American Winter

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In the richest country on earth, millions of families have been left out in the cold.
AMERICAN WINTER  premiered on HBO in 2013.  It was a nominee for the 35th Annual News & Documentary Emmy Award®  , was short listed for the prestigious Ridenhour Documentary film prize and won many awards including Best Documentary Feature of the 36th Portland International Film Festival, a Sidney Award for Excellence in Journalism for the Common Good, and a Best of the Festival at the Workers Unite film festival. It also received a  Bending Toward Justice Award from Senator Jeff Merkley .
Produced and directed by Emmy award-winning filmmakers, Joe and Harry Gantz, American Winter is a documentary feature film that follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Years after the recession began, millions of families are struggling to meet their basic needs, and many formerly middle class families are finding themselves in financial crisis, and needing assistance for the first time in their lives.  Meanwhile, the social safety net that was created to help people in difficult times has been weakened by massive budget cuts, creating a perfect storm of greater need and fewer resources to help families in trouble.

Filmed over the course of one winter in Portland, Oregon, American Winter presents an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of our economy as it is playing out in many American families.

Working together with the nonprofit organization 211info in Portland, the filmmakers were given full access to monitor and record calls from distressed families who were calling 211’s emergency hotline in search of help.  They then began following the stories of some of these callers in more depth over several months.  The film follows multiple families in their daily struggle to keep their heads above water, while facing overwhelming challenges and dwindling resources available to help them, creating a powerful firsthand view of Americans caught in today’s financial undertow.

The experiences of the families in American Winter are a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families across America, including working families losing their homes, people who remain jobless or underemployed, children going hungry, families getting their heat shut off in the dead of winter, and people with health issues overwhelmed by medical costs.

Framed through the personal stories of eight families, American Winter puts a face on the country’s economic challenges and has the potential to humanize the discussion around these issues. When viewers see these hard working, relatable families in need, it breaks down stereotypes and makes it harder to justify cuts to social services, motivating and bringing together individuals and organizations working towards a new paradigm of opportunity for all Americans.

We have developed partnerships with local and national nonprofit organizations that can utilize the film to advance their specific missions. Additionally, American Winter’s social action campaign focuses on channeling the frustrations of struggling Americans into a movement for positive change, while also supporting legislators to pass bills that allow all Americans to have an opportunity to live a comfortable life and a chance at the American Dream.

The Filmmakers:
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Joe Gantz                                  Harry Gantz

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