Dean College was pleased to welcome filmmaker Bennett Singer for a residence from April 4-6, 2023. Singer has been making documentaries about activism and social change for more than 25 years. He is known for his work on “Eyes on the Prize II,” the landmark PBS series on civil rights history; “Electoral Dysfunction,” a documentary about voting in America; and “Brother Outsider,” a biography of the gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. He previously joined the Dean community earlier this year for an evening salon to discuss the life and legacy of Rustin and present clips from the documentary.
On April 4, Singer’s residency began with a screening and discussion of his most recent work, “CURED,” an award-winning documentary that takes viewers inside the campaign that led to a pivotal yet largely unknown moment in the struggle for LGBTQ equality and dignity: the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove the diagnosis of homosexuality from its manual of mental disorders. Combining eyewitness testimony with newly unearthed archival footage, the film reveals how a small group of impassioned activists achieved this unexpected victory. After the screening, Singer participated in a Q&A discussion with the community.
During his residency, Singer also met with faculty and various classes in the Communications, Psychology, Sociology and Criminal Justice programs. One such class was the Advanced Video course, where he discussed the making of “CURED,” which took five years from start to finish. He took students through the entire process, including finding funding, conducting interviews, finding archival footage, acquiring rights and licensing, editing down 300 hours of footage into a feature-length film, composing the score and more. Students in the class, all of whom had already created their own short documentary, were also able to ask Singer questions about filmmaking and its various challenges, including funding, archival footage, navigating streaming services and more.
At the core of Singer’s message, however, was the mission behind making the documentary – how they chose to make the film and why it matters today. For Singer and his team, they wanted to tell the story of “CURED” because no one had made a film about it before, and they intentionally told the story from the point of view of the activists, allies and individuals who lived it to be as authentic and immediate as possible.
“At the heart of it, filmmaking can be about reaching people on an emotional level,” he said. “Film can be used as a visceral, emotional medium.”
Thank you, Bennett Singer, for sharing your expertise and experience with the Dean community!