Follow Us

Copyright 2019 Shirley Thompson
All Rights Reserved

PIDGIN a winner at Honolulu Film Festival

Pidgin: The Voice of Hawai‘i screened as an official selection of the Honolulu Film Festival (soon to be known as the Waikiki Film Festival), held April 24 & 25 in Waikiki, and came away with two awards: a Grand Jury Prize and Best Human Rights Film.  Mahalo to this great venue for Hawai‘i film! And set your TiVo’s, San Francisco Bay Area folks…  Pidgin airs next Sunday, May 2 at Noon on KQED.  Spread the word!

This just in…Special Circumstances nominated for a Rockie!

This made my day…Special Circumstances, the documentary I wrote and edited which chronicles Hector Salgado’s search for justice in Chile, was nominated for a Rockie.  Here is the tweet from the LPB series VOCES:

VOCES SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES and THE GOLDEN AGE have been nominated for a Banff World Television Festival (BANFF) Rockie Award. Congratulations to the producers! Chosen from 900 entries from more than 43 countries, the ‘Rockies’ is one of the world’s most prestigious events celebrating outstanding work by international TV creators responsible for the continuing evolution and originality in the industry.

Making the film was a 6 year labor of love for first time filmmaker Marianne Teleki and the culmination of a lifelong quest for her husband Hector, who was imprisoned, tortured and exiled during Chile’s 1973 coup.  These are the type of films that can only be made by independent filmmakers…no news operation would ever hang with a story that long in order to see it through.  Since we finished Special Circumstances in 2006, it has played in over 30 film festivals and has garnered many best documentary awards, and it aired across the country on PBS as part of the VOCES series.  More importantly, it has played in many communities, both here and abroad, hard hit by the events of 1973 and has given a voice to many who have never spoken about the terrible things that occurred during those dark times.

Felicidades to Marianne and Hector for this recognition of their terrific work, and for their ongoing efforts to get the film out to all the people who can be helped by it.  I am so proud of them and so proud of the film we made together. 

You can see the SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES trailer on my website and the music video, NEVER FORGET, too!

SXSW Film 2010 – A quick list of faves

Getting ready to pack the car and head back to Dallas after my annual indulgence of documentaries on the Big Screen at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin.  I’m the only person I know who comes to Austin every year, doesn’t see a single band or a single movie star (well, maybe one) and power-watches documentaries only for days on end.  This year’s festival felt a bit uneven…maybe it was what I chose to see versus the programming, but I missed seeing more docs from foreign directors that I found so inspiring in past years.  Nonetheless there were some strong docs that hopefully will be finding their way to wider distribution soon.  Here were a few favorites.

American: The Bill Hicks Story…a portrait of a great mind so far ahead of his time and so “make you cry” funny.  Also, a great recreation of an era using animated stills, a la “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”  Never say you don’t have good b-roll…MAKE good b-roll.  This filmmaker did.

His and Hers…charming, beautifully shot stories of Irish women talking about their relationships with the significant men in their lives from the cradle to the grave.  A simple idea, brilliantly executed.

The Oath…a chilling look at Al Qaeda from the inside.  Tough, virtuoso filmmaking by a persistant Laura Poitras.  Brava.  Gorgeously shot by Kirsten Johnson.

Beijing Taxi…the stories of working class Chinese in the months leading up to the 2008 Olympics, as seen through three portraits of taxi drivers.  For someone like me who often demonizes the Chinese government, it is fascinating to see the real lives of workaday people in China, who are just slogging along trying to make a little better life for themselves and their families, just like the rest of us.

Canal Street Madam…I had every possible human emotion during this film…from questioning the filmmaker’s integrity to feeling depressed and repulsed by the life choices of the subjects, to being unable to stop watching, and ultimately to cheering for the main character to triumph.  It’s a mixed bag for certain, and I’m still conflicted about it, but ultimately this film about three generations of women who operated and worked a New Orleans brothel that served a high powered clientele of politicians and community leaders, shines a light on the way all women are seen and treated in twisted culture that both worships and demonizes sex.  Everyone should watch this film and then call me…I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about it.

When I Risebeautiful, lyrical, haunting portrayal of opera star Barbara Smith Conrad, a remarkable diva who was one of the first African American undergraduates at the University of Texas.  Banned from starring in the school opera because of her race, she nonetheless stayed and graduated from UT after a firestorm of controversy and national press.  A little civil rights story with big implications, this film shows the power of history the power of the spirit and how one woman’s grace and talent triumphed over small minds.  Inspiring, inspiring, inspiring.  A simple tale well told.  Probably my favorite film of the festival.

There was ONE narrative film that managed to sneak into the mix that I loved:

All My Friends are Funeral Singers…a quirky story of a psychic medium living in a house full of spirits with a musical score and songs performed live by indy band Califone.   I had never heard Califone before…but I was interested in seeing a film with a live score that wasn’t an old silent film from the 1920’s.  Turns out that Califone had done a lot of new scores for old films, but this time, decided to write and create a new film along with all the music.  Really exciting…this seamless integration of music and film was fun to watch.  I will download the whole album for certain.

Shirley’s Top Ten Docs of 2009

Okay, I’m jumping on the bandwagon…it’s irresistible to make a quick list of my personal favorite 10 documentaries of 2009 (instead of writing the grant I’m supposed to be working on!).  Here they are in no particular order.  What do you think?  What did I miss?

Adjust Your Color:  The Truth of Petey Greene

Garbage Dreams

Unmistaken Child

Journals of a Wiley School

The Way We Get By

Joan Baez:  How Sweet the Sound

P-Star Rising



The English Surgeon

That’s ten, and I’ll make Hold Me Tight Let Me Go a special honorable mention, along with Food, Inc., and Leo Chiang’s A Village Called Versailles.  And I would love to add The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, but I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it yet.  Can’t wait!  Finally my last honorable mention is to Michael Moore for Capitalism a Love Story…love him or hate him, I give him credit for speaking truth to power and attempting a citizens’ arrest of America’s top corporate brass.

