The Road to Decolonization
As ethnic, gender, and power dynamics become redefined throughout American culture and society at large, independent film faces similar challenges in finding its way forward. Join this forward-looking conversation with leading industry thinkers to consider and construct a more just and equitable future.
♪ Audio Jungle
(upbeat hip-hop music)
♪ Audio Jungle
- We're in a moment where we have to embrace who we are,
but we have to also understand that we come
from a lot of great places and a lot of great stories
and a lot of great cultures and races.
And we don't really have to prove anything to anybody.
- [Woman] I think that we need to realize
that telling our stories the way
that we want to tell our stories is our power.
♪ Audio Jungle
- First of all I'm David Magdael.
And this is my 20th Sundance.
It's a long reign.
And it's interesting looking around this room
and even on the streets this week,
it never looked like this 20 years ago.
So I applaud you guys for even coming and showing up,
and then for showing up to this today.
So give yourselves a round of applause please.
My day job is I'm a publicist
and I do most of my work in the documentary sphere.
I'm also one of the co-directors
of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
And for me personally this has always been my dream
that we could look across a room in Park City
and see all of these different faces.
And this room particularly today
is not just Asian-American,
because it is a center for Asian-American media,
but it's all of us.
And that's something that we were
talking about earlier with the panelists,
that this is a time for all
of us to collaborate with ourselves,
cross communities, all of our allies,
and encourage and support our older artists,
as well as the new ones that are coming up.
I think this is the moment,
I think like Don was saying,
this is the time, this is our time, this is your time,
and we need to own this time.
So I encourage you, so thank you for being here,
thank you for showing up,
and thank you for coming to Park City
because it's not cheap,
and its hard up here.
And they're hills.
(audience laughs) Anyway
And I also want to thank CAAM and the Sundance Institute
for allowing us to put this together being here,
because I think this conversation
is so important at this moment in time,
so thank you to CAAM and to,
it is Karim Ahmed for helping us
from the Sundance Institute to put this together,
please give them a round of applause.
So without further ado let's bring our panelists up.
From Level Forward I have Abigail Disney.
From Harness, it's Maria Maji please.
From ARRAY please welcome Tilane Jones.
(audience cheers and applauds)
And then representing the filmmakers,
my little brother Karim Amer.
This is so great.
As we were talking about,
we're looking at 2018, 2019
And I think a lot of us feel that there has been change
that's been going on in the air.
And I know we all felt it,
we felt it for a while,
for maybe the last two or maybe three years.
And I know in the artist community
people were talking about
I need to use my artwork,
I need to make change I need to resist,
be part of the resistance.
I don't know, I felt the other direction,
I felt we need to embrace and I think we as artists,
you as artists,
we as communities that you are speaking to,
we need to embrace ourselves.
Embrace our artists.
Embrace the agencies, embrace our allies
so that we're all working together.
But with that I want each one
of you to introduce yourselves,
and introduce the projects that you are working on,
and what all of your agencies do.
Because I want everybody out of here when we leave here,
we know who these four people are,
we know who CAAM is,
that way for those of you that are working
in the trenches as artists and filmmakers
you know where your resources can be.
So let's start with Abigail.
- Okay great,
hi, I'm Abigail Disney,
I started filmmaking only about 12 or 13 years ago,
but I was active in the nonprofit community
Around organizing and activism
with low income people around the world,
And that's why I started making films.
So I started a company called Fork Films,
made a film called "Pray the Devil Back to Hell"
a couple of years ago "The Armor of Light",
and "Women, War and Peace".
Which the second group of films
are gonna be on the air in March,
25th and 26th on PBS.
And about a year ago here at Sundance,
we founded something called Level Forward,
which I'm really proud of
and we are trying to get a critical mass
of women and people of color
and everybody else who's been left out of the picture
on the screen, off the screen,
behind the camera and every other way
represented and telling their own stories.
And let's move over to Maria.
- Thank you, hi everyone,
so my background,
this is actually the first Sundance I've ever attended.
I started my work as a community organizer,
really working in LA with communities of color,
doing work around access to healthcare and education.
And my life was completely flipped upside down
after the 2016 election,
as I'm sure some of you can relate with.
And one of the things that happened was
that there was this incredible push
of people from within the entertainment industry
who wanted to use their platform
to start to rectify some of the problems that they saw.
And initially I was very skeptical of that work,
and what happened,
and I can talk a little bit more about this,
is I started working with America Ferrera,
Wilmer Walteram and Ryan Pierce Williams,
three people who come from the entertainment world
and who felt very strongly
that we needed to bring together artists
who have this incredible power and storytelling capacity
with social justice leaders
and people from the most vulnerable communities
so that we can really reimagine a new world.
And so we do that through work with networks and studios,
we work with NBC, Universal,
Netflix, Sundance and others to do
a lot of work with executives and creatives.
