Sonia Pressman Fuentes
Sonia in Documentary Films
Dangerous Ladies: Voices of the Suffragists
On May 2 and 6, 2021, the documentary film: Dangerous Ladies: Voices of the Suffragists, in which Sonia appears, was shown at the Sarasota Film Festival and online. Below is an article about the film from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune of April 29, 2021.
FST marks 100 years of women voting with ‘Dangerous Ladies’ film festival entry
Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Kate Alexander had ambitious plans to have the Sarasota area spend a year celebrating the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in August 1920.
More than 60 organizations signed on as partners with Florida Studio Theatre for its Suffragist Project, which planned lectures, concerts, performances, school tours and more.
Many of the events were canceled or drastically altered because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Alexander, who served as project director, said she was impressed with how the community “did come together and all the things we were able to do to honor the suffragists.”
The project, which launched with a walk in the Sarasota holiday parade in 2019 and continued through Aug. 20 anniversary, is recalled in the new 70-minute documentary “Dangerous Ladies: Voices of the Suffragists,” which is featured in this year’s Sarasota Film Festival. It will be shown in two public screenings at 2 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. May 6 at CMX CinéBistro Siesta Key. An outdoor discussion with the filmmakers will be at 8 p.m. May. The film also is available for viewing virtually throughout the festival, which runs Friday through May 8.
“It’s a miracle that we accomplished this much,” Alexander said of the project. She served as co-writer, producer and director with Charles Clapsaddle on “Dangerous Ladies,” which is executive produced by FST and judges Charles Williams and Durand Adams.
Though many events were canceled, Clapsaddle and his team from Manatee Educational Television captured those that were held. There are dramatic readings representing some of the women who led the movement portrayed by actors Ariel Blue, Kim Crow, Rachel Moulton, Carolyn Michel and Katherine Michelle Tanner and others. There are also scenes of young artists from Florida Studio Theatre performing their “Historically Speaking” program for school students with dramatic tellings of historic events.
The film also features interviews and commentary from historian Jane Plitt, activist Sonia Pressman Fuentes, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault and FST Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins, who provide some historical context.
Clapsaddle said the film is “an examination of the effort that suffragists went through, the historical perspectives, hardships and tribulations they experienced trying to get the vote when it was illegal.”
It also said the film focuses on the local impact of the Suffragist Project. “This was one of the biggest community involvement projects we have seen. And I think it is important this community rallied around the idea of celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s rights to vote. It was a very diverse group of organizations.”
Alexander said that a comment by Hunter-Gault during one program stuck with her. “She said, ‘Wear the armor of your ancestors.’ That has resonated with me forever. If there is anything that I carry, it is the armor of my sister ancestors. How sad that in school we didn’t get that education. When I look at what they did, how the movement modeled off the Seminoles where women had power, how brave they were, how they sacrificed their lives, without any power for themselves. You carry that inside you.”
She said the Suffragist Project and the “Dangerous Ladies” film will serve as a “legacy to girls in the future. There’s one young girl in the film, Nora Mitchell. She was our muse and at the end she became the face of the future. In her face is light and creativity and intelligence and yearning. We would stop and talk with her, and it just burned into me our responsibility to girls to keep that story going.”
On July 20, 2021, Aviva, the Jewish senior residence where Sonia lives, showed Dangerous Ladies: Voices of the Suffragists. Afterwards, there was a Q&A, and the following picture was taken.
In the picture, going from left to right are Charles Clapsaddle (station manager of Manatee Educational TV and one of the film's directors), Maria Leonardo (activities director at Aviva), Sonia, Kate Alexander (writer of the film and its co-director with Charles Clapsaddle, and an actress and director at the Florida Studio Theatre), and Judge Charles E. Williams and retired Judge Durand Adams (producers of the film).
Sonia appears in documentary film, My Name Is Pauli Murray
In Jan. and Feb. 2021, the 90-minute documentary film, My Name Is Pauli Murray, in which Sonia appears, was shown nationwide through the platform of the Sundance Film Festival. The late Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray was a phenomenal woman who was a friend and colleague of Sonia's at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Pauli was an author, poet, lawyer, friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, faculty member at Brandeis University, a vice president of Benedict College, a co-founder of NOW, and the first Black Episcopal woman priest in the U.S.
Sonia received the following exciting message on March 16, 2021, from Julie Cohen, who, with Betsy West, made the smash hit RBG and the more recent documentary film, My Name Is Pauli Murray.
"Amazon studios has acquired the film. They plan to release it in the fall. There will be a very limited number of festival screenings this summer but most groups trying to arrange screenings will happen just before the release in the fall. . . .
"It's all very good news and Amazon is going to put a lot of resources into marketing and publicizing this release which is why they're waiting till later in the year for the release."
The New York Times had an article about the film on Sept. 15, which was updated on Sept. 23. The article is available on the New York Times website.
Sonia makes two appearances in the film: first, early in the film when she's talking about Pauli and the founding of NOW and later on when she expresses shock upon learning from Pauli that she plans to study for the Episcopalian ministry. In addition, Sonia's voice is heard at the beginning of the film when Pauli is introduced. Sonia's is the voice that says "Pauli was a writer, a lawyer, a priest, a poet."
In addition, on February 22, 2022, the Fogartyville Cafe in Sarasota will be screening the film at New College in Sarasota with ASALH (The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History) and the NCF (New College of Florida) Black History Month Committee, and Sonia will participate in a panel discussion following the film.
There will be an outdoor reception prior to the film.
Discussion of the documentary, My Name Is Pauli Murray
Kellie McKeown, a California friend of Sonia's, suggested Sonia invite friends to discuss the film on Zoom on February 4, 2021. Sonia suggested they also invite one of the two filmmakers, and Betsy West agreed to attend.
The attendees were: Professor Cynthia Bowman, Ben Altman (Professor Bowman's husband), Debbie Gold Linick (Sonia's great-niece), Kellie McKeown (who served as moderator), Sonia, Talia Weisberg (Sonia's mentee), Roberta Berson, Katharine Gorsuch, Barbara Howard, Barb Sander, and Betsy West.
Click here to watch the discussion. When you do that, you'll see "Auto-play is disabled in your web browser. Press play to start." And it points to a small triangle. Click on that triangle and the discussion will start.
On November 4, 2021, Aviva Senior Living, Kobernick House, where Sonia lives, showed My Name Is Pauli Murray in its Kretzmer Auditorium. The audience in the auditorium was sparse as Kobernick residents can see Kretzmer presentations in their apartments. Sonia's introduction to the film follows.
A number of residents spoke to Sonia after seeing the film and all said the following. They thought the film was terrific and could not understand why they had not previously heard of Pauli Murray.
Feminist Stories from Women's Liberation
Sonia appears in the documentary film, Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation, by Jennifer Lee, released in March 2013. Jennifer Lee's website, which has film clips from this film, among other things, is at www.feministstories.com.
Whiskey and Apple Pie
Sonia appears in a documentary film (running time 65 minutes with 25 minutes of bonus material) about seniors called Whiskey and Apple Pie made by California filmmakers Jamie Spooner and Carolyn Mayes and released in 2012. The film is available from Jamie Spooner and Carolyn Mayes, whose contact information is on http://www.icarevillage.com/contact.aspx.
There's a one-hour director's cut version available free online. Sonia appears briefly at 9 minutes 20 seconds of this director's cut. A number of people in the film are friends of Sonia's or people she knew about whom she told the filmmakers.