The Village’s Own Gem of a Festival—The 13th Annual Manhattan Film Festival at Historic Cinema Village Theater

Villagers attend one of “The coolest film festivals in the World” as ranked by Movie-Maker Magazine

The Manhattan Film Festival (MFF) recently completed its 13th year. The festival is rated by Movie-Maker Magazine as one of “25 film festivals worth the entry fee.” The MFF has been located at that historic gem of Independent filmmaking, Cinema Village, since 2014, and it will be back next year for its 14th year according to Philip Nelson, co-founder of the festival.

A few of the films previewed at the festival are reviewed here by WestView staff.


Shattered Dreams

Sunday night, May 5th, I saw a shocking and well-made documentary about human sex trafficking in America. It was at Cinema Village, 22 East 12th Street, as part of the Manhattan Film Festival. This, like other films in the festival, was a one-time showing, but audience favorites will be brought back for later screenings; perhaps this film will be one of them. Otherwise, check to see when the DVD or online streaming will be available.

Shattered Dreams: Sex Trafficking in America, by acclaimed filmmaker Bill Wisneski, is a 90-minute film showing the many ways human sex traffickers approach teenage women, win their trust, seduce them and gradually get them into a dependent and submissive state of mind and body. They give the women attention they may not have gotten from their families before. Traffickers may initially present themselves as photographers or filmmakers eager to give the women glamorous careers; in any case they flatter the women, praise their looks. They then get the women to sell their bodies for money, and use threats and abuse to keep them in what really is slavery.

The women are often beaten. They’re told they can never get out of the situation. They are trapped. All the money they make goes to the traffickers, and they are required to make more and more money as time goes on. They are ashamed and afraid to call their families for help, if they are even able to. Once they get a police record, it’s hard for them to get a regular job, and they’re made to fear public humiliation. They’re made to feel worthless, and that all they can do is sell their bodies. This is just a brief summary of what goes on.

Several former sex slaves speak bravely and at length in the film about their experiences and how they felt. All had had hopes; one, for example, had dreamed of becoming an architect.

Many experts in various fields speak passionately about what is needed. They say men need to be educated about what it does to women to be paid for sex. The experts explain that men don’t feel so good afterwards, either, but that our culture encourages them to feel this is the norm and that women enjoy it. The men get the false thrill of having strange women subservient to them. It’s the demand for paid sex that drives the problem.

The authorities interviewed in the film stress that young women need to be informed of the insidious ways sex traffickers can go after them. Parents need to be informed. Everyone does.

The authorities interviewed for the film agree that women sex workers should not be arrested, because they are likely to be victims, and that sex traffickers and johns should be penalized far more heavily than they now are. It is imperative that women be provided with extensive support services, including emotional support and job training that would enable them to get out of the sex trade. It was pointed out that many sex workers don’t realize they’re victims because they depend on the traffickers. Once they do realize it, they can try and fail many times to get out of the sex trade. Some women die of suicide or drug overdoses.

During the Q & A session after the film, I said I’d heard that the police themselves could be part of the problem and have been known to rape and brutalize these women. The filmmaker felt that law enforcement personnel still need to be involved, but clearly the police need to be watcheds too.

I asked Bill Wisneski about two other things I’d heard—that some women sex workers want legalization of the sex trade so that they can post warnings to other women about abusive johns, and also that sex work is already legalized in various places. On the first point he responded that enabling women to warn others would not solve the basic problem of sexual slavery; on the second he said that places that have legalized sex work, such as Nevada and Amsterdam, are still having many problems regulating it.

­—Carol Yost


Short Films

Some people don’t like to get bad news. But I never send sad or bad news without the hope that good will come of that report, in some way.

Before Shattered Dreams: Sex Trafficking in America was presented at the Manhattan Film Festival, three very fine short films were shown. All were about drug addiction. Inmate 109416 was about drug addiction and an arrest for sex work, which was relevant to the main feature. It’s an award-winning film by Dan Asma that begins by telling of his years-long addiction to crystal meth, from which he finally recovered.

However, his main focus is on another crystal meth addict, Marcia Powell. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She tried to support her addiction by selling her body, and in 2009 she was arrested for prostitution. She was 48 years old.

One day prison staff locked her outdoors in a metal cage in extreme heat, well over 100 degrees. They refused her pleas for water and a chance to go to the bathroom. After four hours she was found unconscious in her own body waste. She was later taken off life support in a hospital. The description of the condition of her body is shocking and unbearable.

Sixteen prison workers were disciplined; some were fired. The DA refused to prosecute. We are told the statute of limitations has expired.

I call for action even now, in any way that anyone can conceive of.