And then we also do that through building community
between artists and activists for social change.
- And then,
And Tilane let's hear from you?
- Hi everyone.
Thank you for coming first of all,
my name is Tilane Jones,
and I'm vice president of ARRAY.
ARRAY is a film distribution collaborative
that was found by filmmaker Eva DuVernay in 2008,
and we distribute films by independent filmmakers
of color and women of all kinds.
We have now distributed 20 films over eight years,
and a lot of those films have come from
Different film festivals like Sundance,
and I think the mission of ARRAY
is really to just bring together audience activist
and artist and that's been
our mission over this eight years.
- And Karim represents the filmmakers,
and you have a film here at this festival right?
- I do.
my name is Karim Amer, I'm a filmmaker,
I'm Egyptian American,
and grew up between both countries.
And I had a film here a few years ago called "The Square"
About the Egyptian revolution and Tahrir Square,
and we had a film that played yesterday
called "The Great Hack" that just played.
Thank you guys.
And we have a production company
in New York called The Others,
and we picked that name a few years ago
because I've always,
I have refused to ever be reduced to a binary box
to identify who I am or to be reduced to that.
And I think that we are in a moment
where we have to embrace who we are as David was saying,
but we also have to understand
that we come from a lot of great places,
and a lot of great stories
and a lot of great cultures and races
and we don't really have to prove anything to anybody.
So I am all for doing what we want to do,
but I don't feel like I have to prove anything right now.
- No, exactly that.
And I think moving forward with that,
that's something that I think we,
I know a lot especially on the film looking side,
have strived for it,
you're creating things for the marketplace,
but you're creating what you feel that you want to.
And what we've seen too this year,
and I think a lot of us can attest to
is that we've seen the marketplace designate
what they want to see.
And I think of the top of my head,
everybody thinks "Black Panther" and "Crazy Rich Asians",
yes those were moments,
which was great and those were large.
But I'm thinking of something
that was even on FX like "Pose",
you'd never seen an episodic or stories
about the transgender and the transvestites
that were in the 80s,
and most of them were people of color.
But those stories were all rich,
and you look at who the production people
that were behind it and the creators,
and it was all of that.
But given that,
Karim can you talk about how that was for you as a filmmaker
going from community filmmaking to the marketplace.
And what do you see this as we move forward,
everybody is like, what's the next three to five years,
but what does it look like now and just beyond for you?
- That's a big question.
But I'll say--
- You've got 90 minutes.
- So I think what's interesting
from my personal journey at least
is first I feel like there's almost three stages
I don't know what language to use any more,
person of color making stories,
or immigrant or whatever word you want to use.
But coming from another community so to speak.
I think the first phase is
for me being Egyptian and being in this moment in history,
and being able to capture the story,
and then being seen as
it's important to pay attention
to a story happening over there
in this other world that's not part of the mainstream.
And I think that's the base level.
And then the next level is,
Oh my God there's a story
that's happening in a place over there,
and the characters in it we can relate to,
and we can see ourselves in them,
and that's when you can allow the other space
to mix with the main space
and create a bridge in your storytelling
to allow for people to see themselves
through this minority space.
And then you become the kind
of person to tell those stories,
and then of course because I'm Egyptian American,
obviously I would only want to tell stories
about Egypt for the rest of my life,
because I don't have any other story to tell.
I grew up as an immigrant,
I grew up in Miami half my life,
that's not part of it, but I'm an Egyptian filmmaker,
that's what I have to do.
And again that's why I refuse that binary,
I don't want to be forced to pick that.
Because that's to say that you
can only feel in a certain way,
your lens is limited to that lane only.
And so even in helping me and patting
me on the back and saying,
we want to help expand your lane,
there's a disconnect,
because it's saying what if
I have bigger aspirations than that lane,
what if I don't just want to be in that lane?
And so for me it became even more complicated,
because being Middle Eastern and American,
you're born on a crisis line of identity,
it is similar to other experiences of course as well
in its own way,
but the war on terror the last 18 years
has been a feeling like,
we have to wake,
a lot of us feel like we are losing our identity,
as our good friend Ray Amet says,
"Every day is tomorrow's headline."
That's kind of the feeling that we have.
So with Trump coming to power
it was like oh [bleep] what do we do,
we've got to team up and be all Muslim Americans now
and do all the Muslim stories.
And there was a part of me that was pushing to that,
and then I was like, you know what,
I don't feel that way right now.
And actually I'm gonna tell a story about America
that has nothing to do with immigration or identity,
and has to do with how democracy
is fundamentally falling apart,
because of how we are not being held accountable.
And I'm actually gonna tell an American story,
and that's gonna have nothing to do with who I am.
And I'm actually gonna be invisible,
but more visible than ever in a way.
And then you're gonna see a movie called "The Great Hack",
and its gonna be a rewriting of American history.
