Troop 1500 Documentary on Texas Girl Scout Council Premieres at South By Southwest Film Festival


March 3, 2005

Marion Swan
Girl Scouts of the USA

Stephanie Kannel
Patrice Tanaka & Company, Inc.

New York, N.Y.–Like many other young girls, Naomi goes to school, does chores, and is usually annoyed with her brothers. Unlike most others her age, however, she has a mother sentenced to 50 years in prison for murder.

Naomi and other members of her Girl Scout troop, along with their mothers, are the subject of Troop 1500, a documentary created by award-winning filmmakers Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein and distributed by Women Make Movies. The film will premiere at the prestigious South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 12–which, coincidentally, is the 93rd birthday of the Girl Scouts.

The 65-minute film focuses on Girl Scouts–the Lone Star Girl Scout Council in Texas, which participates in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, a parent-child visitation program that seeks to preserve mutually affirming relationships between jailed mothers and their daughters. From incarceration to release, this film goes behind–and beyond–the bars of the prison within the painful context of families torn apart by convicted moms.

"It's both heart wrenching and heart warming to watch how these girls deal with the many challenges they face on a daily basis," says the film's director Ellen Spiro of Mobilus Media. "Their mothers have committed crimes and are incarcerated, but they are still the daughters and very much crave strong bonds with them."

An estimated 1.5 million to two million children in the United States have a parent in prison, and these children have a greater likelihood than kids whose parents are not incarcerated of ending up in prison themselves. Girl Scouts Beyond Bars began in 1992 with one council in Maryland and now involves 40 councils, or approximately 800 girls and 400 moms. In Texas, the Lone Star council partners with the YWCA and the Crime Prevention Institute to design activities that build self-esteem and increase independent thinking for girls in the program.

"I am so honored to be part of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program," says Julia Cuba, who, as the leader of troop 1500, is a central figure in the film. "It is extremely rewarding to be able to help these girls create positive memories with their moms. Our program enables mothers and daughters to reinforce the love and trust they have for each other amidst the most trying of circumstances."

For Troop 1500, Mobilus Media secured unprecedented access from Girl Scouts of the USA, the Gatesville Prison facility where the mothers are incarcerated, the prison wardens, and the families themselves. The Emmy®, Grammy®, Guggenheim, and Rockefeller Award-winning filmmakers volunteered for two years with the troop before shooting any footage. The film includes interviews written and filmed by the girls with their own mothers in jail. They ask questions like, "Why did you do drugs after already spending time in prison?" The documentary will debut at the 1,400-seat historic Paramount Theater in downtown Austin before it travels to select cities nationwide. Troop 1500 was produced by Karen Bernstein and directed by Ellen Spiro. Women Make Movies is a national non-profit media arts organization and the leading distributor of films and videos by and about women in the world. Visit www.troop1500.org for more information.

Now in its 12th year, the South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference will be held this year from March 11-18, 2005, and will show more than 40 world and U.S. premieres in venues throughout Austin.

About Girl Scouts of the USA
Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent organization for girls, and has more than 3.8 million girl and adult members. Now in its 93rd year, Girl Scouting cultivates values, social conscience, and self-esteem in girls, while teaching them the critical life skills to succeed as adults. In Girl Scouting, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. The organization strives to serve girls from every corner of the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. To volunteer your time or make a donation, call 1-800-GSUSA4U or log on to the Girl Scout donation Web site. Visit us at www.girlscouts.org/news/.

About Mobilus Media
In 1999, Karen Bernstein, former Series Producer at WNET's American Masters, and Ellen Spiro, an intrepid independent filmmaker, started Mobilus Media to create groundbreaking documentaries. Between them they have received an Emmy® Award, a Grammy® Award, two Rockefeller Fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and three ITVS funding contracts. Their works have shown in many places from New York City to Timbuktu, in festivals from Sundance to Berlin, and on television worldwide–on PBS, HBO, CH4 and BBC (UK), CBC (Canada), NHK (Japan), and elsewhere. Mobilus has offices in New York City and Austin, Texas, but will go anywhere on the planet for a compelling project. Recent projects include Atomic Ed and the Black Hole (HBO), The Wrestling Party (HBO), Roam Sweet Home (PBS), Are the Kids Alright? (PBS) and Troop 1500 (PBS). For more information, visit mobilusmedia.com.

About Women Make Movies
Established in 1972 to address the under-representation and misrepresentation of women in the media, Women Make Movies is now is the largest distributor of films by and about women in the world. WMM's extraordinary collection of more than 500 titles screen at film festivals worldwide, are broadcast in the U.S. and internationally, and are used by thousands of educational and cultural institutions and community groups annually. Troop 1500 will be featured as part of WMM's initiative THE GIRLS PROJECT, a groundbreaking collection of films and videos centered on girls' lives around the world, which was developed to address the need for alternative, more complex portrayals of young women in the media. Learn more at www.wmm.com.