PORTRAITS AND DREAMS Special Presentations


Virtual World Premiere

Following the film at 7:40 PM EDT, watch a live discussion with directors Elizabeth Barrett and Wendy Ewald, with special guests Russell Akemon, Kim Akemon Boiling and Dee Davis, moderated by author Fenton Johnson. 

Thirty-five years ago, photographer Wendy Ewald published the remarkable PORTRAITS AND DREAMS: PHOTOGRAPHS AND STORIES BY CHILDREN OF THE APPALACHIANS. The result of a unique creative collaboration between Ewald and the students she taught at three elementary schools in Letcher County, Kentucky, the photographs represented a rare opportunity for children living in rural Appalachia to reflect on their lives and families.

In this beautiful and deeply moving tribute to that collaboration, Ewald, whose artistic practice was formed through her experiences in Appalachia, returns to Letcher County to visit with her students, who are now adults with families of their own. As their collective memories are rekindled, what emerges is the unbreakable, timeless bond between teacher and student and the transformative power of art.
–Ken Jacobson

Elizabeth Barret has served in principal roles on approximately a dozen films and television programs. These titles have been presented on public television in Kentucky (statewide), West Virginia Public TV (statewide), BlueRidge Public TV (southwest VA) and East Tennessee PBS (Sneedville and the Tri-Cities). Educational and home-use distribution of the work has been conducted by Appalshop along with festival exhibitions and other screenings. She produced and directed STRANGER WITH A CAMERA, which centers on the 1967 murder of Canadian-based filmmaker Hugh O’Connor by Hobart Ison, a resident of Jeremiah, Kentucky, in the county where Barret lives and works. The film is a co-production with Kentucky Educational Television and ITVS supported with LINCS funding, among other sources. It was selected for the documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast nationally on PBS series POV in 2000 and distributed by Appalshop and California Newsreel.

Wendy Ewald has collaborated in art projects with children, families, women and teachers around the world and in the United States for over fifty years. She has published 12 books and received many honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship. “Portraits and Dreams” was her first book published in 1985. It was called “an American masterpiece” by Booklist. The expanded and updated edition will be published in September 2020.

Ewald created “Memories from the Past Centuries” for the exhibition “To the Rescue: Eight Artists in an Archive” shown at the International Center of Photography and other museums. In the archive of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Ewald found case histories of children to be adopted after World War II. She worked with American students of the same age to create a two screen projection that inquired into their notion of history and ideas of what life was like for refugee children after the Holocaust. Her other production “On Reading” is an installation created for the Rhode Island Institute of Design Museum. The multi-screen installation focuses on the experience of elementary school children with learning disabilities and brings the viewer into their struggle to read.

PORTRAITS AND DREAMS is Ewald’s first film project.


Country: USA

Year: 2020

Directors: Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald

Producers: Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald, Robert Salyer

Editors: Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri

Music: Ted Savarese

Running Time (minutes): 52 MIN

Language: English