Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ripples To Waves

The other night, the hubs and I watched Sin Nombre. We'd heard great things about this film and were excited to see it. We were very disappointed. The film is about two young adults trying to escape their life circumstances. One is trying to cross into the US through Mexico, the other is trying to outrun a life of gang violence. I kept hoping throughout the film for some...hope. There was certainly some redemption, but it was not nearly enough.

I kept wondering what the story would have been if the camera had been put in the hands of Mexicans, or Hondurans. Would the characters have had the same arcs? Would the ending have been the same?

I think about one of my favorite films of all time, Favela Rising, and how different that film was from this one. It dealt with some of the same issues: poverty, the slums of South America, gang violence, trying to find a way out of despair. But the crew of that film put cameras in the hands of Brazilians. The kids and young men and women of the slum told their own story through their own eyes. And the picture was SO vastly different from what was depicted in Sin Nombre. Favela Rising was a story of empowerment, hope, of love for one's own people and community, of the beauty and unbreakable spirit of a people. It was about the power of music, art, and creativity to heal, to transform, and to help people transcend their circumstances. And, even though the film was "created" by two "regular," US dudes, they gave cameras to the people who lived in the community they wanted to tell a story about. These two regular, US dudes then took the proceeds from the movie and invested ALL of the money back into the community that opened itself up to their cameras.

Granted, SN was fiction and FR non-fiction. But as crafters of story, we are the ones who edit and revise, and decide what the ultimate plot or arc will be. We are the ones who decide what the story is, whose story it is, and what the characters learn, discover, or accomplish.

Here's a quick snippet from Jeff Zimbalist, one of the directors of FR from his Director's Statement:
"It seems most people’s image of global harmony or disharmony is predominantly shaped by the media. When I find myself surrounded by stories of the world falling apart, naturally I imagine the world as a place falling apart. The more access I have to stories of communities that work, the more I imagine a world in which people are also realizing change and breaking the odds stacked against them. I am attracted to these vital and inspiring stories because it is in them that I find myself the most activated and alive."
Whenever people talk about not knowing what to do in their lives to change the way things are, I think about these kinds of simple, ordinary things people do all the time--in whatever capacity they can. Something as seemingly-minor as putting a camera in the hands of someone whose story has never been heard--you don't have to be a Spielberg or a Tarantino. Or giving voice to someone whose voice is usually not considered important/valuable/newsworthy/marketable. These small things are what it takes to make real, lasting changes. These are the things that inspire, spark a chain reaction, and create ripples that turn into large waves.

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