But it doesn't matter that it's made
by a guy named Karim and Jehane and immigrants,
and Pedro Kos, all immigrants to this country,
children of immigrants.
Reclaiming this narrative.
So I'm gonna do that,
and I don't care to be labeled as a cultural filmmaker,
or a person of color,
I care to be just a person telling my story, and that's it.
- What I do love is that you do embrace that.
You embrace that cultural-ness
that you do bring to the table.
I find a lot of times
some filmmakers who shy away from embracing who they are,
but like you said you want to tell that story
and that's a story that's burning inside you,
and you have every right to tell that.
- No, I fully embrace who I am,
but what I'm saying is,
I want to be respected for my heritage and who I am,
but I also don't want to
be reduced artistically to one individual space.
And I think that often times
when there's a helping hand
it's still because it's coming from a,
is coming from this perspective that you're gonna arrive,
your audition is coming,
you'll be like us one day,
we're trying to help you get here.
And it's kind of like,
but you don't understand
why my story has never been included anyway.
And I come from a great people,
my identity of cultural thought
wasn't born with the Renaissance.
I come from Egypt,
we've been telling stories for 5,000 years.
I don't need you to deem me worthy
and deem me knowledgeable and a creature of light,
the light didn't start with you actually,
read your history.
We don't have time to get into all of that.
And the fact that you don't know about my history,
and you don't know the numbers that you use
are coming from my land,
and half the science you use comes from my land
and you see me as an ignorant person who is a Jihadi,
that's your problem, that's on you.
I don't have to teach you, I don't have to correct you,
I don't have to retell the war on terror story,
that's on you, you [bleep] not me.
So you get your [bleep] together
(audience cheers and applauds)
- And you do that so well.
- No choice.
But let me just move over to Tilane,
I've been watching what you guys do over at ARRAY,
and we worked with you together on "Middle of Nowhere"
back in the day when Ava had won
the Best Director out of here,
and that was the opening.
It has always been open before,
but it just felt like that was a space
that all of a sudden the door opened
and this talent came through.
And I felt with ARRAY as a distribution arm of that
when you guys took that on and said okay,
no one is distributing
these independent films that speak to me,
or speaks to the people that we know or that you know,
and it's like how do we figure this out.
And then watching how you guys had done that.
Utilizing the community as that aspect to be that bridge,
so that then the films that don't get out there,
that may end up somewhere else that we don't know,
you guys are able to do that.
Can you talk about that genesis of where that came from,
because now you have opened up even more so,
now you have this creative space
in historic Filipino town in LA.
That really feels like this hub where people can come to
and actually exchange ideas
and develop things for each other.
So can you talk about what you guys are doing over there?
When we started in 2008
it was as a firm,
which was the African-American
Film Festival Releasing Movement.
And our focus was on films
by African-Americans and filmmakers
from the African diaspora,
but then along with that,
Ava started this,
because she knew that there would be no studio
that would want to distribute her films.
Films by a black women about black women.
And so along our travels as far
as the films that she's created,
the television shows she's created,
we saw that there was a need,
not just in our community
but in every community with people of color,
and also with women.
And so that's when we expanded
to include those filmmakers as well.
And as Karim was saying,
I think that with ARRAY
and what we do as far as
being that helping hand and being that distributor,
we're not here to tell you how to tell your story,
were just here to embrace it
and help you distribute the story.
Because like you said,
we know the struggle that you have to go through
to be able to create your film
and create your own identity as a filmmaker.
I think a lot of times filmmakers go through the process,
and they are always asked a question,
especially filmmakers of color,
about their experience as a person of color,
that's not what they should be asking about,
they should be asking you about the craft of filmmaking.
And so we saw that need through
the work that Ava has been doing,
and through the work that other filmmakers have been doing.
And so we have embraced that
and been able to distribute these 20 films,
and also open this campus in Los Angeles.
To embrace artists that are considered on the margins.
And that way we know that working together
we can get a lot farther than working separately.
And that's what ARRAY means.
- I agree,
and it's like we were talking
about things that are changing,
and I talk about "Pose",
but I also think about "Queen Sugar",
which is on the Own network,
and if you take a look,
I don't know if you guys have been able to go look at this,
but take a look at that,
because of the stories that are coming out of there
are stories that are out of New Orleans and Louisiana.
But these are stories of African-Americans
that we have never seen before.
And actors that we really kind of,
she was in "True Blood", and he was over there,
but these people are in leads, these are in lead roles,
and its every different hue of African-Americans.
That's always been that question,
oh, the light-skinned people get all the roles.
And you also embrace so many things,
I look at that as an example of what can be done,
because that's always that question,
we are in 2018 moving into 2019 and what can be done.
I look at what you guys have done and what Ava has done
with that particular TV show.
Because that writers room, we were at something
at the Arkwright and she said,
okay I need to look at,
these are the people from the writers room,
and that writers room group stood up,
it was like everybody and everything.
