to 2 pm, and is a free family fun and fitness day open to the community. Together with the support of community youth partners and volunteers, the event celebrates healthy living, having fun, and strengthening family bonds.


Sarah Soushek is the director of mission advancement, financial development, marketing, and communications for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.


It was a beautiful day for wagon rides at the FARM Institute on Saturday. – Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Last Saturday The FARM Institute hosted more than 350 guests for their 5th annual Sheepapalooza event, a celebration of sheep and shepherds, local food, farming, and fiber. Guests were treated to meet-and-greets with the farm’s 90 new lambs, and all 21 of the farm’s Cotswold flock were prepared for summer with shearings by expert shearer Andy Rice. There were also fiber arts and crafts, lamb bottle feedings, sheepdog demos, wagon rides, and spinners. For the first time this year, the Artcliff Diner Food Truck joined the fundraiser by cooking up local food for event-goers, with proceeds benefiting The FARM Institute.

Miniature alcohol bottles, or nips, were among the most common trash items found across Island beaches. – Photo courtesy Vineyard Conservation Society

The Vineyard Conservation Society hosted the 23rd annual Earth Day beach cleanup this past Saturday. The event fell a little early this year, but that didn’t stop more than 200 volunteers from picking up trash from across 22 Island beaches. Islanders young and old, some independently and others as part of the 17 different local organizations that attended, helped to hand out trash bags and gloves for eager participants.

Trash and debris were picked up from Island beaches by more than 200 volunteers last Saturday. Photo courtesy Vineyard Conservation Society
Trash and debris were picked up from Island beaches by more than 200 volunteers last Saturday. – Photo courtesy Vineyard Conservation Society

From the 22 beaches, 212 bags of trash were collected, with the top litter offenders being nip bottles, cigarette butts, plastic and styrofoam debris, balloon and strings, and plastic bags.

Unfortunately, significant amounts of large items, including fishing nets, rope, plastic barrels, bait buckets (one which may have originated in Greece), microwaves, deer carcasses, dead birds, and bagged dog poop were also discovered across the sand.

For the third consecutive year, the Harbor View graciously hosted over 100 people for lunch, where food was donated from Sharky’s, Isola, and the Wharf. Fun was had by all, especially the younger generation, who got to leave with a brand-new VCS Island Adventure Book, geared to getting children more engaged in their natural surroundings.

The day of environmental service reminded many that we all have a responsibility to the Island’s beaches, one of our most precious resources. For more ways you can help preserve the natural beauty of our Island home, visit


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The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival brings international talent and topics to the Island.

An audience takes in a film at the Chilmark Community Center. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

From the scene inside a tent hanging off the side of a 20,000-foot mountain in the Himalayas to the midst of a smoke-filled gunfight between Mexican drug cartel gangs, some of the country’s hottest independent filmmakers brought audiences at the 15th annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival to places very few will ever witness firsthand.

The range of movies presented at last weekend’s four-day festival represented some of the most daring — both physically and professionally — work to be found in the documentary arena today. Among the selections were the aforementioned, Meru and Cartel Land respectively, along with the story of a British journalist who spent 118 days as a political prisoner in Iran, an indictment of the administrations of universities from Harvard to Notre Dame to Florida State University on their handling of sexual-abuse cases, to an exposé on the Church of Scientology that piles up one startling revelation after another.

Not all of the selections dealt with weighty subjects. The documentary-heavy lineup also featured uplifting human-interest stories, like a profile of concert pianist Seymour Bernstein, and the story of a young man who took on the challenge of a solo nonstop sail around the Americas, as well as a handful of narrative films, including a few comedies.

But if a theme had to be extrapolated from this year’s festival, it would be human endurance. Many of the selections proved that with passion and determination, a committed individual can overcome all obstacles.

From left to right: Diana Whitten (director of Vessel), Miriam Hawley and Vilunya Diskin (co-founders of Our Bodies Ourselves), Andrea Pino and Annie Clark (film subjects of The Hunting Ground), and documentarian and MVFF board member Dawn Porter. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau


One of the best things about the festival was that, as always, many of these brave individuals, both filmmakers and film subjects, were on hand to add further insight to their films and to field audience questions. More than half of the festival’s 22 featured films were followed by live or live-video Q & A sessions. Skype technology, new to the festival this year, was employed very effectively for postscreening discussions with, among others, Emmy and Academy Award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney and the subject of Jon Stewart’s film Rosewater.

Filmmaker Matthew Heineman, whose film Cartel Land was honored with Best Director and Best Cinematography awards at Sundance, was on hand for discussions after both screenings of his film.

Cartel Land, which will be released theatrically around the country in July, was offered as a special “sneak peek” screening at the Film Festival. Mr. Heinemann was happy to share his remarkable film with Island audiences, partly because he has a long history with the Vineyard, as well as a connection to the Film Festival. The filmmaker has been visiting his family’s home here since he was a child. As a teenager, he spent a couple of years working as a volunteer for the festival. Two years ago he was on hand for a Film Festival screening of his previous film, Escape Fire, which focuses on the state of the American health care industry.

