February 14-20, 2007

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'Making It Right'

Survivor, Silicon Valley: The students in Bob Gliner's 'Making It Right' race to make ends meet in a touch economy.

Stayin' Alive

Bob Gliner's 'Making It Right' debuts at Cinequest

By Richard von Busack

SAYS San Jose State University sociology professor Bob Gliner, "You can eat only so many bugs—why not do something positive and learn from it?" Gliner is referring to his locally made documentary Making It Right, created in conjunction with Barnaby Dallas and South Bay Film Studios. The feature-length documentary is having its world premiere at Cinequest, showing March 7 at 7:15pm at San Jose Repertory Theatre. Making It Right reveals something that many in the valley know: affordable housing scarcely exists here. Health insurance premiums are nigh-impossible for the low-income to afford, and the gap between salaries and the high cost of living is being filled with credit card debt. To expose these problems—and to expose SJSU students to them—Gliner and Dallas decided to create a reality show. Four teams of three students each would investigate solutions for social problems. The teams would bring their live presentations to a panel of judges, who would vote on their favorites. First prize was a year's tuition.

One hundred students, from various majors, auditioned for the show. The auditions involved not only hard-core self-selling but also a stupid human trick (such as student Caroline Dukelow's mellifluous pig imitation). Making It Right contrasts the levity with the tough lives of the students. They tell of parental suicide, brushes with cancer, single parentage or coming out of a gang-ridden neighborhood. The affable Sean John Barksdale, for instance, is holding down both 21 units and a 25-hour-a-week job. The final scenes in Making It Right are some of the liveliest, with a pair of teams addressing a class at Abraham Lincoln High School, trying to inform the students about debt-free living. As in any reality show, the strain on the contestants is as much a part of the story as the hard work itself. In candid interviews, the team members describe the flakiness of their fellow students, who sometimes turn up late for team meetings. Gliner pitched the idea to South Bay Film Studios. "Basically what happened, was that we got the idea of cutting up four of the hour-long episodes for a feature. But we feel the idea of Making It Right is ready for TV, and that it is the kind of program that ought to get picked up as a national series. Between the scenes, we see students trying to meet all their obligations, wanting do to something, but getting caught up with their lives. I feel we got conflict in the way they were pissed off at each other."

Making It Right is Gliner's debut at Cinequest, Still, he has been making documentaries for more than 20 years, as can be seen on his website Many of his programs have been aired on PBS stations. One such was Heifer, about the international charity The Heifer Project, which sends livestock and draft-animals to the poorer quarters of the world. Gliner went on location to the Heifer Project's bases, even in Albania: "Yeah, I was the first on my block to go to Albania. I hope I made a difference there." Gliner was a student activist who came west in the 1960s. "In the early 1980s, I was teaching at a degree program at Soledad prison. Without any filmmaking background, I made a documentary there, titled Soledad: Symptom or Solution? KTEH hooked it up. I found out I could reach more people with a film than with even a bestselling sociology book."

Movie Times Cinequest runs Feb. 28-March 11. For info, call 408.295.FEST. Disclosure: Metro is a sponsor of Cinequest.

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