March 7-24, 2023

Mama Bears

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Synopsis

Did you know there are more than 32,000 mothers in America — many from conservative, Christian backgrounds — who fully accept their LGBTQ+ children? Spread across the country but connected through private Facebook groups, they call themselves “mama bears” because their love may be warm and fuzzy but they fight ferociously for the rights of all LGBTQ+ people. Although some may have grown up as fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, mama bears are willing to risk losing friends, family, and faith communities to keep their offspring safe—even if it challenges their belief systems and rips their worlds apart.

Mama Bears is an intimate, thought-provoking exploration of the journeys taken by two such two “mama bears.” Sara Cunningham and Kimberly Shappley, and Tammi Terrell Morris, a young African American lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance perfectly exemplifies why the mama bears are so vitally important.

Filmmaker Biography

Daresha Kyi (Director, Producer) is an Emmy Award–winning director who writes and produces film and television in Spanish and English. A graduate of NYU Film School, Mama Bears is her second feature documentary. In 2018 she was commissioned by the ACLU to direct Trans In America: Texas Strong, which garnered over 4.7 million views online, screened at SXSW, and won two Webby Awards and an Emmy for “Outstanding Short Documentary".

In 2017 she co-directed and co-produced Chavela, a multiple award-winning documentary about iconic singer Chavela Vargas that was distributed domestically by Music Box Pictures, screened in over 40 countries, and was recently ranked the Number One Latin American Documentary of the Decade by CineArte magazine. She has also produced Dispatches From Cleveland, Kristina Wong’s How Not to Pick Up Asian Women, and Emmy-winning writer Kevin Avery’s comedies The Whizz and Thugs, The Musical.

Daresha’s films have been funded by ITVS, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, and numerous others. A former fellow in the Firelight Media Documentary, Chicken & Egg Eggcelerator, Creative Capital, and A Blade of Grass programs, Daresha has an extensive background producing content for FX, WE, AMC, Telemundo, and FUSE, among other networks.

 

Laura Tatham (Producer) is a creative producer committed to telling stories that highlight urgent social justice issues. She is currently producing the feature-length documentary What We Carry, having recently completed the feature-length documentary Mama Bears (SXSW ‘22, Independent Lens ‘23) and the short documentary Black Beauty (Blackstar ‘22). In the past seven years she’s worked on numerous award-winning films—as associate producer on the feature-length documentaries Chavela (Berlinale ‘17) and Dispatches from Cleveland (CIFF ‘17) and as the NYC production office manager for America, a series of silent, narrative shorts (Sundance ‘19). She was a 2020 Film Independent Documentary Lab fellow and a 2020 + 2022 WIF/Sundance Institute Financing Intensive fellow.

 

Liz Dyer (Mama Bears Founder, activist) is a writer, speaker, activist and founder of the Mama Bears organization. In 2014 Liz had a dream that she could start a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids and the moms who joined the group would not only find connections, support and resources, but also be inspired to work together to change the world and make it a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBTQ+ people to live and thrive. Today that dream is coming true. Liz started the Facebook group “Serendipitydodah” with about 150 moms and now the group has more than 35,000 moms of LGBTQ+ kids. And that one group has grown into an organization with more than 60 local chapters, 9 private groups and 8 programs serving the LGBTQ+ community.  The Mama Bears organization has been featured in numerous news articles and podcasts and is the subject of the Mama Bears documentary released in March 2022. Liz is married, has two sons and lives in Fort Worth, Texas. For more info about Liz's organization visit realmamabears.org

 

Katrina Kalb (founding Board Member of Free Mom Hugs) is currently the Program Director and social media maven who invests her time and expertise promoting the non-profit and its worldwide movement. She became involved with the non-profit Free Mom Hugs to strategize social media and document one mother’s efforts for LGBTQ+ affirmation. As key messages of the Free Mom Hugs movement repeatedly went viral in 2018, her role expanded to manage communications and public relations for the non-profit and its founder, Sara Cunningham, as well as fundraising, donor management, and providing direction for multiple Free Mom Hugs chapters across the country. As a survivor of the denounced practice known as “conversion therapy, she speaks to bring light to this dangerous practice, which harms the LGBTQ+ community under the guise of hope and healing. A former Chaplain and youth pastor, she is aware of the dire need to change the thinking and narrative in the church. A graduate of The University of Oklahoma with degrees in Sociology and Psychology, Katrina believes in the power of conversation and personal experience to change hearts and minds toward all marginalized persons, and to make the world a kinder, safer place.