“I have screened all my films here,” said Mr. Heinemann. “I’ve spent my entire life coming here. I love the community. It’s always interesting to hear what people here have to say. It’s a pretty opinionated group. You always get questions you don’t get elsewhere. I love being challenged and hearing other points of view.”

Mr. Heinemann said that Cartel Land is the film that is most “deeply personal” to him. “I was embedded with these groups for over a year,” he said, referring to the armed citizen defense groups that he profiles, along with American vigilantes, in his amazingly up-close and personal look at violence in Mexico.

Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, subjects from the film The Hunting Ground, participated in an extensive audience discussion on Saturday night. The two young women who have turned their experiences as rape victims into a full-time crusade to change legislation in this country, were rewarded here for their efforts when festival founder and executive director Thomas Bena passed around a donation basket on their behalf to raise money for their organization, End Rape on Campus ( Both women stuck around all weekend, taking advantage of the socializing nature of the festival to raise awareness for their cause.

Children participated in festival activities at the Chilmark library. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
Children participated in festival activities at the Chilmark library. – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

The festival sprawled across the area, encompassing a number of facilities in Chilmark. Screenings took place at the Chilmark Community Center and the Chilmark School. Children’s films and activities took place at the Chilmark library, and in a makeshift art shack. The Hay Cafe, a heated tent furnished with hay bales and picnic tables, served as an entryway and gathering space. Between screenings, attendees dined communally at long wooden tables, enjoyed entertainment provided by a laundry list of local musicians, perused the collection of paintings by local artists, and mingled with filmmakers, film subjects, and fellow spectators.

The food this year was provided by Robert Lionette of Morning Glory Farms, who prepared a different farm-to-table entrée and salad each day. In the Hay Cafe filmgoers could purchase Chilmark Coffee Company coffee, Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolate, Morning Glory Farm popcorn, cookies, and wine and beer.

The scene, as always, was a lively and convivial one. The festival attracts a wide range of movie fans representing all ages and all walks of life, and both visitors and locals. It’s a special treat for attendees to get the chance to interact with the filmmakers, and the filmmakers themselves find that the festival allows for a welcome exchange of both ideas and resources.

“Finish funds have been raised for movies here in the past,” said programming/managing director Brian Ditchfield. “At least one filmmaker hired an editor that he met here.”

Brian Ditchfield, Programming/Managing Director of the Film Festival, congratulates his sister, Miriam Ditchfield, skyping in after the showing of her short, "Day 90." – Photo by Maria Thibodeau
Brian Ditchfield, Programming/Managing Director of the Film Festival, congratulates his sister, Miriam Ditchfield, skyping in after the showing of her short, “Day 90.” – Photo by Maria Thibodeau

Actor/writer/filmmaker Peter Stray, whose short film You Were Great in This Scene was part of the Vineyard Shorts screening, has found that the festival provides many opportunities. “It’s a great way to get audience response,” he said. “I can also network as an actor as well as being here for my film. Making connections like this beats mailing out 100 résumés and head shots.”

While the festival here is far less of a celebrity schmoozefest than many of the larger film festivals, it has quickly earned a reputation among the film industry. “This year we had more submissions than ever from filmmakers and distributors,” said Mr. Ditchfield. “For the first time, I came out of all of this thinking that we could have a weeklong festival.”

While gaining national attention and attracting filmmakers from all over the country is flattering to Mr. Bena, what he was most pleased about was the hyperlocal nature of the festival.

Speaking of the Saturday morning film and breakfast event that featured The Future of Farming: Five Short Films, which brought together people involved in local agriculture, Mr. Bena said, “When we played the farming shorts here, there was this feeling that something happened. The visions were more realized than before.

“This is not a movie theater we’re building. It’s a gathering place and an arena for discussion. To have this level of industry success is amazing. But to realize community success on the same level is just as great,” said Mr. Bena.

Seems like the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival team is doing something right. Not only did sales increase from last year by 800 additional tickets sold, but three patrons made very generous contributions to the cause of some of the film subjects.

“That’s the sort of thing Brian and I are most proud of. Our mission is to produce community events, educational programs, and films that spark discussion, debate, and action,” said Mr. Bena.

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From left, Taylor Jackson, Megan Zeilinger, Sally Caron, Amanda Bernard, and Ava BenDavid showed off their precision to Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," in the 2014 show.

The Martha’s Vineyard Figure Skating Club’s 27th Ice Show will present a lineup of family entertainment and skating skill this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Ice Arena in Oak Bluffs.

The program features tots, learn to skate, bridge program, freestyle skaters, Polly the Penguin, and returning guest skater and national competitor Alex Aiken.

Shows Friday, March 27, at 6 pm and Saturday, March 28, at 1 pm.

Tickets are available at the door ($5 students/seniors, $10 adults, and a cap of $25 per family).

Local documentarians share the making of their latest film, coming to the Film Festival.

