DEBRA CHASNOFF, who was born on this date (d: 2017), was an Academy award-winning documentary filmmaker and activist whose films address progressive social justice issues. Her production company GroundSpark produces and distributes films, educational resources and campaigns on issues ranging from environmental concerns to affordable housing to preventing prejudice.
Chasnoff directed and/or produced twelve films in the United States since her film-making career began in 1984. She directed and co-produced Choosing Children in 1984 with her partner at the time Kim Klausner, exploring same-sex parenting and helping to launch a profound cultural shift regarding parenting in the LGBTQ community. Choosing Children showcased six families composed of same-sex parents and children brought into the family through adoption, donor insemination, foster parenting, and through previous relationships
In 1991 Chasnoff directed and produced Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment. The film targetedGeneral Electric (GE), the multinational military corporation, proprietor of the NBC, RCA, and a producer of components for nuclear weapons. In 1992 Chasnoff won an Academy Award for Deadly Deception and thanked Kim Klausner in her acceptance speech, and by doing so she “came out” to the public as a Lesbian
Chasnoff said each of her films was meant to be a catalyst for discussion in age-appropriate curricula. “Our approach in making the film is giving young people a chance to know what’s going on in their lives. There are some things that all loving families share.”
But her film, “That’s A Family”, about households headed by single mothers, multi-racial families and same-sex couples, provoked a backlash from conservative groups and parents who considered the subject matter unfit for younger children.
A New Jersey school district banned the film from its third grade classrooms. A district in Marin County, California gave parents the option of withholding consent for their fifth graders to view it.
Chasnoff died in 2017 of breast cancer. She is survived by her wife, artist Nancy Otto.