Still Waters In A Storm

When Stephen Haff walks through your doorway you may not at first recognise a miracle worker, and perhaps that’s his secret. He listens. He hears the voices of the streets and invites them in.

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A remarkable one-room school in Brooklyn is facing a tough year. It’s the run up to the US presidential election and anti-Latino rhetoric is ramped up - an extra source of tension for a hard-pressed Hispanic community already threatened by gentrification and eviction.
The school, Still Waters In A Storm, is the creation of Yale grad Stephen Haff. A passionate critic of mainstream education, he believes in the joy of learning without tests and the innate creativity of children and insists that the school is free. It survives precariously on the thinnest of shoestrings.
When regular school finishes, Still Waters starts working. Stephen and his group of children explore, with the help of illustrious guest writers like Zadie Smith and Booker Prizewinner Peter Carey, the power of storytelling, creativity and community. And along the way they discuss Donald Trump and gentrification with humour and passion.
Filmed over a year STILL WATERS follows this compelling man, his philosophy, the spirit of the children who attend and the dreams and fears of the immigrant Hispanic community they belong to.
HOW THE FILM BEGAN In 2012 I read a piece in The Guardian called My Hero by Peter Carey. His hero was Stephen Haff who had just opened a tiny one-room school in Brooklyn. He was working with very little money and living on food stamps. The story intrigued me and I contacted Stephen - a man with passionate and strongly-held views on education. We established an email relationship and very soon I became determined to find a way of making this documentary. In 2014 I went to meet Stephen and spent 10 days researching and filming.
Funding was extremely hard to find. Eventually the International Documentary Association accepted the film as one of their fiscally sponsored projects, and through them we attracted just enough donations to begin filming in 2015.
Funding continued to be difficult and in the end the film was financed through a mix of the initial modest donations through the IDA, self-finance and finally through a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of editing and post-production. The whole film on a shoestring in fact.


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