June 4, 2009– “About Face” film-maker: Child’s cries for help led to friendship, film–Mary Katzke

A summary of our June 4, 2009 speaker, Mary Katzke
By Kay Vreeland

Mary Katzke, whose media production company Affinityfilms Inc. completed the documentary “About Face” in January 2009, spoke at the Alaska Professional Communicators luncheon June 4, explaining how the film was made, its story, and its future.

The film’s subject, Gwendellin Bradshaw, was horribly disfigured as a baby after her mentally ill mother threw her into a campfire. At the age of three, the girl lived next door to Katzke. Hearing children’s cries of “roast beef,” Katzke ran outside to find Gwen being pelted with rocks, and rescued her.

So began a long relationship. In crisis at age 24, Gwen decided to tell her story. Over the next five years, Katzke filmed the journey of Gwen’s search for her mother and for healing.

Documentary films are enormously expensive to produce, and it took four and a half years to raise half the budget for this one, said Katzke. A forty-minute segment of the film, completed and shown nationally, helped leverage its Alaskan origins and secured support for the remaining half of the budget within six months.

The film was made using four different video formats, interspersed with old black-and-white 8-mm footage to represent the memory of the injured child.

Now in the distribution phase, “About Face” was on the finalists’ list for Best Mid-Length Documentary at Toronto’s 2009 HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival. There are currently 15 requests for screening, across the U.S. as well as in Korea and Australia.

Katzke’s next project is to publish a discussion guide to accompany the film for training those who work with the homeless, the mentally ill, and women with postpartum depression.

Background information about Mary Katzke is on the Web site of Alaska Professional Communicators; the story and trailer of the film are at the “About Face” website.