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American Winter One-Time Screening- Wed. April 9th


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March 3, 2014

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Jen Maseda, SVP United Way of Tri-County 508-370-4831






            For countless middle-class families who have experienced job loss or an unexpected financial setback, the American Dream has become an American nightmare.  Working families, seemingly on a path toward economic security, have discovered how quickly they can slip from the middle class into poverty.  Emmy®-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz (HBO’s “Taxicab Confessions,” “The Defenders”) feature struggling families who called into the 211 social services hotline in search of help during the winter of 2012 in the powerful film AMERICAN WINTER, which debuted on HBO in March 2013.  The film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation’s economy as it is playing out in the lives of many American families, and reveals the human consequences of rising economic insecurity, budget cuts to the social safety net, and the fracturing of the American Dream.

            The latest U.S. census data shows that 48.5 million Americans are living in poverty, the largest number in the 53-year history of published poverty estimates. This includes 16.1 million children.

            Even as the economy slowly recovers from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, an increasing number of American families are finding themselves caught in a daily struggle to meet their basic needs.  At the same time, the social safety net that was intended to help those in crisis has been impacted by budget cuts, creating a perfect storm of greater need and fewer resources available to assist vulnerable families.  Framed through the very personal stories of eight families, AMERICAN WINTER reveals the devastating fallout of the mortgage meltdown, unemployment, the health care crisis and a shrinking social safety net.  Woven into the film are interviews with local economic experts, policy analysts, religious leaders and social workers, all of whom give context to the families’ stories.    

            AMERICAN WINTER highlights the work of “211info” in Portland, which mirrors MASS2-1-1, the Massachusetts-wide information and referral hotline that connects callers with community resources and social services.  The eight families profiled in the film were among thousands calling 211 during the winter months.  As one operator explains, “I can't count the number of people I've spoken with who start their conversation with ‘I never believed I would be in this situation.’  They say, ‘I have always worked.’”  But now they are unable to find work, or they cannot find jobs that pay enough to provide for their families’ basic needs.

Featured in the film are:

·         TJ & Tara – After TJ gets laid off from his job, he and his wife Tara struggle to provide for their three children on her minimum wage income.  Forced to choose between paying their mortgage or electricity bill, the family recalls what it is like to have no lights and no heat in the middle of winter.


·         John & Geral – 50-year-old John is now facing a third year of unemployment and despairs that he’ll soon lose his ranch. Growing discouraged with his fruitless job hunt, John must also cope with feelings of shame when he is forced to apply for food stamps in order to feed himself and his 10-year-old son Geral, who has Downs Syndrome.


·         Brandon & Pam – With Brandon frustrated by a series of close calls on the job front, Pam is forced to go with her two young sons to a women’s shelter to get assistance with basic provisions. Unable to pay rent, the family moves into Pam’s mother’s two-bedroom apartment.


·         Diedre – Though college-educated, Diedre was laid off from her job along with 1500 other employees during the Recession, and has turned to donating plasma and selling scrap metal to make ends meet for her family of five.


·         Ben & Paula – After working at the credit branch of a car company, Ben was laid off and quickly fell behind on the mortgage to the distress of his wife and kids. As the family copes with the trauma of losing their home to foreclosure, they also find themselves struggling to pay for basics.


·         Shanon – A single mother, Shanon got into debt because her 12-year-old daughter suffers from a stomach condition requiring hospitalization, causing her to miss 3 months of work.  Hit with expensive medical bills that her insurance company will not cover, Shanon is now struggling to pay the rent.


·         Mike & Heather – Mike, Heather and their five children are left without water, electricity or heat, and have turned to a generous neighbor to run an extension cord from his garage. Completely demoralized, Mike finds he can’t even afford gas to go and look for a job.


·         Jeannette and Gunner – When Jeannette’s husband died recently, she and her 11-year-old son Gunner were left to fend for themselves. Unable to keep their home, they slept in a garage and in their car before ending up in a shelter.


The experiences of the families in AMERICAN WINTER are a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families all across America, including working families losing their homes, people who remain jobless or underemployed, children going hungry, families getting their heat shut off in the dead of winter and people with health issues overwhelmed by medical costs.

This film was produced with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation whose mission is to transform lives and strengthen communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. 

Hosted by the United Way of Tri-County, during National Public Health Week, the special screening of AMERICAN WINTER will be held at Bose Corporation, 100 The Mountain Road, Framingham on April 9th from 6:00-8:30pm.  The screening is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $10. 

            AMERICAN WINTER is produced and directed by Emmy® Award-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz; co-producers, Aaron I. Butler and Devon Terrill; co-director, Harry Gantz; editor, Aaron I. Butler; music, Joel Goodman; directors of photography, Patrick Thelander and Dan Morris.

Director Harry Gantz will attend the screening and is the featured speaker at the United Way of Tri-County’s Annual Community Recognition Event the next morning  Mr. Gantz is available for media interviews upon request.