HOMESCHOOLERS EXPOSED -- BY INDIE FILMMAKER FERNANDA
by Thomas M. Sipos, L.A. bureau chief.
[February 20, 2003]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] While the public
image of homeschoolers has vacillated from hippies living on communes to
Christian fundamentalists escaping Godless classrooms -- many homeschoolers
are average middle class folks -- just like YOUR neighbor!
That's the shocking revelation exposed by indie filmmaker Fernanda Rossi in her award-winning
documentary, Inventing a Girl,
as revealed to the Hollywood Investigator in an exclusive interview!
are as many reasons for homeschooling as homeschoolers," said Rossi to
the Hollywood Investigator. "Some homeschoolers want their kids to
have access to a variety of things. Others want to control what the
kids see. Some want their kids to take their time. Other parents
homeschool so their kids can attend college when they are sixteen.
has changed over the past decades is public perception. In the 1800s,
only rich people homeschooled. Today, homeschoolers cover a wider
in addition to [hippies and fundamentalists] you can add
the progressive middle class, who are not happy with public schools and
think that private schools are prohibitively expensive. They also
have ideological concerns about both the public and private schools."
has also changed legally, with fewer hurdles than in years past. "The law differs in each state but people don't go to jail for homeschooling,
as they used to. It's just a question of knowing -- and following
-- state regulations. There are lawyers who specialize in this narrow
field, and an association providing advice to homeschoolers." (The Home
School Legal Defense Association).
remains what it has always been: a method. And people can use it
to achieve different goals."
* Inventing a Girl
documentary follows the Borenstein-Burd family of Elizabeth, New Jersey;
progressive Jews whose decision to homeschool their son and daughter (Russell
and Lily) was disapproved of by their extended family.
a Girl interviews the Borenstein-Burd parents, and follows them preparing
lessons and activities for their children. But the focus is on their
daughter, Lily, age 9. In keeping with a Borenstein-Burd goal --
creating independent and self-confident children -- Rossi invites Lily
to interview her parents, deciding on what questions to ask.
followed the filmmaking process closely along the way," says Rossi of the
Borenstein-Burds. "They saw me from when I carried my camera into
their home and ran out of batteries, to setting up my website and going
to festivals. They came to the cutting room several times. They were very moved when they saw the first cut, and they helped promote Inventing a Girl. Paula
Borenstein also gave me incredible emotional support during the hard times."
shot 25 hours of tape, which she edited down to 52 minutes. Her film,
like those of many other indie filmmakers, was made possible partly by
technical advances in digital equipment. "I began using Hi 8 video,
until DVD came out," says Rossi. "I switched right away, as did many
filmmakers. It was a post-production nightmare, but I'm happy I did
critics worry that homeschooled children don't learn the social skills
to be had from interacting with other children. But while the Borenstein-Burds
teach from books and art projects, they've also networked with other homeschoolers
to arrange group activities for all their children. Rossi interview
some of these other parents, and Paula Borenstein is pleased to announce
that the other parents represent a diversity of religious and political
* Response to the Film
says the response of the homeschooling community has been "very positive"
to Inventing a Girl. "Because
there is not one way of homeschooling, many homeschoolers were curious
to see into another homeschooling family's daily life. They were
also grateful that many of the prejudices against homeschooling were openly
discussed, without preconceived ideas.
Taylor Gatto [author, Dumbing
Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling] is a supporter
of my film. So is Helen Heneger, of Home
Education Magazine -- and many others that I wish I had time to list.
my film to homeschoolers is preaching to the choir. The people who
can really benefit from it are parents considering a variety of educational
possibilities for their children. My film gives them the chance to
see what homeschooling can be about. Then they can research further
and make an informed decision about their children's education."
filmmaking community has also been positive. Says Rossi, "My peers
felt it was a nice original portrait. They particularly liked that
the filmmaker's vision, my vision, is present, without clouding the freshness
of Lily, the main character.
a Girl premiered at the Contemporary Issues Film Festival in Portugal
in June 2000, and won the "Woman's Eye" at the Riverrun
Film Festival in North Carolina. It screened at the Anthology
Film Archives, a New York art house, but has yet to air on a broadcast
or cable network.
time I was approaching networks, there was no 'official' opinion about
homeschooling, and still there isn't," says Rossi. "Homeschooling
is not condemned, but it's not fully supported by non-homeschoolers either. Also, it's not a sensationalistic film that can guarantee ratings. Not is it politically correct. It's controversial. It dares
to show homeschooling up close, without judging it.
today would be a better time to present it to TV programming directors
than it was a couple of years ago."
* Fernanda Rossi
Rossi was born in Argentina, earning "the equivalent" of a Masters in Film
Production from Buenos Aires University. "Our degree system is different
over there. It's a very demanding program that combines the technical
and theoretical aspects of filmmaking. In one course I had to read
philosophers such as Barthes and Eco and then write a paper on the language
of cinema. Then I would be in a course -- all compulsory -- dealing
with cameras and lenses.
very complete. Many of the things I use in my practice as a script
doctor, I learned back then." Although Rossi's script consultancy
covers both fiction and non-fiction, she specializes in finding a dramatic
story-telling structure for documentaries. On her other website,
Rossi refers to herself as the Documentary
worked with Frederick Marx on Boys
to Men (Marx was a writer, producer and editor on Hoop
Dreams), and is currently in pre-production on a feature film to be
shot in Buenos Aires. "I have another script in the works, and a
book. And I pen a column for The
are thanked in end credits for Inventing
a Girl, including actor Gary Oldman. "While I was shooting my
film, I was working as an editor in documentaries and TV to earn a living. I got the opportunity to be an assistant editor in Gary Oldman's feature
by Mouth. He wrote a letter of recommendation for my documentary.
everyone who did something for my film, no matter how little. Credits
are free, and sometimes it's the only thing you can offer. Besides,
everybody who crosses your path is affecting you in some way. For
this reason, I credited friends who gave me encouragement. That's
worth a big credit!"
two websites are Inventing a Girl (where one can purchase the video), and Documentary
Copyright 2003 by HollywoodInvestigator.com