Indie Lens Pop-Up: Storming Caesars Palace

Event Date and Time: March 15, 2023 7:30 pm
Cost: $0
Tickets and Reservations

After losing her job as a hotel worker in Las Vegas, Ruby Duncan joined a welfare rights group of mothers who defied notions of the “welfare queen.” In a fight for guaranteed income, Ruby and other equality activists took on the Nevada mob in organizing a massive protest that shut down Caesars Palace.

Stay for a post screening talkback hosted by the Teaneck International Film Festival moderated by Helen Archontou featuring Hazel Gurland-Pooler (director/producer), Sondra Phillips-Gilbert  (film participant, activist, and Ruby Duncan’s daughter), and Rhona Vega (21: Bergen County).

In 2023 we have partnered with NJ-PBS to feature a short film before the screening. The shorts are part of the 21 film series. The film featured a this event is Bergen County

About Bergen County: When Rhona Vega moved to Bergen County as a single mom, she hoped all future opportunities for her kids and others would be equal. They were not, so she established “Parent Matterz”—an organization that nurtures students’ dreams and ambitions and helps parents prepare for college with tutors, enrichment programs, mentors, and more.

Free streaming on OVEE
Registration Required 

Credit: Courtesy Ruby Duncan Caption: Ruby Duncan holds the hands of two children on a sunny driveway.

About Indie Lens Pop-Up
Our 2023 series of films are presented this winter and spring through the continued partnership between Teaneck International Film Festival (TIFF), The Puffin Foundation Ltd., PBS, and Indie Lens Pop-Up, a neighborhood series that brings people together for film screenings and community-driven conversations. Film screenings are free but registration is required. TIFF thanks our Winter/Spring documentary series sponsor, the YWCA of Northern New Jersey. Sponsorships are still available for Storming Caesars Palace and Free Chol Soo Lee. Contact  if you would like to sponsor a film for as little as $50.


21 Film seriesAbout the 21 Film Series
The 21 film series captures one person’s story in each of the 21 NJ Counties. 21 will examine the factors and social determinants that affect each person’s quality of life. The short films and county snapshots create a dynamic mosaic about life, health, and available resources for those living in our diverse state. 21 is inspired by the documentary series States of America created by Brad Barber, exploring one person’s story in each state of the country looking at how living there affects their sense of identity.

About the Panel

A fair skinned dark haried Colombian woman leaning against a brick wall smiling

Hazel Gurland-Pooler, Storming Caesars Palace Director/Producer

Hazel Gurland-Pooler is a Colombian-born, NYC-based director/producer and documentary filmmaker. She directed 10 episodes of PBS’s, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and co-produced the 6-hour The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, also with Gates Jr., which won Emmy, Peabody, duPont-Columbia, and NAACP Image awards.


Sondra Phillips-Gilbert, film participant, activist, and Ruby Duncan’s daughter

Sondra Phillips-Gilbert is a current Social Services Representative at the Department of Human Services/Economic Security Administration in Washington DC and a former elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who represented the Rosedale Community in Ward 6 for 10 years. She is the daughter of Ruby Duncan, the subject of Storming Caesars Palace, and continues the work of fighting for equity and improving the quality of life for our neighbors and community members.


Rhona Vega, 21: Bergen County

Rhona Vega is a multi-award-winning community leader and entrepreneur. As the founder and CEO of Parent MatterzTM, Rhona is a social disrupter, change agent, thought leader, dynamic motivational speaker, and success coach. She founded Imagine Me, an empowerment group that encourages women to focus on self-care and pursue their dreams. Rhona is the winner of the 2022 YWCA NNJ Racial Justice Award and the 2021 YWomen Start It Up Pitch Competition. Parent MatterzTM has been featured on the Black Information Network radio show sponsored by Geico and in the New Jersey PBS docu series 21. Rhona is a founding member of Teaneck Tea Talks, which was created by African American and Orthodox Jewish women to hold space for courageous conversations. Rhona truly adores her husband, Dr. Victor Vega, and their five children and enjoys traveling the world. Book Rhona as an educational consultant, inspirational public speaker or creator of your school’s next Opportunity ExpoTM.


Helen Archontou, Moderator

Helen Archontou, MSW, LSW Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Northern New Jersey As Chief Executive Officer since 2011, Helen Archontou has guided YWCA Northern New Jersey to fully live its intersectional mission to eliminate racism and empower women by advocating against the oppression that many groups and individuals endure. Helen has overseen the development of a continuum of programs to support women and families in every stage of life as well as to raise awareness and take action to end racial and social injustice, advance gender equity, and promote the rights of all women.

Helen served as a state appointed member of the NJ State Task Force on Campus Sexual Assault and is a Co-Chairperson of the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking’s Legislative Committee, and a member of the Non-profit Steering Committee of Commerce and Industry Association of NJ. In 2019, Helen received the Crime Victim’s Rights Award from the NJ Office of the Attorney General and the Excellence Award of Victim’s Justice. She was also named among The Powerful Women of NJ in Senator Loretta Weinberg’s Women Power List from 2019-2023. In 2020, Helen received the Top 50 Women in Business from NJ Biz and the Top 25 Women in NJ Award from Leading Women Entrepreneurs. In 2021, Helen was recognized by Commerce & Industry Association of NJ (CIANJ) as a Women Leader on the Rise. In 2022 she was a finalist for the ATHENA Award through the Monmouth County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Helen is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University since 2005 in the School of Social Work. Her love for her work in social justice is only topped by her love for her husband and nine-year old twins.

Main photo credit: Independent Lens
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