A New Documentary from Lightfoot Films, IN OUR SON'S NAME, Follows a Search for Meaning and Healing in the Aftermath of a Terrorist Attack

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When their son is killed in a terrorist attack, Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez choose nonviolence and reconciliation over violence, a decision that both challenges and confirms their convictions, and transforms their lives.

When 110-year-old Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer died in February, 2014, she bequeathed her belief that: "Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not that of the hated." She chose reconciliation instead of hate to cope with the profound grief and anger at losing everyone in her family but her son. Many believe that there is justifiable reason to hate and to seek revenge when violence takes the life of another person, that this kind of hate is part of human nature. Phyllis and Orlando Rodríguez confronted this human dilemma when their 31-year-old son, Greg, was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The experience of losing their son to a terrorist attack transformed their lives in ways they could not have imagined. A new documentary, IN OUR SON'S NAME, chronicles their search for meaning and healing.

IN OUR SON'S NAME follows Phyllis and Orlando Rodríguez as they struggle with grief and search for meaning after their son, Greg, died with thousands of others in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Choosing nonviolence and reconciliation over vengeance, the couple begins a transformative, controversial journey that thrusts them into the public eye. They test the strength of their convictions by opposing the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted of conspiracy in the 911 terrorist attack, and befriending Moussaoui's mother. To understand the nature of violence they reach out to convicted felons, men who have committed terrible acts against other people. Yet Phyllis and Orlando find the humanity in these men, and Orlando becomes committed to teaching in the state prison system. They raise their voices against anti-Muslim actions. Unexpectedly, these experiences give them a new understanding of their rebellious son, and their marriage grows stronger.

Phyllis reflects that the path they've chosen is a kind of self-preservation that helps them cope with grief that will be with them for the rest of their lives. “Reconciliation is recognizing that we are incapable of creating a better past. I can’t bring Greg back. I can’t bring back the suicide pilots. I can’t reverse history, but what can I do to look forward and try to salvage some good from all this.” Orlando acknowledges that, “after I realized that Greg was gone is that because I’m human I was angry. But I had this instinct that the anger really had to be channeled into something that was going to be good for others.” His experience is reflected in the sociology courses he teaches at Fordham University, where in 2011 he was named Director of Peace and Justice Studies.

IN OUR SON'S NAME uses striking archival footage and family photographs along with cinema verité footage and extensive interviews to create an inspiring portrait of courage and healing. The film is produced and directed by Gayla Jamison, who has produced long and short form documentaries filmed in seventeen countries on five continents, most of them dealing with social issues and human rights. Her films have shown widely on PBS, Turner Broadcasting, ABC, NBC, The Learning Channel, WGBH-TV, Univisión and Galavisión, at the United Nations, and at festivals including Chicago International Film Festival, USA Film Festival, Amnesty International Film Festival-Amsterdam, International Film Festival-Leipzig, and Festival of Latin American Cinema-Havana.

More Information at http://www.inoursonsname.com and http://www.lightfootfilms.org

To raise funds for final post-production costs, Jamison joins the ranks of many independent filmmakers turning to Kickstarter as a source of revenue. “After nearly three decades of writing grant proposals,” she observes, “it's an astonishing opportunity to go directly to the audience for the film and ask them to participate in getting it finished and into distribution. We form a virtual community that wants to see positive change in the world, and that's what social issue films are all about.”

Editing the film, is Ellen Goldwasser, whose documentary work was twice nominated for Academy Awards. She formerly worked with Turner Broadcasting and now divides her time between Los Angeles and New York. Goldwasser edited programs for HBO, Bravo, The Discovery Channel, Cinemax, CBS, NBC, TBS, TCM, Cartoon Network, WE, The Weather Channel, HGTV, and SHOWTIME, as well as feature films that include “Playback,” named by INDIE WIRE as one of the 10 best horror films of 2012.

More Information at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0326395/

Los Angeles-based, Arthur Yee, the film’s Director of Photography, has lensed documentaries for PBS, AMC , A&E, National Geographic, Discovery, NBC, FOX, HGTV, MSNBC, and The History Channel.

More Information at http://www.decemberpictures.com

The film's consultant is Elizabeth Beck, a Professor in the School of Social Work at Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. It was Dr. Beck's work in reconciliation and restorative justice that brought her together with Gayla Jamison and ultimately led to the creation of In Our Son's Name. Her book, In the Shadow of Death: Restorative Justice and Death Row Families, received the American Library Association CHOICE award for Outstanding Academic Title of 2007.

More Information at https://tinyurl.com/1w8b4dj

The film is in the final stage of post-production and contributions to the Kickstarter campaign will enable the team to complete the film by the end of 2014. After that Jamison plans to submit the film to the festival circuit, seek a television venue and distribute the film so that academic institutions and other groups can put the film to good use. “We know there is an audience for this film”, she says, “because I've already received queries from professionals (lawyers, high school teachers, university professors, faith-based groups) who want to use In Our Son's Name in their work. This powerful film shows that it's possible to find healing and meaning in the aftermath of violence through reconciliation. Phyllis and Orlando are ordinary people, but how they have chosen to cope with their son's murder is extraordinary and very moving.”

To view the trailer and pledge to the project search for "In Our Son's Name" on http://www.kickstarter.com. Our page becomes active on April 21.


Organizations dealing with issues raised by IN OUR SON'S NAME include:

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