Social workers use film to spotlight social issues

May 3, 2012

By Greg Wright, News contributor

Social worker Matt Anderson became a documentary film producer on a whim.

He was working with foster children in Missoula, Mont., when he met Codie, an 18-year-old who had been placed in 17 foster homes in just seven years. Like many former foster children, Codie was struggling to reconnect with family and avoid becoming involved in crime or drug abuse.

“He shared his story and I said his life was important,” said Anderson, who holds an MSW and is director of planning and sustainability at the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina. “He said, ‘Let’s make a movie,’ and from that conversation I decided to do it.”

A scene from “Angels of the Basin,” social worker Leslye Abbey’s 2007 documentary about life on the Louisiana Bayou. Photo courtesy of Leslye Abbey

Anderson teamed up with filmmaker Paige Williams to make “From Place to Place,” a documentary that follows six young adults in Montana who have aged out of the foster care system. An excerpt of the film was shown at a 2010 Senate caucus hearing on foster youth, and Anderson said it helped spur Congress to pass the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, which President Obama signed into law in September.

Anderson is not alone. Other social workers are using documentary films to put a spotlight on social issues and advocate for positive change. And there are other filmmakers who are making films that highlight the contributions of social workers or issues that are important to social workers, such as health care and mental illness.

Anderson’s film and two other documentaries — “What is Love: Pathfinders” and “King’s Park” — will be shown at a July 23 film festival during NASW’s national conference “Restoring Hope: The Power of Social Work.”

“What is Love:  Pathfinders,” from documentary filmmaker and producer Ted Bogosian, follows an organization partly founded by social worker and NASW member Tina Staley that provides holistic, compassionate care to people struggling with cancer and other serious illnesses.

From the May 2012 NASW News. NASW members click here for the full story.