Sarah Feinbloom’s New Documentary "What Do You Believe"

Examines Spirituality Among Youth

 

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent

 

BOSTON - Sarah Feinbloom believes that in order to promote global harmony, it may be necessary to begin at home, and through the eyes of youth.

On April 30, “What Do You Believe?,” her rare cinematic look at spiritualty as seen in a diverse group of youth, was presented at the Dorothy Quincy Suite at the John Hancock Hall in Boston.

Feinbloom, a filmmaker and producer, documented the spiritual lives and beliefs of over 200 teenagers in her 50 minute film, representing a spectrum of faiths including Islam, Paganism, Judaism, Atheism, Hindu, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Lakota Indian, Mormonism, Catholicism, Christianity, Sikhism and more. The production, timely and insightful, was accompanied by a curriculum guide which aimed to teach cross-cultural tolerance to young people. The film’s teenaged interviewees, who shared their innermost feelings regarding spirituality, morality, prayer, death, the purpose of life, and freedom of religion in the United States, challenged prejudicial biases as they revealed stereotypical thought, and in doing so, shed light upon the realities of America’s religious pluralism.

“I made this film because we are the most religiously diverse country in the world,” says Feinbloom, “but we haven't really embraced that in our education system and as a society. I believe that in order for us to really live together peacefully, we need to understand who lives next door, because it's no longer someone who comes from the same background. I want this film to help young people understand the changing religious landscape and engage in dialogue about differences and diversity. 

“There are still too many religious hate crimes and stereotypes,” she continues, “and we need to start learning about each other if we are really going to live up to the principles of our Constitution and what this country is supposed to be about.”

The film was recently featured at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

Feinbloom, who holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Barnard College, Columbia University and a master's degree in education from Tufts University, leads discussions about religious stereotypes and spirituality at youth centers. She has worked with teens for 15 years as a public school teacher (including at Boston Latin) and coordinator of youth programs committed to social justice and cross-cultural understanding. Her award-winning 1993 documentary “Youth to Youth,” which was produced by 12 freshmen at the Boston Latin School and whose production was assisted by the MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Studies, explored teen views on violence. Following its premiere at the 1993 Birmingham, Alabama Film and Video Festival, the film showed at several youth and education film festivals including the Chicago International Children's Film and Video Festival, the New England Children's Film and Video Festival, and the Charlotte Film and Video Festival. Her ``Which Way Por Favor?'' which she produced with director Mick Diener, was featured on National Public Radio and in the Boston Globe, Release Print Magazine and other publications.

The April 30 Boston showing featured a 6 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. showing and 8 p.m. discussion.

For further information, please e-mail Deborah Heller, Ph.D., at  dheller@hellercunningham.com or call 617-734-7604.