At five months old, Liz was adopted from South Korea by Joan and Bob Sargent who raised her in a wealthy suburb of Chicago. With eleven siblings, seven of whom were also adopted, it was an idyllic upbringing despite the obvious challenges of such a large family.
Now thirty-seven Liz watches as her parents age into their seventies and struggle to take care of Anna, their youngest daughter now an adult with special needs, and Kelly, who has been hiding the fact that she’s been in and out of mental health care facilities for several years. Do the independent siblings inherit the responsibility of taking care of the aging, special needs, and mentally ill members of their family?
In search of answers to this question, Liz leaves her home in Brooklyn to meet with each sibling. She travels from the mountains of Colorado to the sunshine state of Florida, and from the suburbs of Illinois to the piety of Pennsylvania. The family includes many types of caretakers - a school principal, a minister, a masseuse and a veteran with PTSD studying psychology - many with families of their own. Liz observes their lives and frankly asks for their thoughts on taking on the care of one or more of the family members in need. With their unique, cynical and sometimes dark humor, the Sargent family comes to realize how doing so would change their individual realities.
Everyone must confront the aging and eventual death of their parents, but this process is rarely discussed openly. Without a map to guide the way, the family members avoid preparing for the inevitable change. At a time in the United States when we are questioning the healthcare system and ideas of inclusion, this film grants the viewer close access to the family members’ moral dilemma: the act of deciding whether or not they have the means - financial, emotional, or otherwise- to take on the care of a parent or sibling, or if those in need will be left in the impersonal, and sometimes cold, hands of the state.
The goal of this film is to create a conversation about caregiving in America. Our families need to be vulnerable enough to have intimate conversations, and persistent enough to push government policy to create clearly navigable programs that will support those who need assistance.
In the process of making this film, I’ve discovered that almost everyone has a close relationship to someone with mental illness or special needs, and, of course, with their aging parents. These relationships are often hidden. Stigma is partially to blame, but also, it is extremely difficult to navigate situations in which our loved ones are hurting, impaired, and/or disabled. Moreover, none of this is part of our daily discussion because it simply isn’t easy to talk about. We often feel alone in our struggles and are not prepared to begin the conversation when the solution is so complex and, at times, feels impossible to reach.
My hope is that this film will not only be cathartic for me, but will also resonate with and perhaps inform, viewers facing the same questions. It will empower adult children to initiate difficult discussions with their families about death and what support means to them, so that neither party feels afraid or alone as they approach the inevitable end.
There are several ways an organization can join forces with us to contribute to this mission.
Please let us know how we can create a mutually beneficial partnership with your organization!
A. Outreach Partners believe in the themes of the film and commit to sharing and discussing 12 Turtles with their audiences on social media, newsletters and websites. It’s a simple but very powerful way to advocate in this awareness campaign. The organization's logo will be featured on the end credits and listed on the Twelve Turtles official website. Representatives will be invited to special screenings at festivals. Please be in touch for additional incentives for your organization's partnership.
B. Executive Producers play an imperative part in making sure the film is completed at the most professional level by helping fund production and post production. Please contact us directly to discuss how you'd like to help make this film possible.
Liz Sargent I 646-831-1414 I firstname.lastname@example.org I Minos Papas I 917-497-7026 I email@example.com
Twelve Turtles is a part of the Women Make Movies Production Assistance Program, a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor for the film.
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Bob and Joan Sargent discuss their reasons for adopting. We meet the youngest adopted child, Anna, who has special needs. There are moments of humor, insecurity, isolation, sadness and forgiveness in her complex character.
As we continue to shoot, the story will reveal that Anna’s difficulty communicating can quickly turn to anger and violence. Her inability to have independence, control of day-to-day, or understanding of her future are the ultimate heartbreaks to her situation.
Please note that this cut is not color corrected or sound edited, and is not necessarily a final edit for use in the finished film. But it is a good representation of Anna and the intended cinema verité style.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like the password to view this clip.
Liz Sargent is an independent producer and designer for film and performance in New York City. She has directed, produced, and designed evening length performances for Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Danspace Project, NYLA/DTW, and The Chocolate Factory that were reviewed as “imaginative...both lovely and disturbing” by The New York Times.
A few film credits: Producer of the viral "Pantsuit Power" Dance dir. Celia-Rowlson-Hall and Mia Lidofsky; Producer/Art Director for Gojira ‘Silvera’ music video Best Music Video Revolver Music Awards dir. Drew Cox. Liz has had a history of collaboration with CFNY director Minos Papas. CFNY credits include: Producer for "Denys & Antonina's Perfect Journey" for TUMI with TriBeCa Film Festival; Producer/Production Designer “Tango on the Balcony” (2016); Art Director Oxfam International PSA “The International Arms Trade Spares No-One” (2013); and Production Manager for the feature “Behind the Mirror” (2015).
Performing Arts Credits include: General Manager for MacArthur Award winning choreographer Kyle Abraham/Abraham In Motion; Programs Manager for Mount Tremper Arts; Producer "Go Forth" dir. Kaneza Schaal; Performer/Collaborator "Dream of the Red Chamber" and "Botanica" dir. Jim Findlay; and costume designer for Adrienne Westwood and Aynsley Vandenbroucke among others.
The heart of 12 Turtles exists within its characters. The Sargent parents are selfless individuals who devoted their lives to their children. They attest to love as being the only motivation for adopting so many kids. In one interview, mother Joan describes how all children need is love in order to flourish. With love they can not only survive, but become incredible human beings. This kind of declaration stirs an emotional reaction in an audience, but also a dubious query - can someone be so caring?
Youngest sister Anna is a magnetic presence on camera. An outsider because of her special needs, she is often just an observer to the situations developing around her. She sometimes pipes up with a playful scolding or professing love. Emotional and fragile, she is a little bewildered, and it is captivating and heart breaking to watch her struggle on camera. Kelly is the opposite. Seemingly calculating, and very difficult to read behind a mask of borderline personality disorder. Her illness forces the family to confront their own preconceived ideas about mental health.
Along with the other siblings this family forms a chiaroscuro of characters that is essentially cinematic. Their paradoxes and conflicting opinions and interpretations of each other become a representation of the varied views on healthcare, family values, and responsibilities that are held by a vast number of Americans. This film can be an important statement about health care rights and community in the United States.