“Preparing for Life” takes viewers inside the Waldorf School of the Peninsula where the focus is on creativity, resilience, innovative thinking, and social and emotional intelligence over rote learning. (Produced in Association with PotentialSF)
A housekeeper from El Salvador wants to tell her story. She works on the Tiburon peninsula, in one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. Her work ethic is compelling, as is her sense of humor. Please meet, the Queen of Belvedere.
Date: June 2015 Director: Jyll Johnstone Director of Photography: Christian Figueroa
Libby is an artist with vivid dreams. She lives smack in the
Village, the downtown soul of creative Manhattan, in a world of her
making that flourishes behind the bolted door of her 7th floor walkup.
Enter into a ever changing landscape askew with tiny hands, skinny legs,
sharp-witted words, dark hair heads, deceptively simple collages and
thousands of photographs—mostly of her.
Parents and students understand the energy and emotions conjured by the SAT, which is not only part of the college admissions process, but also a true rite of passage for teenagers in the United States. Most of us never forget our score, or how we feel about it. This film endeavors to support individuals—especially young people—by examining what the test measures and means, and asking a range of visionaries, admissions professionals, and interested parties to discuss the use and ramifications of the test
Hats Off, a feature-length documentary, profiles the beauty and
eccentricities of an extraordinary woman, 93-year-old actress Mimi
With the style and grace of Katharine Hepburn, the smoky wit and
wisdom of Dorothy Parker, and her own personal philosophy, “rise above
it,” Mimi is truly an iconic American original, rising above the mundane
and difficult confines of her own daily life to reach for the stars and
fulfill her dreams.
Hats Off captures the essence of this most unusual woman, named at
age 90 by New York Magazine as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in
New York,” whose full-time acting career began at age 65 upon the
passing of her husband, and whose daily routine mocks the traditional
image of old age. From grueling 14-hour days at cattle call auditions to
her weekly gymnastics and dance workouts, Mimi Weddell exudes a
‘can-do, will-do’ attitude in the face of life’s trials and
tribulations, and moves through her challenges with grace, encouraging
us all to be more than we are.
Shot over the course of 10 years, by award-winning director Jyll
Johnstone, (Martha & Ethel, Throwing Curves) Hats Off covers a time
span when most seniors are planning their funerals and estate bequests.
Instead, Hats Off follows the breathtaking pace of Weddell, a bohemian
free spirit now forced to share her east side Manhattan apartment with
her two more traditionally-minded grown children and a grandchild. Like
most families, their relationship is complex, and the
mother-daughter/mother-son dynamic adds a fascinating layer of depth to
an already compelling and entertaining film.
When her beloved husband Dick dies, “leaving nothing behind but
bills, poor man,” Mimi does what she has to do to stay afloat, even
attending an audition on the way to his memorial and landing the lead
role in the cult film Dracula’s Last Rites, which marks the beginning of
Since that time, 25 years ago, Mimi has been seen in print ads for
companies Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Juicy Couture, and Nike, to name a
few; in photo spreads for Vanity Fair and Vogue; on TV series including
Sex and the City and Law and Order; and in feature films such as: Across
the Universe, Hitch, and The Purple Rose of Cairo.
But Weddell isn’t a star. She never wanted to be. She just wants to work.
“There’s a lot more to be learned, and I’m going to learn
all the way up to the stairway to the stars.”
– Mimi Weddell
An examination of family relationships, love, and ultimately the
dreams which drive us, Hats Off is a compelling and entertaining
documentary that inspires, and urges us to celebrate the underdog, and
the Mimi in us all.
Hats Off is a Canobie Films Production starring Mimi Weddell.
Directed by Jyll Johnstone and produced by Jyll Johnstone & Michael
Co-starring Sarah Dillon, Kit Dillon, Tom Weddell, and Anna Weddell, Hats Off running time is 84 minutes.
You may not know Eva Zeisel yet, but you certainly know her work.
“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” explores the life and art of a brave & adventurous woman who conquered the 20th century with her curvilinear style to become one of the most famous industrial designers of the modern era. She thought of her designs as gifts to others. Her motto was “the playful search for beauty.”
Working primarily in porcelain and ceramic tableware, Eva Zeisel’s pioneering work introduced her trademark sensuous curves to mass-production. Her one woman show at the Museum of Modern Art. (MoMA) in 1946 put her on the map. Her many years of teaching at Pratt Institute influenced generations of designers. With over 80 years in the field, Eva was one of the best-selling tableware designers of all time and her highly-collectable designs have changed the face of modern design in the 20th century.
“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” explores Eva’s life from her birth in Hungary in 1906 through her career working in Berlin in the 20s, the Soviet Union in the 30s, and New York from the 40’s on. She was a witness to all the major art and political movements of the 20th century, which she thought of as “her” century. The film interweaves her design work with her dramatic life-history, which includes sixteen months in a Soviet Union prison (falsely accused of conspiring to kill Stalin), escaping the Nazis, and setting up a new life as an immigrant in post-war New York City. Finally, in a testimony to one of America’s earliest “super moms”, the film explores the tension between modern motherhood and a career in the arts.
