Detective Lieutenant Laurel Hester spent 25 years investigating tough cases in Ocean County, New Jersey, 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.
The documentary film Freeheld chronicles Laurel’s struggle to transfer her earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree. With less than six months to live, Laurel refuses to back down when her elected officials — the Ocean County Freeholders — deny her request to leave her pension to Stacie, an automatic option for heterosexual married couples. The film is structured chronologically, following both the escalation of Laurel’s battle with the Freeholders and the decline of her health as cancer spreads to her brain.
As Laurel’s plight intensifies, it spurs a media frenzy and a passionate advocacy campaign. At the same time, Freeheld captures a quieter, personal story: that of the deep love between Laurel and Stacie as they face the reality of losing each other. Alternating from packed public demonstrations at the county courthouse to quiet, tender moments of Laurel and Stacie at home, Freeheld combines tension-filled political drama with personal detail, creating a nuanced study of a grassroots fight for justice.
Academy Award winner (Best Documentary Short Subject) and winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, Freeheld has screened in 45 film festivals in 26 states and 7 countries, garnering eleven additional film awards. On Sunday, June 8th, UnionDocs will be partnering with Standby, a media arts service organization, to present a post-screening panel discussion with director Cynthia Wade, editor David Teague, and sound designer Alex Noyes about the filmmaking process.
“ An extraordinary film…it has the potential to change the hearts of Americans everywhere.”
– CAMRYN MANHEIM, ACTRESS
“ Freeheld is a quietly understated work of art that packs a punch you will feel for days.”
– ARMISTEAD MAUPIN, AUTHOR
About the Panel:
The Freehled panel at UnionDocs is designed to provide filmmakers with practical information on the post-production process using Freeheld as a case study. The panelists each offer their extensive experience in the field. The discussion will be moderated by Christopher Allen.
Freeheld Panelist Bios:
Cynthia Wade is an Academy Award Winning NYC-based Documentary Filmmaker. Her documentary Freeheld won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 2008. It also won a Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, as well as thirteen other awards worldwide. Her award-winning HBO documentary Shelter Dogs was broadcast in seven countries. Wade directed the 1999 Cinemax Reel Life documentary Grist For The Mill, which The Hollywood Reporter called “a delight…full of quirky moments and clever humor” and Variety called “a jewel … extremely comical.” She was co-producer and principal verite cinematographer for the 1998 PBS documentary Taken In: The Lives of America’s Foster Children, which won a duPont-Columbia Award for Excellence in Journalism. Wade has been a Director of Photography for PBS, HBO/Cinemax, Bravo, AMC, MTV, A&E, Discovery, TNT, Oxygen, LOGO and The History Channel. She received a BA cum laude from Smith College and an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford University. Wade runs a video production company and teaches advanced digital cinematography at the New School. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
David Teague has directed the independent feature films “The Sandman” and “Love Suicides”. He has also directed commercials for Sony and a music video for the Kronos Quartet. He recently edited the documentary “Freeheld”, which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject and the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. He has shot and edited films that have appeared at the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlinale, and the Tribeca Film Festival. David has written three bestselling manuals on editing with Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express. He also runs Flicker NYC, a festival showcasing new Super 8 and 16mm films.
Alex Noyes (Sound Designer, Sound Editor, and Re-recording Mixer) has been working in audio post production for more than 15 years. In addition to Freeheld, he has mixed or edited sound for many award winning films including: Shelter Dogs, Hair High, What Alice Found, The Sweetest Sound, Investigation of a Flame, Trembling before G-d, and The Clay Bird. His work has been seen on HBO, PBS (POV and Independent Lens), IFC, The Sundance Channel, Cinemax, Discovery, TLC, ESPN, MTV and many other outlets. He is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the Pratt Institute.