And then you look at who the directors are.
And who are the directors?
- They are all women directors for every single episode.
- [David] But they're not just black women right?
- They're not, they're all women.
So I think more importantly than absolutely the story,
because she's an African-American woman,
so she draws from the African-American community,
and it's about a family in the African-American community.
But more importantly is the fact
that the diversity in her crew,
as well as making sure
that every single episode is directed by a woman.
Every single season is important.
Not just for us, but for the industry,
to show that this can be done.
People are mystified by this happening,
but these are women who are very capable.
They were many of them filmmakers
who were just trying to get into the television industry.
And she allowed that to happen,
she opened that door for them.
So she's not the only one that can do this,
Karim can do this, we all can do this.
As creators and filmmakers and artists in the industry.
- And I think today or yesterday was Tessa Thompson
made this declaration that she is now gonna work with,
- In the next two or three years that's what her mantra is.
And I think that's the thing that we are looking for,
and I think that even not just us in this room,
but I think as a marketplace
I get tired of hearing these industry people,
oh we don't know where the people are,
we don't think there's these people,
or they might know one person.
So they know Karim,
or they know Justin Chan or something like that.
And in that film he had "Miss Purple" that's here,
and you look at that film
and it's like he could have played that role,
but he gave someone else
that opportunity to play the lead role,
because that was someone that never had that opportunity,
and he was able to do that.
So I look at these artists, like Ava, like ARRAY,
like you Karim, and you worked with Pedro Kos,
it's like bringing people on,
but not talking about it,
saying hey, look what I'm doing, but just doing it.
And I think that's the most important
And leading by example is what really is clear.
And I'm finding,
yes Ava's the bigger name, because she's out there in front,
but people are finally taking notice
of what all of that can be,
and what all of that is.
And Abigail, you've been in
the trenches a long time as an ally for everybody,
and I've watched you over the years,
so you've seen what has been going on.
What was that for you to say this is what I'm gonna do,
because you're Abigail Disney,
not to put you on the spot,
but I just think like,
we got Abigail Disney in the house,
I'm like okay great.
But then you don't have to, but you do.
- Yeah, thank you for appreciating that actually.
Because a lot of people say to me
why aren't you Paris Hilton,
you could have such an easy life.
Privilege is an interesting thing.
It's all about where you've been situated,
and you didn't ask to be situated.
Everybody knows at a certain point when
you're 13 or something you yell at your parents,
"I didn't ask you to be my parents."
And that kind of that's what privilege is,
I didn't ask for it, I didn't earn it.
And it means nothing about me good or bad.
What does say something about me good or bad
is what I do with that,
how aware I am of that, what I decide about that.
And I have this very high-profile last name,
and from a very early age
it just felt like it was asking something of me.
And I couldn't have articulated
that to you for a really long time.
But I just turned 59 two days ago.
I'm really only getting my head wrapped around it.
It gets dismissed in me by people
white people mostly, privileged people mostly
who don't want me to talk about this.
Because it's white fragility,
but there's a thousand kinds of fragility,
privilege fragility because it makes them uncomfortable.
Because it gets dismissed as guilt.
And guilt feels like such a dumb emotion,
it feels like what's the point
in that nobody gains anything.
But you know it's actually been pretty much the fuel,
and I wouldn't dismiss it as necessarily a horrible thing,
but what I've started to understand
is that there is a difference between what I'm guilty of,
which is mostly not much,
and what I'm responsible for, which is a hell of a lot.
And that's about how I was situated
in life and on this planet
and with certain gifts I didn't ask for,
but also with talents that I've developed.
And the trick is to go forward and figure that out.
Now I understand colonization
from a couple of different places.
Because obviously I am a person who allies all
of the kinds of privilege
that we're all talking about here.
But within my own family I'm also a girl.
And if you've ever read a room of one's own,
you'll know the kind of colonization that I'm aware of,
and I find that a lot of women
who come from highly patriarchal families like mine,
they are quick to align
with a more intersectional variety of feminism.
Because they come to understand what it
is to be marginalized at a very personal level.
Because marginalization, it may be political and structural,
but it feels personal no matter how it happens.
And we get it personal from day one.
So I think that's why I've made an effort
to be a listener
and to try to let myself learn from the people around me.
I'm actually starting a project
where I'm gonna be trying to talk
about white fragility to other white people,
because I feel like it's the barrier at this point
to having a genuine conversation.
And I'm beginning to think I want
to carry a little pin around
that says I'm not fragile,
you can tell me if I say something stupid.
I said something stupid to Tilane just 10 minutes ago.
I think you remember what I was talking about,
when people married each other, anyway.
- I wish I had been wearing a pin that says I'm not fragile,
so Tilane could say, "Oh Abby that was some [bleep] there."
Because a lot of [bleep] pours out
of my mouth and sometimes it's stupid.
