George Stoney Q & A

Last night documentary filmmaker George Stoney made a special appearance at Thom Powers'( programmer for the Toronto Film Festival) film series, Stranger Than Fiction. Stoney is 92 years old and has been making films for two thirds of his lifetime. It was a great pleasure to watch him, climb up and down off the stage( poor thing) and discuss his cinematic legacy with total clarity and insight. He informed us that his early films were made almost exclusively for a commissioned purpose. The first video that screened last night, “All my Babies,” was made for the Georgia Health Department as an instructional video. It depicts a real African American “granny midwife,” as they were called, delivering a baby for a woman in her home. Many black women in the early 50’s, when this film was made, did not have their children in hospitals. Stoney explained that this film helped to educate white doctors about the respectable practices of the midwives, and the somewhat desperate position of the mothers. This knowledge encouraged many of those doctors to make visits to pregnant black women before and during births, in order to ensure safety and bring women, who were likely to have complicated births, to the hospital.

This film like all of the others screened was thoughtful and admirable. Throughout his career Stoney tackled issues such as workers rights, prison drama societies, Native American rights, and rural to urban immigration. Do Netflix him or audit one of his classes at NYU (that’s what I’m thinking of doing!) Yes, you heard me right, at 92 he is still teaching and still making films. He should def hang with my 98 year old Bubby. They would have good chats.

Here is a revisiting of the original film with commentary. Loads slow but is pretty interesting!

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