­—Carol Yost


A Documentary About Hockey’s First Trailblazing Goaltender

Making Coco: the Grant Fuhr Story screened at the Manhattan Film Festival April 26. It is a documentary film about a member of the great Edmonton Oilers dynasty in the 1980s and one of the first players of African descent to gain notoriety in the National Hockey League (NHL).

I had heard stories about Fuhr. My former high-school hockey coach, who played goalie, Dean Portas, always spoke highly of the Oilers’ goalie. Portas would say things like, “when I go back to watching the NHL in the 80s, guys like Grant Fuhr were my idols growing up wanting to play goalie.”

Knowing that, I was very excited to watch a documentary about Grant Fuhr and the great Oilers teams with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and many other great players.

Fuhr was born in Spruce Grove, Alberta on Sep. 28,1962. He is of mixed race, born to one black and one white parent, and adopted and raised by two white parents (Betty Wheeler and Robert Fuhr). This did not stop him from wanting to play a predominantly white sport, ice hockey.

According to the documentary, Fuhr’s love of hockey was not diminished by the scarcity of black ice hockey players at the time. All of those interviewed, including his teammate Kevin Lowe, back up the idea that they saw Grant as a good hockey player and not as a black man. Canadians have not seemed to import racism from the States.

It was great to hear from Fred Brathwaite and Jarome Iginla, two black players who played with Grant Fuhr in the NHL for the Calgary Flames. Iginla said friends often told him “there aren’t many black players in the NHL.” Jerome would always point to Grant Fuhr as a role model. Iginla’s comments are powerful because they show that he did not give in to popular belief that black players were not interested in playing ice hockey because he was encouraged when he saw Grant Fuhr play on television.

Another sign of the tolerance Grant’s coaches and teammates showed to him is an interview the filmmaker conducts with Glen Sather, the head coach of the Oilers during the 1980s. Sather was asked about a time when Fuhr told him, ashamedly, that his parents were white. Sather said he stomped any fear that Fuhr had right away, and told Fuhr “who cares, all I cared about was if he was a good hockey player.”

Fuhr points out that while he played with friends on ponds and ice rinks, none of them could tell his race, because he wore a mask. Fuhr says flatly, that may have been a reason why he never encountered much racism growing up, and that the hockey rink was “like a sanctuary” to him, sheltering him from any troubles off the ice.

The film starts off with his early hockey career. At the age of sixteen, Fuhr signed with the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In two seasons in Victoria, Fuhr was a first-team all-star. Two years later, Fuhr got his big break—the Edmonton Oilers drafted him with the eighth pick in 1981.

When the NHL expanded in 1979, four Western Hockey Association (WHA) teams joined the league, including the Oilers. The Oilers were building a solid foundation by drafting Grant Fuhr and adding him to a group of young players including future hall-of-famers Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

The filmmaker, Don Metz, asks Gretzky how good Grant Fuhr was compared to other goalies and ‘the Great One’ did not hesitate and said, “he’s the greatest goalie who ever lived.”

All the interviews regarding Fuhr’s all time ranking are directed at his former teammates in cities where Fuhr had the most success—which seems biased at times.

The filmmaker shows a different perspective from the Oilers’ ex-head coach, Glen Sather, who says that he was not interested in drafting Fuhr originally, but was convinced by one of the Oilers scouts. To hear Sather admit that he did not want to draft Fuhr was definitely a good contrast to the other interviews that just repeat the same praise of Fuhr’s on-ice skill and off-ice venerability.

Much later on, the story turns to obstacles Fuhr faced off the ice. Two weeks after the Edmonton Sun published a story on Fuhr’s cocaine use, the National Hockey League suspended Fuhr for the whole 1990-91 seasons, although the league never drug-tested him.

Fuhr’s career seemed like it was on the downside. Then the NHL shortened his suspension and allowed him to come back to the team for the last 23 games of the 1990-91 season. Fuhr played well, but the Oilers did not win the cup that year. The next year, Fuhr was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Before retiring in 2000, Fuhr would play for the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, and the St. Louis Blues. The last ten minutes of the film shows Fuhr accept Hockey’s highest honor, induction into the Hall of Fame in 2003. The Oilers retired Fuhr’s jersey number in 2003 as well. Fuhr holds the record for the most games played by a goalie in a season (79) and in consecutive games played by a goalie (76). These two records will probably be hard to break.

From adopted kid to under-sized NHL draft pick to winning five Stanley Cups to Hockey’s Hall-of-Fame. Making Coco is a great movie about the ups and downs that made Grant Fuhr’s national hockey league career so unique. And let’s not forget his trailblazing as one of the few black players in the NHL back in the 1980s.

—Anthony Paradiso

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