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Bronx women featured in VNSNY film competition

The Visiting Nurse Service of New York recently teamed up with Independent Features and film students to bring the reality of hospice care and its Bronx patients to the big screen.

“We were really looking for a way to show New Yorkers Hospice Care that wasn’t so scary,” Jeanne Dennis, executive director of VNSNY Hospice, said. “We also felt using the power of film would be interesting for our patients to tell their stories.”

In an effort to forge relationships between the filmmakers and patients, the Living History Film Competition students conducted personalized interviews to gather the information necessary to create intimate patient portraits within their five-minute films.

“This project is unique in its ability to bridge the divide between our youngest and oldest minds, uniting New Yorkers of every demographic background,” Dennis said.

While students from New York Film Academy, NYU Film School, the School of Visual Arts and the Brooklyn College film school submitted entries to the contest, it was Columbia University filmmakers David Broyles, Morgan Faust and Bryan Parker that took the top title.

“It was really, really great,” Broyles said. “I think it was an experience we’ll always remember.”

Broyles said that while he and his co-creators had never entered a film contest before, the Living History Film Competition was exactly what they’d been waiting for.

“This was the first one that had such a human element to it,” Broyles explained.

The group’s short film, “The Shop Keepers Daughter” detailed the life of hospice patient Dorothy Kohl and her life working in her father’s notions store during the Great Depression.

Throughout the piece, Kohl tells about her life growing up at 180th Street and Hughes Avenue, and her experiences learning the trade with her beloved father.

“It’s more than a film; it’s about people and the human element,” Broyles explained.

Equally moved by the experience, second runner up and winner of the “Nurses’ Choice Award” Martin Toro said, “There are very few opportunities for us to get out of the rush of our day-to-day lives and recognize and understand that there are different universes out there. The possibility of making this film was one such opportunity.”

The Brazilian film student who studies at the New York Film Academy won an AVID Media Composer editing suite for his film “Fantum,” a story about hospice patient Elsie LaCavalla and her early years living near Fordham Road.

“I had the chance of getting closer to someone who isn’t in a rush anymore,” Toro explained. “She just waits, observes and is taken care of.”

On Sunday, July 27, VNSNY celebrated their 25th anniversary and awarded the top prizewinners at a special awards ceremony.

Dennis concluded, “The project created a shared experience for its participants and provided, through film, a unique expression of connectivity that this iconic city created between all its inhabitants.”

The films are available for viewing at

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