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Directed by Cynthia Wade
2007, 40 minutes

We are honored to include Freeheld, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, as part of The Divine Lens. Check out this link for a complete list of screenings.

Update on Freeheld: Freeheld makes Oscar Shortlist!

Freeheld will be included on the 80th Annual Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentary Short Subject. This places Freeheld, along with seven other films, in the semi-final round for an Oscar nomination in the short documentary category. Out of the eight short listed films, between three and five will be nominated for an Oscar in January 2008. Freeheld has also been nominated for the prestigious International Documentary Association’s award for best short film.

Election 2008

It is important to note that for Freeheld, a possible Oscar nomination is not the goal—it is a tactic in a longer, more aggressive outreach strategy to garner press and national attention around the issue of rights for same-sex couples as we head toward the 2008 Elections. Nearly all of our screenings have included panel discussions and press coverage around the larger issues of equality, and we will maximize this strategy as we head into 2008.     

About the Film

Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester spent twenty-five years investigating tough cases in Ocean County, New Jersey, protecting the rights of victims and putting her life on the line. She had no reason to expect that in the last year of her life—after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer—her final battle for justice would be for the woman she loved.

The documentary film, Freeheld, chronicles Laurel’s struggle to transfer her earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. With less than six months to live, Laurel refuses to back down when her elected officials—the Ocean County Freeholders—deny her request to leave her pension to Stacie, an automatic option for heterosexual, married couples. The film is structured chronologically, following both the escalation of Laurel’s battle with the Freeholders and the decline of her health as cancer spreads to her brain.

As Laurel’s plight intensifies, it spurs a media frenzy and a passionate advocacy campaign. At the same time, Freeheld captures a quieter, personal story: that of the deep love between Laurel and Stacie as they face the reality of losing each other. Alternating from packed public demonstrations at the county courthouse to quiet, tender moments of Laurel and Stacie at home, Freeheld combines tension-filled political drama with personal detail, creating a nuanced study of a grassroots fight for justice.

Director’s Bio

Cynthia Wade directed and shot the five-time award-winning HBO documentary, Shelter Dogs, which was broadcast in seven countries. She directed and edited the award-winning 1999 Cinemax documentary, Grist for the Mill, which was called “a jewel … extremely comical” (Variety) and “excellent … a delight” (The Hollywood Reporter). Wade was co-producer/cinematographer for the 1998 PBS documentary Taken In: The Lives of America’s Foster Children, which won a prestigious duPont Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism. Wade has been Director of Photography for PBS, HBO/Cinemax, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, MTV, AMC, Oxygen, and TNT. She has made dozens of films for corporate and nonprofit clients, including Intel, the National Guard, and Job Corps. She teaches advanced cinematography at the New School. She holds a BA cum laude from Smith College and an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University

Praise for Freeheld

“An extraordinary film … it has the potential to change the hearts of Americans everywhere.”
Camryn Manheim, Actress

“Freeheld is a quietly understated work of art that packs a punch you will feel for days.”
Armistead Maupin, author of Tales of the City

“Cynthia Wade presents perhaps the single best, most coherent argument for GLBT equality. If Freeheld isn’t Oscar-worthy … I don’t know what is!”
Daniel Kent, Out & About Nashville

“Freeheld is simply an amazing documentary, a true piece of unscripted reality, with all its blemishes and beauty intact. It is a documentary that pays fitting tribute to a true hero, a woman who refused to compromise and who ultimately helped to secure for all of us a little bit more of the equality we all richly deserve. A+”
Edge Boston

OUTSTANDING … An absolutely amazing film, it demonstrates again what we learned here in Washington this past legislative session—showing the injustice of discrimination faced by same sex couples by personalizing it with real human faces and stories is the most effective tool for changing public opinion.”
Seattle Gay News

“A heart-stopping documentary.”
Philadelphia Gay News

Freeheld … offers an up-close look at the tangible results of what can often seem an abstract debate.”
Paul Grgurovic, The Valley Advocate

Freeheld is the kind of documentary that incites audiences to sob and then take to the streets in protest. A galvanizing experience.”
Richard Knight, Windy City Times

“Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Cynthia Wade’s short film, Freeheld, is guaranteed to have even the most stoic viewer reaching for the nearest box of tissues.”
Gregg Shapiro, Chicago Free Press

“Intimate and unflinching … sure to have a long lasting hold on viewers.”
Chicago Free Press

“This film puts us through the wringer—when we’re not sobbing, we’re spitting mad.”
The Kansas City Star

“If ever there was a rallying cry for the full rights of marriage, it’s this excellent and truly heart-breaking film.”
Washington Blade

“Wade overwhelmingly succeeds in connecting the viewer with what is ultimately a very personal story.”
Park Slope Courier

“In 38 minutes, filmmaker Cynthia Wade has captured a love story that is effective in conveying simple truths about duty, justice, and equality … You do not want to miss this film.”
The Rainbow Times

“[Freeheld] creates a powerful portrait of a couple trying to cope with love and loss … the struggle of Hester and Andree is a love story of the most human kind, one that will have you wiping tears away at the end.”
The Hampshire Gazette

“Hester’s story needs to be told because she’s an American hero. But it also needs to be told because most Americans, gay and straight, need to understand that what happened to Hester isn’t an aberration: it’s the norm and it’s legal.”
Q Salt Lake

“[Freeheld] packs a wallop as a wrenching portrayal of a monumental injustice. Luminous scenes of Hester and her lover, Stacie Andree, are balanced with sequences of Hester’s tragic decline and riveting moments of combat in the Freeholder meetings … Bring a hanky.”
Just Out Magazine

Click here to read an Interview with Cynthia Wade, Director of Freeheld



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