Filmmaker Georgia Morris dances with baby Ivy at a birth ceremony while producing "The Same Heart." Photos courtesy of Petra Lent

This Friday, March 20, at 4:30 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will screen The Same Heart, a documentary exploring child poverty that was made by Galen Films of Vineyard Haven. After the film, Galen Films documentarians Georgia Morris, Len Morris, and Petra Lent, will hold a discussion with the audience. Through email, The Times asked a few questions of its own ahead of the screening.

How long did it take to make the film?

Len Morris: The first shoot for the film was in 2006 at a Millennium Village in Sauri, Kenya. We were working on other projects and shooting intermittently in Rome and New York and Atlanta [for Nobel laureate interviews], and then back to Kenya. We began concentrating exclusively on The Same Heart in 2010 — so it’s taken five years in all. We expect the distribution will involve another two years.

What was your motivation for choosing the film’s subject?

Len Morris: The subject of poverty and the impacts of inequality on children here in the U.S. and around the world came directly from our experience making Stolen Childhoods (2005), on global child labor, and Rescuing Emmanuel (2009), about street children. With each of those films, we saw over and over the unmet needs of children and the results of a broken aid system that essentially provides too little funding too late.


We wanted to highlight these unmet needs, examine the aid system and propose a different way to raise the resources needed for children’s basic needs: food, health care, education, clean water, sanitation, shelter, and security. This led us to the financial transaction tax (FTT, also Robin Hood Tax) which is at the heart of the film. The film has many positive ideas for helping children, but the FTT has the potential to be a real game changer. Imagine a world where antiretroviraldrugs are free to all children who are HIV-positive, instead of our system today, where one child in five gets the life-saving drugs they require. The funds raised through an FTT will help prevent the deaths of millions of children every year from wholly preventable causes.

Has the late Robin Romano’s [photojournalism] work influenced this film?

Len Morris: Robin’s work suffuses the film. Ninety-five percent of the still photography in the film is Robin’s, and footage from Liberia, Panama, Mali, Nepal, and Afghanistan was shot by Robin. What’s different about The Same Heart is that we used moments where children act like children, at play and in the casual moments, and also in their reactions to being filmed … we felt the children make their own best argument, and so we used those moments and found them abundantly, in every country. No matter how poor a child is, their resilience shines through. Robin saw this and celebrated their spirit and beauty through his photography.

Petra, could you describe your role in the filmmaking process and what you’ve found rewarding about it?

Petra Lent: We’re a tiny group, and I’ve worked as a producing partner with Len and Georgia for close to 30 years. At this point, we’ve worked together for so long that we finish each other’s sentences. My work on the film ranges from research on the initial idea to distribution, soup to nuts. Sitting in the editing room is where the film really happens, and that’s the part of it that I enjoy the most.

Geoffrey Bakhuya dancing with his grandmother during filming. – Photo courtesy of Petra Lent
Geoffrey Bakhuya dancing with his grandmother during filming. – Photo courtesy of Petra Lent

Len, what challenges did this film present for you as a director?

Len Morris: This film is about a lot of very serious stuff; my greatest challenge was to find a way to present it without crushing any sense of optimism or desire to help the audience brings to the topic. People care about children in every country, and I wanted to take that most basic human impulse and find a way to harness it for good. So much of what is needed can’t happen without a consistent flow of aid to pay for food, medicine for diseases we have cures for, and education. So I want to offer a path for change … the goal would be to make my own films obsolete.

Georgia, what challenges did this film present for you as a writer?

Georgia Morris: We made this film over a period of years in various cultures. I was dealing with transcripts of poor children, Nobel laureates, world economists, grandmas raising AIDS orphans, philanthropists, people protesting in the streets. It was quite a rich pile of ingredients to cook with, but I had to keep focusing in on the message, while being true to each voice. It was a fun challenge.

Len, how did the elements affect production?

Len Morris: Shooting in Africa brings its surprises. One day the heavens opened with torrents of rain, and we learned the power of mud. The van literally slid off the road. We got out to push and sunk to our ankles; the van sunk to its axle. And somehow the locals stayed relatively clean, while we yanked on the same ropes and looked like the mud men of Borneo. Hours later at the street market in Kisumu, a bucket brigade of kids capitalized on our disaster, making a king’s ransom washing our precious boots and socks. Sometimes capitalism works like a champ.

Georgia, can you recall any moments of surprise during production?

Georgia Morris: The time we came up over a hill to film a birth celebration in a remote village, and because I was the only woman on the crew and the ladies were lying in wait, before I could see what was happening a grandma threw a kanga cloth over me and pulled me into the women’s dance, handing me the baby to bounce up and down over my head. I was stunned with the privilege, touched, giddy, and scared out of my wits. What crumbled that day was the cultural wall that I was sure would always separate us. We were just women dancing with hope for baby Ivy.

What do you hope this film will achieve?

Len Morris: As Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire of Ireland says in the movie, ” Everybody can do something to make the world a better place for children,” and we’re hoping that first and foremost the film will help the campaign underway to adopt the FTT, which would generate billions of dollars every year that can be used to meet the unmet needs of children in the U.S. — where 17 million kids live in poverty — and around the world, where 1 in 2 children go to bed hungry.