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An Authentic Film about Economic Uncertainty

25 Jun Posted by in • Robin Lowey | Comments
An Authentic Film about Economic Uncertainty

When I met Meredith Chin at the NCLR Gala, I was fascinated to hear the story about the film she was producing—Duty Free.

It’s a feature length documentary following the story of Rebecca Danigelis, an immigrant woman, who gets fired from her job as a hotel housekeeper at 75 years old. After a lifetime of supporting her two kids on one paycheck, Rebecca has no financial safety net when the rug is abruptly pulled out from under her. With no job prospects in sight, her adult son, Sian-Pierre, takes her on a bucket-list adventure to reclaim her life. Together, they set out on a journey that uncovers the betrayals plaguing her past and the economic insecurity shaping not only her future, but that of an entire generation.

I learned that they are currently putting the finishing touches on the film and hope to raise enough funds to be ready to submit to festivals in September 2019.

Meredith Chin

A lesbian based in Los Angeles, Meredith’s passion is to support and empower emerging female and POC artists and entrepreneurs.

In her own words:
“I met Sian-Pierre a few years ago after I had left Facebook and moved to New York for a year to meet other young creatives. A couple years later, he began to tell me the story of what happened to his mom and the fact that she was facing ageism time and time again as she tried to get a new job. We knew immediately that this was an important story to be told. What we discovered throughout the process of creating the film is how common her story is for older middle-class Americans. 

It is our hope, with this film, that we not just increase visibility of older people, but that we re-characterize them for who they really are: human, capable, productive, useful, beautiful and important. Too often in America older folks – despite being our own parents and grandparents – are thought of as relics: hardened, unteachable, disposable. But here’s one woman – one of many in her age cohort – who is colorful, malleable and bright. With this film, my goal is to start a dialogue around how we dismantle our ageist notions in the workplace and in our everyday, but, most importantly, how we do that as one intergenerational community.”

In Duty Free, the stories revealed by Rebecca’s bucket-list raise a number of issues faced by women of Rebecca’s generation in the late 20th century that continue today: the challenges of single parenthood, self-reliance, and economic inequality.

The issues facing the older generation—including retirement—are particularly hard on women. For instance, in 2014, women received about $4,500 less than men in their annual Social Security benefits, due to lower lifetime earnings and taking time off for caregiving. Meanwhile, their life expectancies are increasing.  The film shows, with piercing authenticity, one woman’s specific story – making up for regrets in personal, family, and career choices that marred her life, struggling to take care of a son diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17, and all the ordinary difficulties that prevented her from preparing for retirement. 

At the same time, through Sian-Pierre’s story we see a young man trying to forge a response to this challenge. He uses his skills and know-how to create resilience and hope for his mother, while also coming to accept his new, caretaking role. This was not a problem we will solve and then walk away, there is no easy technocratic solution. It is a change of life, a change of attitude, a new way of living, for the young as much as the old.

Duty Free Film (With Subtitles) from Duty Free on Vimeo.

The website: www.dutyfreefilm.com

The link to donate: https://www.documentary.org/project/duty-free-documentary

More From Meredith Chin:

I started my career in technology, working to run product communications for Facebook and then Instagram after it was acquired by Facebook in 2012. I helped take the company from a college directory in 2005 to a global phenomenon and over one billion users. 

In addition to being a producer on Duty Free, I also Executive Produced a short film called Parachute, set in the Bay Area, about teenage rivalry set in the turbulent world of Chinese ‘parachute kids.’ 

Beyond this, I also invest in and advise early-stage technology start-ups that aim to shift the media landscape. 

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