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Cynthia Wade

“Best Straight Ally: Cynthia Wade”

“If there ever was a rallying cry for the full rights of marriage, it’s this excellent and truly heart-breaking film.” Washington Blade

Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester spent 25 years investigating tough cases in Ocean County, NJ, protecting the rights of victims and putting her life on the line. She had no reason to expect that in the last year of her life, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer that her final battle for justice would be for the woman she loved.

Freeheld chronicles Laurel’s struggle when her elected officials – the Ocean County Freeholders – deny her request to leave her pension to Stacie Andree, her domestic partner – an assumed option for heterosexual married couples. Laurel’s story spurs a passionate advocacy campaign (led by her fellow police officers) and media frenzy. The film captures both this tension-filled public drama as well as the quieter, personal story of the deep love of Laurel and Stacie as they face the reality of Laurel’s death.

Freeheld will be shown at Reunion 2009 on Saturday, May 23rd, at 2:15 pm in Stoddard Hall, followed by a Q & A with Cynthia and a reception honoring her in Alumnae House.

Want to show this film at your school? Show it as a fundraiser for an organization/club you belong to? Own it and pass it on to others? To find out how, visit the film’s website

Winning the Oscar in 2007 for her documentary, Freeheld, was certainly the highpoint (so far!) of the filmmaking career of Cynthia Wade ’89. But it is a career filled with many other highly praised films. She directed and shot the five-time award-winning HBO documentary, Shelter Dogs, which was broadcast in seven countries. She directed and edited the award-winning 1999 Cinemax documentary, Grist for the Mill. She was the cinematographer for the 1998 PBS documentary, Taken In: The Lives of America’s Foster Children, which won a prestigious DuPont Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Cynthia has been Director of Photography for PBS, HBO/Cinemax, A&E, Disney, The History Channel, MTV, AMC, Oxygen and TNT. She teaches advanced cinematography at The New School in NYC. As well as her Smith BA cum laude, she has an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford.

Poet-performer Dane Kuttler ’08

DANE KUTTLER grew up in northern New Jersey, where she learned about the wonders of independent coffee shops, and the importance of knowing one’s origins. At age fourteen, Dane cut her teeth on a badly adjusted mic at Cool Beans CafĂ© and learned to perform poetry. She was a regular there for five years, during which she learned how to harmonize with the band geeks and choir freaks.

While working on her English major at Smith, Dane became a regular at the Hampshire Slam Collective, and represented them at the first-ever Women of the World Poetry Slam in Detroit, MI. Her poetry took on a lyrical, narrative style that explores themes of Jewish and queer identities, with a lot of love poems to her grandparents. The most common format for her work is exploring a relationship between two people that connects to broader political and social themes.

After a seven-week poetry tour around the US by train, plane and bus, she hopes to relocate to Seattle, WA by the end of 2008. She has been featured in coffee shops, living rooms, back porches and the occasional auditorium, but her favorite venue has always been her first: a dilapidated tree house with sixteen stuffed animals for an audience.

Day 2 – 5am in North Dakota

The train stops on the edge of places like Devil’s Lake,
towns guarded by rusting water towers and unfamiliar crops.
But I imagine the people are kind.

A leather-faced man in flannel and dungarees
slapclaps the shoulder of a kid with a new goatee
and a guitar strapped to his back,
watches as we pull away like he’s mentally nailing his boot to the platform.
I find the kid two cars down.

He says his name is Daniel and he mostly plays country
at his dad’s bar during the after-work rush to avoid washing the dishes.
He’s never heard
of a traveling poetry circus, but he says,
“I think you’re brave, a girl like you alone out here.”
We talk about how we’ve both left the girls we love without any promise
to return but we can’t stay and they can’t follow,
so we’re gonna have to hold ourselves through this winter.

He says,
‘Do you mind if I sleep on your shoulder?
I’ve been up since four and, well, you seem sweet.”
I say,
kiss the top of his crew cut like I’ve known him for years,
feel him settle against my unwashed, rumpled body.
I keep an eye out for rusted cars and water towers.
They are as unfamiliar as my kindness.