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The Gloria! Project is a thought-provoking feature-length documentary about the life and legacy of transformative civil rights leader and Latina lesbian Gloria Casarez. Born and raised in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, Gloria lived and organized during four decades of oppressive governmental policies and practices. Things like Presidents Nixon’s and Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and “Law and Order” policies, the AIDS epidemic that wiped out much of the gay community, an economic recession under President George H.W. Bush where 14.2% of Americans lived in poverty, President Clinton’s tough stance on Welfare Reform and the Crime Bill that targeted the poor and black and brown communities, and finally President George W. Bush’s abstinence-only education that included rollbacks in federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs. As she's witnessing all of these elements intersect and destroy her working class neighborhood, this budding activist boldly took action starting at the age of 19. Utilizing the fundamental principles of community organizing, the fiery Latina worked tirelessly to support, educate, empower and collaborate with marginalized communities like the poor and homeless, People of Color and LGBTQ folks had a voice.
In 2009 after a decade of serving as Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI), a queer Latino social justice organization, Gloria was appointed the first Director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. She was principle advisor to the city’s Mayor on LGBT issues and diligently worked to help shape LGBTQ public policy and procedures across city government. Because of her efforts, the Human Rights Campaign gave Philadelphia a city status ranking of #1 nationwide for LGBT municipal law and policy in their annual Municipal Equality Index. However in the same year of her appointment, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Without skipping a beat, the fearless leader vigorously worked in City Hall for over 6 years until her untimely death in 2014 at the age of 42. She left an indelible legacy of innovative programs and policies, and fleet of social justice warriors who go above and beyond to engage, find their voice and build everlasting communities.
Stylistically The Gloria! Project will weave archival footage, graphic novel elements, animation and interviews to tell the story of this dynamic woman. The documentary will also dig into each decade and unpack the factors that affected her growing up, but ultimately drew Gloria Casarez to community and governmental work for marginalized communities.
Kelly A. Burkhardt (Producer/Director/Writer) is an award-winning filmmaker who has been making and distributing independent cinema for nearly 20 years. As Vice President, Operations with the global distribution company TLA Releasing where Ms. Burkhardt released more than 300 films under her leadership including winning “Independent DVD of the Year” for distributing Gregg Arakki’s Mysterious Skin in 2006. More recently she has shifted focus to the creative side as a writer, director, producer/executive Producer of two award-winning narratives, Miles directed by Nathan Adloff and starring Molly Shannon and Paul Reiser and Beautiful Something starring Colman Domingo (“Fear the Walking Dead”). Her latest project is a thought-provoking documentary about Latina lesbian civil rights leader Gloria Casarez. Ms. Burkhardt is also a freelance photographer living in Philadelphia whose work has been featured on NBC News, The Advocate and Philadelphia Magazine.
Peter Lien (Executive Producer/Director of Photography), owner of a successful, high quality HD video production company, has been creating visual-based content for 30 years. He produces client-developed campaigns in the financial, healthcare, pharmaceutical, labor and public health sectors. He is actively shooting content for the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) and B PEACE—a nonprofit network of business volunteers who work with entrepreneurs in violence-affected communities to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and expand the financial power of women.