I just read Roger Ebert’s Ten Best Documentaries List and I have not yet seen a single one of them…so many films, so little time!  But they’re all in my Netflix cue now…

Filmmaker Magazine likes PIDGIN!

How cool!  The December Filmmaker Magazine Festival Coverage Blog covers the Hawaii International Film Festival and includes a nice mention of our documentary PIDGIN: The Voice of Hawai‘i.  Here’s what they have to say:  Nice, huh?

Marleen Booth’s Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii also aims its lens straight at the spirit of Hawaii, more specifically at its specific dialect/language/accent, “pidgin.” A blend of Native Hawaiian, English, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Tagalog that started among plantation workers a century ago, pidgin has been historically frowned upon by those wishing to “assimilate properly.” For many, though, it’s a source of pride and island identity, and Booth’s joyful film is a testament to both it and its just-as-colorful speakers. As a film on the history of language and semantics, Pidgin is a thoughtful, well-researched work; as a film on identity politics, everyday life, and speaking one’s mind (in one’s own tongue), it’s a real pleasure. Neither Pidgin or State of Aloha redefine the documentary form, of course, but both are wonderful examples of how cinema can represent its community. 

Nice, huh?

Here’s the entire blog:

Shirley & Ellen & Eating Alaska in Austin December 6

Come join us in Austin, Texas this weekend! Ellen Frankenstein and I, co-producers of Eating Alaska, will screen our documentary EATING ALASKA and will present the workshop, “Chicks, Start Your Docs: Turn Your Idea Into a Film” on Sunday, December 6 in Austin, TX. The programs, sponsored by Reel Women, will be held at THE INDEPENDENT, 501 East Brushy at East 5th St.

Ellen and I will detail the film development process in ten steps, from concept through preproduction, using our film Eating Alaska as a case study. We will discuss fundraising, building alliances, developing story, budgeting and defining an audience.
The workshop is from 1 pm to 3 pm, and the screening begins at 3:30 pm, and will include a Q&A afterwards. Tickets are available at the door for either the workshop or the screening or both, and includes a discount for Reel Women members.
Eating Alaska is one woman’s wry and funny exploration of finding the “right” thing to eat. It follows Ellen’s journey as a former vegetarian who moves to Alaska and marries a commercial fisherman and deer hunter, calling into question all her assumptions about eating “ethically.” From stalking caribou with women hunters in the tundra and learning to shoot a gun to communing with Tlingit elders in her hometown of Sitka, this is a unique, thoughtful, rural perspective on the “eat local/eat sustainable” movement.
More details at


I’m super excited that my 1992 Emmy award winning documentary YOUNG ASPIRATIONS/YOUNG ARTISTS is now re-released on DVD through New Day Films and also as Video on Demand from New Day Digital! It was such a tremendous job getting an old format film into the digital realm! My hope is that this very useful film will have a new life now that it is in a digital format that will live on for the forseeable future.

This documentary tells the story of how the super-successful after school arts program YA/YA, Inc., was founded and built, and follows the first two classes of YAYA artists and the original staff through a year of projects and travel. It really teaches, in detail, how to found a non-profit working with young people, and talks about the early challenges and successes of YAYA, Inc.

The new DVD includes the original 56 minute PBS documentary, plus the 32 minute Classroom edition. It also includes a new 13 minute retrospective documentary, YA/YA @ Twenty that features many of the original YA/YA artists talking about their lives and work today.

Many thanks to the collaborators who helped make this DVD possible: Robert Arnold for his DVD authoring, Trayc Claybrook for the DVD cover design, Rebecca Snedeker who nudged me and offered to do production sound for the retrospective documentary and Dexter Stewart for shooting it. Also, a huge thank you to YAYA founder Jana Napoli who helped produce the retrospective documentary and who underwrote the production of the DVD.

Tell your friends to get their schools and community groups to buy the YAYA DVD from New Day Films for only $99, $89 for community groups:

Contact if you’d like to purchase a home video copy (for personal use only) for $25, including shipping.

YA/YA DVD Home Video

Eating Alaska comes to Austin! Shirley & Ellen will attend!

Reel Women in Austin is sponsoring a screening of EATING ALASKA and a documentary workshop featuring EA director Ellen Frankenstein and me on December 6. Both events will be held at THE INDEPENDENT, a screening facility located at 501 Brushy. The workshop will be from 1 to 3 pm and the film will screen at 3:30 pm (set your TiVo’s Cowboys fans!)

As many of you know, Eating Alaska is a funny and serious look at what’s on your plate. It’s the story of what happened when Ellen, a vegetarian, moved to Alaska, married a hunter and fisherman, and had to figure out what was the “right” thing to eat. The film is one woman’s fascinating exploration of her local food choices, from her small town grocery store to the women who hunt deer for meat in the nearby forest. While set in Alaska, this story will resonate with Texans who will recognize the dilemmas we all face in the ongoing quest to make healthier food choices that taste good, feel right and fit in with our busy lifestyles.

Ellen and I will lead a workshop called, CHICKS, START YOUR DOC. Actually, Ellen mis-heard me when I said “Kickstart” Your Doc, but then “Chicks Start” sort of stuck. It works for a Reel Women event, I think. We will talk about the preproduction process and taking an idea and developing it into a film project. We will use Eating Alaska as a case-study and show fundraising clips and discuss fundraising strategies.

Details and registration can be found on the Reel Women website:
Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google