Karim, what you just said now was so powerful to me.
And it's like you're the people who [bleep],
this is your problem,
it's not my job to educate you.
So for the allies among us we sit here and we go,
so where am I gonna get my education from?
What I've learned over time is
by shutting the [bleep] up.
And I know it's me holding a microphone saying that.
But it's on us in many cases
where we have been handed more power than we have earned
to give some of it away.
Because less of it has been handed
to other people than they have earned,
and that's just too bad for you.
So I'm watching my daughter is a filmmaker,
who has a film in the festival,
short film as a producer, which is super cool.
And I watched, she's 27,
I watch her and her 27 year old male friends,
and I watch the way the male friends
have their foot on the gas 100% all the time,
never question themselves, no self-doubt, no nothing.
And I watch the way she with the same education
and the same background and the same opportunities
Doesn't feel ready, doesn't feel smart enough, doesn't feel,
it's still going guys, we have so much work to do.
We have so much work to do.
And I wish I could get to some
of those guys who I don't fault at all,
because they are just doing
what their insides are telling them to do.
I wish I could get to them and say
"Can you just slow your roll for a second?
"Because you could use some self-doubt,
"first of all it would be good for you."
But just take a look around you,
ask some harder questions,
do we really need another movie
about a struggling artist from Wesleyan who really
is doubting whether he should stay
with his girlfriend or not.
Or is there a better more different story to tell?
It all comes back to Paris Hilton.
Because I'll tell you something,
and I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
Paris Hilton, Donald Trump,
they are hurting inside
more than you could possibly imagine.
Privilege is painful, privilege is toxic.
Privilege is [bleep] poison.
And if you don't find a way
to bring yourself into a better position with it,
if you don't question it, trot it out,
look at it, dissect it,
let other people give you [bleep] for it.
If you're too fragile to be able to talk about it,
it's gonna eat you alive.
And I have seen people hollowed out
from the inside like Japanese beetles eat the tree,
and then one day they just crack.
So there is damage to us in this too,
we are hurting ourselves
by holding this structure in position.
And so in making ourselves allies
we are giving ourselves an incredible gift
of a better future that looks like this room,
which is my favorite kind of room to be in.
(audience cheers and applauds)
- Thank you, that was great.
And Marya, for you as well as for Harness,
where do you see your vision
and what do you want everybody in this room
to take away from what you're doing at Harness.
What can we do to help you do
what you guys want to do over there?
so I think part of the conversations we've been having
before this panel was about skepticism.
And this idea of this is a moment,
and there have been other moments like this,
and how do we really know that anything is gonna change,
and how do we structurally think about this work.
Because this is an industry
that at the end of the day doesn't have a moral center,
it's driven by financial incentive.
So how do we make sure that we are thinking about
the next three, five, 10 years.
Because we are in this incredible moment of transition.
So I want to talk a little bit about how we understand that.
I think there's a few things.
The first thing I would say is that
there is the kind of social political reckoning
that's happening in this country.
That this administration has really highlighted.
But beyond that there's the demographic shift
which all of us know about,
which is that we are gonna be a majority minority country
in a few decades and I think that
that is an incredibly powerful thing,
I also think an incredibly powerful thing
is the advent of digital media and social media.
I don't think we can underplay,
I think we're so used to talking about it
that we don't realize how important it is
in terms of being able to use it to advocate
and to push back.
So when it's no longer cool
to talk about intersectionality,
we're still gonna have new tools at our disposal
to be able to intervene.
And I think that's really important.
As an organizer,
one of the things that I think is really important
is we always give up our power.
We never acknowledge what is it that we can actually do.
And then the last thing I would say is that
financially you're seeing a disruption of the market.
And so the conversations that Harness is having with NBC,
with Universal, with Netflix, with other industry partners,
they're like, we don't really know
what our audiences is asking of us,
we don't know how to tell diverse stories, they know that.
And they also know that
they could become irrelevant, honestly.
And so they are in this vulnerable moment,
and that's when you go in
and you make big asks and you are audacious,
because we have leverage right now.
So how do we use that leverage in a structural way?
I'm very organizer so I apologize talking
to a group of artists.
So some of the ways that we've been doing this work
is we've been working with our industry partners
to really think through not just hiring process
we work directly with executives and creatives
around how do they think about funding new projects,
how do they not only get educated
and broaden their understanding,
but connect with their heart space,
and use their personal stories and personal experiences
to connect with people outside of their bubble.
A lot of the work that we've done, especially initially,
has been working directly with writers rooms and creatives.
So an example of something we did was
we had big main stage event
in Hollywood at the beginning of 2017,
we had people like Shonda Rhimes and Katy Perry
and heads of studios in the audience.
And onstage were people from Standing Rock
and people that were leading the Trans Community Movement,
and people that were dealing with the Muslim ban.
The people that were undocumented,
the people that were the founders of Black Lives Matter.
