A series of powerful films addressing racism and featuring stories of resilience through the eyes of those most affected kicked off this year’s APHA Public Health Film Festival at the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo. 

“We see the cumulative effects of racism and how it impacts women and their levels of toxic stress,” said Katrice Cain, director of the Racial Disparities and Health Equity Program at First Year Cleveland. Cain led the development of the short film “Toxic: A Black Woman's Story,” which showcases the destructive effects of daily microaggressions and inspires viewers to change the narrative.

APHA Global Public Health Film FestivalDuring a discussion after the Sunday film screenings, filmmakers and experts discussed discrimination in America and our responsibility to promote racial healing.

“It’s not enough just to have the resources,” said Michelle Stainberg, director of “A Place to Breathe,” a film about immigrant and refugee patients and their health care experiences in America. “The resources need to exist in a way that people can comfortably interface with them and feel that there’s respect for their own understanding of their bodies.”  

The film “Cooked: Survival by Zip Code” explored Chicago's extreme heat disaster in 1995 that resulted in the death of 739 residents — mostly elderly and Black residents.  Judith Helfland, director of the film, pointed out “Chicago is not a unique example,” as such issues plague the everyday lives of so many people.

Combating hate crimes against Asian Americans — which have multiplied since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — was the motivation behind the featured PSA, “Racism is a Virus: Stop the Spread!

“In the span of three months, we know there are over 1,800 incidents reported by the (Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center),” said Chien-Chi Huang, the PSA’s creator and executive director of Asian Women for Health.

The session’s featured films exposed the consequences of racism and opened necessary conversations through their powerful narratives. They also posed the question – now what? 

“If we’re able to value people equally...then we might see some changes happen,” said speaker Frances Mills, director of the Cleveland Office of Minority Health.

The APHA 2020 Public Health Film Festival screens public health films of all types and topics. This year’s festival includes live feature films with panel discussions and on-demand short films.

Today’s feature film session, 3-4:30 p.m. MT, is on “Young Filmmakers in Action: Perspectives on COVID-19 and Other Public Health Topics.” Tuesday’s session, from 12:30-2 p.m. MT, highlights “Breaking the Silence on Mental Health Issues and Policies”; and Wednesday’s, which runs 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. MT, is on “Lessons Learned from the Pandemic: Stories on Preparedness and Other Emerging Needs.” Check out the complete film festival schedule today.