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Tonight! First Person Arts launches new Social Justice Series

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Join us for the kickoff of the brand new FPA Social Justice Series with a screening and discussion of the controversial film, Hot Coffee starting at 7pm tonight at International House Philadelphia. An official selection at the 2011 Sundance, Los Angeles, and Silverdocs film festivals, Hot Coffee “spills the beans” on the real story behind the infamous McDonald’s “hot coffee” case. A discussion with leading law educators Regina Austin (professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School), Tom Baker (professor, University of Pennsylvania Law School and featured in the film), and Mark Rahdert (professor, James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University) will follow the screening.

First Person Arts plans to make this the first in a series of social justice programs honoring the memory of long-time FPA supporter, UPenn Law Professor, and advocate for the little guy, Alan Lerner. To make a contribution to First Person Arts in Alan Lerner’s name, visit alanlerner.firstpersonarts.org.

In the interview below FPA’s President and Artistic Director, Vicki Solot shares her thoughts on why social justice films are important.

What can you tell us about the Hot Coffee Documentary film?

Some topics really lend themselves to documentary film. Hot Coffee is one of them. One reason is because the subject it addresses is extremely complicated and requires a lot of explanation. On the surface, the subject (civil justice and tort reform) would seem to be the province of lawyers — one that the average person probably wouldn’t be interested in or understand. Hot Coffee not only makes it comprehensible and shows why it’s important, it also brings it to a human

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level, presenting moving stories of several individuals whose lives have been seriously damaged because of recent changes in our civil justice system.

Why is it so important to expose audiences to the riveting message that this documentary portrays?

No one expects something awful to happen because of a malfunctioning appliance or neglectful personnel. But they assume if it does, they will have the right to sue for damages. However, the right to compensation for damages is in serious jeopardy. More and more, companies are protecting themselves from liability through the small print in agreements for equipment purchases, credit card services, etc. Few people read the small print, so they don’t realize what rights they are signing away. This film offers specific suggestions about ways individuals can be better informed and protective of their rights.

Tell us more about the Alan Lerner Social Justice series. What can people expect from this series, how many documentaries will be featured…etc?

Our approach to programming is to present stories about the experiences of individuals that open our eyes to broader social issues. We intend to present, at minimum, one documentary program each season. This could be a film screening, a documentary play, a book discussion, even a photography exhibition. We are currently researching programs for next year, but probably won’t be selecting the one for the Lerner series until the spring.

It's great that immediately after the viewing of the film there will be a discussion. Why is it so important to have discussions after documentaries like this?

We see art as an active, rather than passive, experience. We want people to be engaged, express their opinions, question, challenge. The difference between seeing a film like this in a communal setting, rather than at home on one’s couch, is that the audience becomes part of the program. Their thoughts and reactions become part of the experience and augment what the filmmaker has to say.

Tickets are available online here or at the door.

-Whitni Rouse

Upcoming Events
  • StorySlam: Laws of Nature (tickets on sale 4/8/19)
  • Date: April 30, 2019
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Venue: The Playground at the Adrienne
  • Location: 2030 Sansom Street
  • I Want to Be: Stories Inspired by Jerry Pinkney
  • Date: May 4, 2019
  • Time: 7 PM - 9 PM
  • Venue: Woodmere Art Museum
  • Location: 9201 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118