And they spoke and they shared their voice.
And the president of NBC called us
and said I want you to come in and speak to my writers room,
to speak to my show runners, all of them.
And so we did a program with the show runners,
and then they were like, "Can you do this again?"
And we said "No, you're gonna pay us,
"and we're gonna pay our communities."
And so a big part of this has also been
making the business case to understand that the investment,
they need to make an investment
in the incredible knowledge and expertise
that diverse communities bring to the table.
They can't just be making money off
of our communities all the time,
without paying us for it.
And so that's part of the work that we're looking at,
and I think for us it's about a sprint honestly
in the next two or three years
how can we make the audacious asks,
how can we change things structurally
within these companies.
And one of the most exciting partnerships
has been with Netflix and digital media companies,
because they are so ready
and hungry to do something different.
So how can we think ambitiously.
- Can I just add to that?
I didn't say much really
about what Level IV was structurally,
but you just named it.
So we are structuring into the projections
financial projections of every project we do.
What it's gonna cost us to pay communities
and not for profits to consult with us from the beginning,
from the first word on the page to the end of the process.
Partly because it's smart
to build a community for your project.
But because they deserve to be paid for their work.
And it's all about
what are you structuring into your financials,
that's what's gonna stay, and things will pass,
and the word intersectional will go away,
but we want the structure to stand regardless.
So what you put into your P and L has everything to do,
what's above the line has everything
to do with what your priorities are,
so were also structuring gun neutrality
into all of our films.
Which I know this isn't what
this room is currently here for,
but for every gun we see on screen,
we're gonna take two and destroy them off screen.
So we want to take from top to bottom
the entirety of what it is to be
a good person on this Earth and to spread good on the world
and structure it financially into everything we do.
- I think what all the panelists are really saying is that
it's this decolonization
of the industry its multidimensional.
It's everywhere, it starts from the artist
from when you start to write your script,
what your writer's room looks like.
It goes into production and what your crews look like,
it goes into who you choose
at a distributor for the work that you're creating.
And also in your audience and advocates.
We have a row here of volunteers
that help on every single release that we have,
we call them ARRAY mavericks.
They are mavericks because
they are here supporting your work.
So I think artist should just remember
that everything you do throughout the whole process,
make sure that people throughout the process look like you,
and look like the world that you want to have.
- And I agree with that.
So you're talking with studios,
and I know you named the reactions,
is it really real?
Are they just giving you face time,
like, "Oh yeah, why don't you talk to our writers room?"
And then is that it,
and then they can just say well they talked,
wait a minute, I've got like 10 projects
that Karim is doing, Jehan is doing,
Tilane and we're in bed with them, Ava DuVernay,
we've got Shonda Rhimes and we have got America Ferrera,
so it feels sometimes often like a checklist.
It's like I did this one.
- Right now it's cool.
- Is cool right?
- White guilt is high.
And we've got to cash in on it, I'm serious.
Because there's two years left.
Let's talk practically here let's talk seriously.
68% of white women voted for Donald Trump
Instead of Hillary Clinton their own constituent.
And I'm not gonna talk about my support
for Hillary Clinton or not, but that's beside the point.
They didn't support their own constituent.
So the crisis of American identity
spiraling is happening among the white community,
and it's because it's clinging onto a false mythology.
And that's where we have to kinda get into.
We have to really, we are at a breaking point,
we have to either decide that we want these values,
like democracy and these big words
we like to think all American.
And if we want them then we have
to rid ourselves of these false stories.
The story of colonization which the story is based on,
this country is built on.
The origin sin of initial colonial genocide
that happened to the native people,
let's just talk about that and get that into the front line.
Slavery, let's just own that,
and have an actual conversation about this,
and treat it like the Holocaust,
and actually get to a conclusion on it,
as opposed to having this constant issue.
Let's talk about how this country was built on colonizing.
America is the master of the world,
but it's built on the backs of our lot of colonial activity.
Whether it be capitalistic,
whether it be wars with no end in sight.
We are the Empire, so let's start here,
and we have to reclaim these stories
and think about what we're gonna do about them.
Even what you were saying Abby, the idea of the gun.
Yes, that's part of the American social identity,
the cowboy saves the day.
So unless we start to change that story
where that's always gonna be,
you're depriving an entire part of the population
from seeking out what they see a hero as.
The hero has the gun,
so that's what they see.
And telling people they can't have guns,
you have to change the mythology first.
You have to change that from being the aspiration
of seeing that that's the only way that you can have power.
At the end of the day it comes
to the fact that power has been co-opted
by an oligarchical institution
that runs this country right now,
and we have to hold power accountable.
And that power is blue and red,
it's not about Democrat versus Republican,
we're dealing with oligarchs versus pirates.
I think we're pirates
and we're robbing the booty while it's okay.
