A short Q&A about laughter, art, and life with Ellen Brodsky, Director of The Year We Thought About Love

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your most recent film.

The Year We Thought About Love tells the stories of the members of True Colors: OUT Youth Theater, an LGBTQ+ youth theater troupe sponsored by Boston’s The Theater Offensive, which works collaboratively to create activist art in the cathartic, expressive, and communal environment of the stage.  It documents the hardships that come with the realization of being different, and the courage it takes to find the pride within that.

OWFF:  What would you say drives this film?
EB: In a review of the film, Kim Hoffman of Afterellen.com says “Laughter—that’s the constant power that drives The Year We Thought About Love, a film about an LGBTQ youth troupe out of Boston.” An old friend of mine came to see the film, and smiled when he said, “Your love of life, Ellen, runs through this entire film.” But for me, and the entire film team, we were aware that our story is driven by the personal and political power of “Outness” – the ability to be true to the people in your life about your own truths, whatever they may be.

Is art imitating life or vice versa in The Year We Thought About Love?
Ah, dear! Documentary filmmakers can discuss endlessly how “life” is so challenging to capture on film. The minute we bring a camera into the film we have begun to distance ourselves from “life.” And so it also goes with theater. These young people are choosing to create theatrical scenes based on various threads from their lives. Not all the threads at all moments. So yes, they make art based on their life, and then we filmmakers make art based on their art based on their lives. And we slip in a few interviews and verite footage on top of that! Is this beginning to sound like an Escher drawing?

If you had unlimited money and the resources to make a documentary about anything, what would it be about and why?
Wow! That’s a challenging question. I am a deeply practical person. But I will take a minute to dream. I think I would find a fifth grade class, and teach them the basics of filmmaking, and collaborate with them on a film. Maybe several fifth grade classes around the world. Oh dear, now someone might steal this idea!!! But I said it first, here!

Any advice for aspiring documentarians?
It takes guts and the patience to live through all sorts of mistakes and rejections. I couldn’t find the courage until after having two children and working for ten years in public health. Find your community and your courage….and then go make your film. Remember to be brash in your ambitions but also stay humble and get all sorts of advice. And discover D-word on the web – a free online community of international documentary filmmakers.

Ellen Brodsky began filmmaking after a twelve-year career in education and public health. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, worked at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, led a National Training Center on HIV prevention for the Centers for Disease Control, and did training for the Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students.  Ellen co-produced “At Home in Utopia,” broadcast on Independent Lens in 2009. She has directed three award- winning shorts: “What do you know? Six to twelve year olds talk about gays and lesbians,” “Only One Boss,” and “Dental Farmer” (with co-director, Dunya Alwan), which have played festivals in all seven continents. Brodsky has a Masters in Management from the Heller School, Brandeis University and a BA in Religion from Haverford College.


The Year We Thought About Love is screening on Friday, September 25th as part of the festival’s programming at the National Gallery of Canada:

The Kids are All Right: An Evening Celebrating Creative Youth Around The World
Hosted by Paramjit Rai (MASC)
Doors @ 5:30pm
6pm The Year We Thought About Love (U.S.A.)
7:30pm Federal Election Candidates Debate on LGBTQ issues
Moderated by Professor Dawn Moore (Carleton University)
Ottawa Centre candidates Paul Dewar, Catherine McKenna, and Tom Milroy, and a candidate from the Conservative Party (to be determined) tackle issues affecting LGBTQ youth and communities.
Presented by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Ten Oaks Project, Gender Mosaic, and *Kind.
8:45pm Landfill Harmonic (U.S.A.)

The 2015 edition of the festival features international and Canadian documentaries, thought-provoking panel discussions and interactive workshops and takes place September 24-26 at the National Gallery of Canada and September 27 at Saint Paul University. For more information and to view the full 2015 festival schedule, visit oneworldfilmfestival.ca