Recent winner of the Academy AwardŽ for Best Documentary Short Subject, Freeheld is a moving, 38-minute documentary that chronicles New Jersey Police Lieutenant Laurel Hester'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 frenzy in the media 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.
Speaking on the potential impact of the film six weeks before she died, Laurel continues, "I hope this film will inspire someone.... I hope it gives them courage to deal with homosexuality, if that's what they're dealing with. I hope it gives them courage if they're dealing with discrimination, as I have. I hope if they have a terminal disease that they somehow get hope from listening to my story."
In addition to its Academy AwardŽ win, Freeheld also received the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Freeheld has now been screened at 58 festivals, in 8 countries, and has received 13 awards. Freeheld also had an eight city theatrical release during the summer of 2007 in conjunction with LGBT PRIDE events across the country.
About the Filmmaker: 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. 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.
Starting this month, Cinemax Reel Life will begin premiering all four of this year's OscarŽ-nominated documentary shorts. In addition to June's OscarŽ-winner, Freeheld, the films include Sari's Mother and Salim Baba, both scheduled to premiere in July, and La Corona (The Crown), currently slated for September.
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