And we have to use that to steer
these massive ships to shore,
because they need direction, and that's on us.
And we have to do that by reclaiming these narratives,
reclaiming the stories.
And hopefully America decides
to tell its own story honestly.
And I think I believe,
the romantic side of me believes
that America actually does want to tell that story,
and there's more of us with
that burning fire in our hearts to tell that story.
Who won't sleep at night
and who won't stop until that story is told.
And we don't have to be the majority,
we have to be the dedicated few
who keeps showing up and keeps doing it.
And every time I come to these groups and see all of you,
and all of these people were here to seek to do that.
It keeps me going, it keeps my fuel coming.
And that's why we have to show up for each other
and these types of panels,
that's why we have to talk about institutional change.
And that's why we have to show
up to each other's screenings.
Because at the end of the day,
if we don't make this into a business opportunity
we are always gonna be a side order.
Throw a little minority spice on it.
I don't want to be a side order.
I don't want to be a kimchi and hummus.
- Kimchi is really good.
- I know,
but I think we got,
seriously, America should look at
we have penetrated the American cuisine,
it's a lot richer because of us.
And we've actually seen now
the dishes that used to be minority
are now very much in the majority.
We need to do the same thing
on the filmmaking and media landscape,
but allow it to be fresh and real.
Because homemade hummus is better than Sabra,
you know what I'm saying?
- In all seriousness Karim,
you said something really important,
which was we've got two years left of the white guilt,
and there is a real danger that in 2021
lots of liberal white folks are like okay,
we did it, we got rid of Donald Trump,
now everything is fine.
They will do that because the American narrative
is also that a hero comes along,
or a law gets passed.
And liberals love that narrative,
because it's such a simple ask
it's not asking for people to genuinely change structures,
it's not asking them to give things away.
So we have to be fighting like hell for two years.
But we also have to be planning like hell for 2021.
- Well also too I look in this room,
there's a lot of younger people that are here.
And you guys have the power.
You guys are having the power to make that change
and what we are all talking about here.
Because you've got veterans
and you're standing on the shoulders of everybody,
but this is your moment as well,
so don't feel like, I can't do this,
I don't know what I'm gonna do.
You just have to do.
I see some of these filmmakers that are here,
and they have been working in the trenches a long time.
And I know for all of us we all want to support them.
And it's like what you were saying,
it's like we have to show up.
So it's on all of us from the artist
all the way down to the audiences
that you guys are making your films for,
or making your art for,
and that's what we have to encourage.
But I look at people who are in their 20s,
and I am older than that.
But it's like this type of room,
these types of things that are going on now
is something that I've always was hoping we would get there.
It's taking a long time, but we are here,
but it's not over and like you said, it's a sprint.
But I don't want to look at it is a moment
I want to look at it as a movement,
and I think that's what I got from you Karim
when we were working on "The Square" together.
Because there was that movement
in Egypt that was just changing,
every day people said, uh-uh
and then got somebody else in and they said no,
we don't like you too,
so two months later we had to change it again.
But I think you guys, and I speak to the people who are
say less than 40, you guys can do this.
And the people that are older than 40 continue to do this.
So this isn't it, and don't rely on us here to do it.
You guys are individuals
who can bring something to the table.
The fact that you came up here to Park City says a lot.
First of all that an investment
in time and an investment in money.
You came here, you're here.
But can we throw it to the audience,
and let's have that discussion?
If you guys have any questions just raise your hand.
You have a microphone, and then we can do that.
Because I think we want to hear
from what you guys have to say.
And I've got Lisa here in the front
if you want to start with her.
- Hi thank you everybody for everything you do.
And what I have been thinking about,
I am one of the co-producers of the film "Always in Season"
which is looking at the legacy
of lynching in the United States.
And that world premiered here yesterday.
And the credit very much goes to Jackie Olive the director,
so I want to put that right out there.
What I find really, really interesting
is as people of color,
especially I really focus
on producing work by directors of color.
We are often telling stories and putting stories out there
that don't make white audiences
or straight audiences or male audiences comfortable.
And I am getting very, very comfortable
with knowing that the work is gonna
make a bunch of people uncomfortable.
Including the reviewers,
and I'm getting very used now to analyzing the reviews.
Which are still mostly written,
the big reviews are still mostly written
by white male reviewers.
And there is a whole huge PhD in that alone.
And how they are receiving the stories that are being told
by more diverse filmmakers.
And what I want to share is
let us not stop telling our stories
the way we are going to tell them,
and the way we need to tell them,
and the way we want to tell them,
and the way we love to tell them.
And they way we know
that our communities understand intrinsically.
And if other people don't get it
and if other people are uncomfortable, F it,
too bad for them, they're gonna get used to it,
so there you go.
- This is our power.
I think we need to realize that telling
our stories in the way we want
to tell our stories is our power.
All of these things that we have
been talking about as a community,
we have known this for a long time
and people are just catching up.