 

Sara Cunningham (film protagonist and founder of Free Mom Hugs) is an author, activist, and founder of the non-profit organization Free Mom Hugs. Her journey is a surprising one that began in conservative Oklahoma, when her son, Parker, came out as gay. As a woman of faith, Sara wrestled with the news until she began to study, research, and reconcile the two worlds. This journey resulted in her book How We Sleep at Night. She found herself on a journey “from the church to the Pride parade,” falling in love with the LGBTQIA+ community. In the wake of beautiful glitter-covered hugs and heart-breaking stories, the mission of Free Mom Hugs began. Simple acts of love and acceptance turned into a viral sensation, and Sara knew she had the opportunity to lead impactful change.

 

Parker Cunningham (film protagonist and activist) is an LGBTQIA+ artist, ambassador and activist, who takes every opportunity to educate allies and support the community. He loves to travel and encourage those walking a similar journey and has been featured on The Today Show, The RuPaul Show, HRC campaigns, several podcasts and news publications as well as the award winning ‘Mama Bears Doc’ by Daresha Kai. Parker’s own journey as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is documented in his mother Sara Cunningham’s memoir, ‘How We Sleep at Night’. Their collective story has been an integral part of bridging the gap between parents of conservative faith and their LGBTQIA+ children. The journey Parker and Sara have taken, from the church to the Pride parade, is at the heart of the formation of the national non-profit Free Mom Hugs.

 

Tammi Terrell Morris (film protagonist and activist) is an author, activist, and spoken word artist. Tammi holds a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters of Science Degree in Leadership and Management. Tammi has spent her professional life working with the community of individuals with developmental disabilities. Tammi has recently transitioned to a full time caregiver (stay at home mom) of her 2 sons. In her spare time, she enjoys producing and recording material for her podcast Confused Reality. She hopes to use her talents of writing poetry, performing spoken word, motivational speaking, and connecting with people to make the world a more loving and accepting place.

 

Schedule

March 7-24, 2023

Monday, March 6, 2023 - Atlanta, Georgia with Daresha Kai (Director, Producer)
Spelman College

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 - Cleveland, Mississippi with Parker Cunningham (film protagonist, activist)
Jobe Hall Auditorium, Delta State University

Wednesday, March 8, 2023 - Winston-Salem, North Carolina with Kelly Creedon (editor)
a/perture cinema

Thursday, March 9, 2023 - Lexington, Kentucky with Daresha Kai (Director, Producer)
Living Arts and Science Center

Friday, March 10, 2023 - Nashville, Tennessee with Liz Dyer (Mama Bears Founder, activist)
Global Education Center & Fisk University, at Global Education Center

Saturday, March 11, 2023 - Clemson, South Carolina with Tammi Terrell Morris (film protagonist and activist)
The Arts Center of Clemson & Clemson University World Cinema Studies Department

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 - Birmingham, Alabama with Parker Cunningham (film protagonist and activist) & Tammi Terrell Morris (film protagonist and activist)
Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema

Friday, March 17, 2023 - Hapeville, Georgia with Sara Cunningham & Daresha Kai (Director, Producer)
City of Hapeville

Monday, March 20, 2023 - Pikeville, Kentucky with Sara Cunningham (founder of Free Mom Hugs)
University of Pikeville

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 - Sarasota, Florida with Laura Tatham (Producer)
WSLR

Thursday, March 23, 2023 - Miami, Florida with Daresha Kai (Director, Producer)
O Cinema

Friday, March 24, 2023 - Wilmington, North Carolina with Kelly Creedon (Editor) & Daresha Kai (Director, Producer)
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Cucalorus Film Festival, Working Films, and WHQR Public Media