ITVS Joins Filmmakers and Partners to Take Indie Lens’s LIONESS to Congress

Posted on March 31, 2009

Director of Communications Dennis Palmieri joined ITVS president and CEO Sally Fifer, Senior VP for Content Management Jim Sommers and VP of International Distribution Tamara Gould for a special ITVS-sponsored presentation to Congress of the Independent Lens film LIONESS, which looks at war through the eyes of women and the U.S. military policy that bans them from combat, by Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers. Read Dennis’s report below from today’s Capitol Hill screening.

Over the years, ITVS has had the opportunity to bring a number of films to Capitol Hill to help Congress better understand the roles of public broadcasting and independent producers in educating and engaging the American public. Today’s presentation of LIONESS was a dramatic and highly impactful event that set the stage for a groundbreaking conversation about the role of women in the military—specifically women in combat situations, and the support and services (and recognition!) needed when they come home. 

The event was made possible through a unique partnership between ITVS and two leading veterans’ service organizations––Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)––and of course the LIONESS filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers who’ve spent years building partnerships in the veterans’ community. Held in the House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing Room, the event drew more than 150 people (standing room only, tightly packed in a room that seats only 88), including members of Congress, dozens of Congressional staff, veterans’ service organizations, numerous veterans and active duty soldiers, along with representatives from PBS, Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and ITVS. 

The event opened with brief remarks from four members of Congress, led by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA), followed by Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Judith Biggert (R-IL). Each praised the service of the four “Lionesses” who were present and thanked the filmmakers for bringing the story to light. Members opening remarks were followed by short presentations from CPB President Patricia Harrison, who spoke eloquently about the metaphor of the “Lioness” and the unique role of public broadcasting in telling this story. Pat was followed by Dr. Betty Mosely Brown, associate director of the Center for Women Veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs, and Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

Filmmakers McLagan and Sommers created a special 20-minute version of their film, which included key scenes and background information, providing a thorough synopsis of the issues—a remarkable feat of editing and storytelling. The selection also included candid, personal footage of the women, which allowed the audience to form a bond with the characters. The event concluded with a panel discussion that featured the four “Lioness” soldiers: Maj. Anastasia Breslow (currently stationed in Korea), Staff Sgt. Ranie Ruthig, Spc. Becky Nava and Spc. Shannon Morgan. Their straight talk and fearless honestly about their experiences––both in Iraq and back at home––was riveting. 

The “Lionesses” and both filmmakers were presented with American flags that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol—a gift of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose representative was on-hand to make the presentation. There are many days when I am very proud to work in public broadcasting, when I feel like we make a real difference, and when I see clearly the important role of independent media makers in bringing these untold stories to life. But today has definitely been the best day yet. 

-Dennis 

Check out a clip below of today's event on Fox 5 News (Washington, DC):     

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