In 2012 Yasmin Mistry, an Emmy-nominated animator and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in state care, launched Foster Care Film to give foster youth an opportunity to share their stories. Since then Mistry’s digital glimpses into the real-life experiences of foster youth have drawn accolades at film festivals and are serving as instructional tools for university students and also as lessons to heed for a foreign government developing a foster care system.
Mistry’s first film, Feeling Wanted tells the story of Charelle Star Charleston. The daughter of an incarcerated father and a drug-addicted mother, Charleston spent her childhood in foster care moving from home to home and school to school.
A Fordham University adjunct professor uses Feeling Wanted as part of a social worker course curriculum, and Mistry is talking with other major universities to add the film to their curriculum. Feeling Wanted and its companion study guides are available on Kanopy, a film site known as “Netflix” for academic institutions. On Kanopy, the documentary has been viewed by hundreds of individuals and classroom groups, some as far away as Australia.
In June 2016, Mistry and The American Corner Tirana, a partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the National Library of Albania, hosted a Feeling Wanted private screening for nonprofit representatives and Albanian government officials interested in developing a foster care system as an alternative to state-run orphanages. Feeling Wanted provided them with a glimpse into the positive and negative aspects of the U.S. foster care system.
Mistry’s subsequent films investigate less-explored obstacles and situations related to foster care. Her latest, My Identity, is an 11-minute documentary that explores kinship care (the care of children by relatives), the longing to belong and the importance of sibling bonds.
My Identity is the story of Ashley Wolford, a woman born to a mixed white and Native American mother. Ashley knows nothing of her biological father, and at a young age Ashley and her half-brother are placed in separate homes after it is discovered that their drug-and-alcohol addicted mother abandons them for stretches of time.
In their later years, Ashley discovers and converts to Islam while at the same time her brother joins the military and serves two tours in Afghanistan fighting Muslims. Their ideological differences drive a wedge in their relationship.
My Identity premiered in March 2016 and has since been screened from New York to Alaska. It was awarded “Best Documentary Short” from the North By Midwest Film Festival and is nominated for other accolades such as “Best Art Designer” and “Best Documentary Short” from the Wind International Film Festival and “Best Documentary Short” by the Blackbird Festival. My Identity is also available on Kanopy.
Mistry is working on her third film, Family Rewritten, about a teenage girl with cystic fibrosis whose family life falls apart, and she finds herself being placed in foster care just before her 18th birthday. Family Rewritten is slated for release in early 2017.