“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” is a lesson in longevity and perseverance. Eva continued to design until her death in 2011 at the age of 105. Her work is represented in most major museums, and her designs for furniture, lamps, flatware and dinnerware continue to be sold at such retailers as Crate and Barrel, Design Within Reach, and EvaZeiselOriginals.com.
“Throwing Curves – Eva Zeisel” has been screened at thirty major museums in the U.S. and Europe including the MET.
More information about Eva can be found at EvaZeiselForum.com
Martha & Ethel is a documentary story that you don’t see very often, perhaps because it shows the flip side of the privileged lifestyle. It is the story of 2 lifelong nannies and the two families they worked for in Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut from the 1940’s up to the 1990’s. The film follows the nannies and their relationship to the families’ children for a lifetime.
It is a look at mothering from not only a sociological, but also a very personal and emotional point of view.
“Martha & Ethel” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994. It was shot in 16mm, blown up to 35mm and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. It had a theatrical run across Europe and the United States.
"When Ettinger and Johnstone began their film odyssey in 1989, neither dreamed their home-movie homage to their nannies, Martha Kneifel ... Read More
About the Film
“Martha & Ethel” is a 16mm, color film that examines the inner dynamics of the American family. By focusing on the long-term roles of two nannies, this 80-minute documentary explores the complex relationships that develop when an outsider is hired as a child’s caretaker and nurturer. The film touches on a variety of related topics as well — the benefits and drawbacks of hiring outside childcare, the changing roles of women, and the inherent responsibilities of parents.
“Martha & Ethel” is particularly unique because of the way in which the film was developed. The title characters, now both 88 years of age, were the real-life nannies for the directors, Jyll Johnstone and Barbara Ettinger. Their methods of discipline and supervision were very different — Ethel was an affectionate, caring nurturer of the Ettingers, whereas Martha was a strong, unsympathetic disciplinarian who never hesitated to hit the Johnstone children when they disobeyed. These intrinsic differences and their long-term effect are, in part, what makes this film so compelling.
Within these large families — there were five Johnstone and six Ettinger children — all the children are interviewed. These discussions are revealing because now these children are grown and are making decisions about how to best raise their own families. One of Barbara’s sisters, for instance, made a conscious decision to employ a younger nanny to care for her three children: “I wanted [her] to be a lot younger, so I clearly was the older, maternal figure and she clearly was the playmate, sororal figure.” Interviews are woven together using film footage from home movies, still photographs, newspaper clippings, and other pertinent personal memorabilia.
“Martha & Ethel” is a fresh look at the complex relationships that develop not only between a nanny and the children she cares for, but also a nanny and the children’s mother. Whereas Martha has little contact with Mrs. Johnstone, Ethel still lives with Mrs. Ettinger in Greenwich, Connecticut. As the eldest Ettinger child admits, “It’s as if [after forty years together] Ethel and Mom are addicted to each other, almost like a married couple.”
Before accepting their long-term nanny positions, both women had unique personal journeys which are explored in “Martha & Ethel.” Martha was born into a large, Catholic family in Baden-Baden, Germany. Trained as a baby nurse, she began work in 1930 as a nanny for an affluent Jewish couple with one child. With the threat of Hitler, Martha tried to work for other, gentile families, yet was not allowed to work because of her past Jewish employment. So, in order to remain self-supporting, she emigrated to the United States — away from her country, her family, and her language. In 1941 she began to work in New York City for Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone, shortly before the birth of their first child, and remained an integral part of the family for 30 years. She retired in 1971 and moved to Queens.
In 1990 she was persuaded by the Johnstone’s eldest daughter to relocate to a retirement home in California. “Martha & Ethel” traces this emotional move to what is perhaps Martha’s final home. A highlight of the “Martha” segment is a trip taken with Jyll in June 1991 to Martha’s hometown in Germany. It had been forty years since Martha last visited and the trip gives both historical and personal insight into Martha’s difficult past.
Ethel was born and raised in a working family in rural South Carolina. Similarly, she left her home in the 1930s and had a variety of jobs, mostly domestic work, in the South before becoming a nanny. She willingly embraced the responsibility of raising the Ettinger children and was virtually the cornerstone of the family, through divorce, several relocations, and deaths. The film includes a poignant scene when Barbara and Ethel visited Ethel’s hometown — Starr, South Carolina — and attended Ethel’s family reunion.
“Martha & Ethel” is a personal view of a universal topic. The theme of childrearing is especially relevant today with so many women in the work force who, particularly out of financial need, must give up their childrearing responsibilities to hired employees or other family members. With escalating concerns about day care and the often absent “mother-nurturer” in today’s family, the film is of contemporary interest. Also, “Martha & Ethel” looks at a profession that is gradually becoming obsolete. Although there are still nannies or au pairs, rarely do women today devote their entire lives to their employer’s family.