So whatever story you're telling,
whether it's uncomfortable to tell that story,
it's just as important.
We just need to live in this power
and make sure that we continue to create this work,
because it's a beautiful.
At the end of the day it's a human story,
no matter what the cast looks like,
no matter what the crew looks like,
and we just need to embrace it and run with it,
because now is the time.
- I have a question on that.
I think it is important to tell our stories,
but if nobody sees our stories, then what's the purpose.
Like how do we--
- Because you have distributors, you have an audience.
- Exactly, but how do we hack the system,
how do we make sure that the stories,
that there aren't just a couple of hits
that then take off,
oh look we did a minority think this year,
and that this becomes,
how do we use this moment to really
turn this into a real business model.
And I think we have to push distribution,
we have to push hits.
And even if that means subsidizing certain costs
and certain ways, to make sure that some of these, you know,
it's not putting a high as much of a burden
on some of these projects, so that they do get made
and coming in with other places to get the output, like,
how do we use each other's reaches
to actually push each other out there.
Make sure that everybody's talking about this amazing film
for example, that's here at Sundance.
How do we work together in that sense?
Because if we don't push to make this
into a sustainable business model,
that's my worry about what you're saying.
It's like two years from now, all right,
that was a cool trend, and then it's over.
- We continue to organize.
We continue to get together.
We continue to, you know, become a movement, you know,
this is a movement, that's how we do it.
We need to, you know, look back to our past and how,
you know, people politically, and in every forum,
have gone grassroots and created organizations and movements
and every single level of that, and take that,
and make sure that that's the cycle that we're pushing.
I think that's how we continue to do it.
But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't tell our story,
we absolutely should,
because that's gonna be the base of it all.
- And we have to support them as well.
- So a couple of thoughts.
The first one is, this is just coming up as something
I feel like I should say which is, as people of color
that come from diverse backgrounds one of the things
that I do think it's important to acknowledge is like
who is the most vulnerable?
And I think sometimes like we don't really,
we don't always do the work internally ourselves,
like I've been on this journey of like really trying
to learn about this country and about the world.
I just came back from tracing my family history,
and the colonization, decolonization,
that's like a real thing.
Like I went and I saw that.
It was really heartbreaking.
But, you know, for example, one of the things
that I've spent two years, like, trying to learn a lot more
about is the Native American communities in this country.
I feel like that's like acknowledging indigenous history
and peoples is such an important part of the reckoning
that this country has to have.
So I just think that, I wanna say that to the room,
is that you know we don't want to be congratulatory
about telling our stories and patting ourselves on the back
but not really thinking deeply and critically
about like what that means.
The second thing I would say is that I feel like, you know,
there's this fear that we have which is that, you know,
this has happened before
and we're used to being marginalized and I understand that,
that's so real and honest,
but I think sometimes it doesn't allow for us to acknowledge
that there are structurally things that have changed.
There are structurally things that are different now.
So one of them being the demographic reality
that's going to drive the finances of projects, right?
I think like honestly that's a huge power,
I think one of the things that is amazing about ARRAY is,
like, how do we organize our own communities
to go out and watch our own projects, right?
But, like, I think that that is a sea change
that's going to have to change this business.
Another thing I would say is with digital media again,
it's a more democratic way of getting our stories out there,
and it gives us a way to kind of hack into the system,
so I think there's lots of ways we can talk about tactics,
but I don't want us to come from a place of, like,
this is historically always what's happened
and not recognize our power
and also recognize the incredibly real opportunity
that exists right now.
- Yeah, I wanna reinforce that because way back
when many of you were in grade school I was working
with Marie Wilson
on something called the White House Project,
we were working on images of women's leadership in media,
and we went to ABC and we met with them
and they talked to them and we came up with this series
called Madam President and that was great,
but it was the moment,
and we worked with them on story ideas.
We've done a lot of this already you know 25 years ago.
But the ABC got jittery,
they were uncomfortable with it,
even though much of their leadership was actually female
at the time, and they handed, they took the showrunner
off of it and gave it to someone else,
who started to write stories more about the first man,
and how uncomfortable it was for him to be in that position,
and within a year the ratings plummeted
and they took it off the air.
So it was only on the air for two seasons,
and so something has changed for sure,
because that wouldn't happen that way,
there would be a community of people who would be too loud
for them to do what they did,
in terms of taking off with the showrunner.
I mean, we didn't have the internet.
We didn't have the benefit of the internet at the time.
There is so much that is in your hands right now,
that is so powerful that you need to recognize,
appreciate and even do an inventory of all the powers,
magic powers, that you have right now,
that we didn't used to have and all that has changed,
and lock arms with each other,
and teach the people who are uncomfortable that
that's not discomfort that's just learning.
And, you know, just keep coming at them
and making them uncomfortable because
that's the only way anything's going to change.
- But I think also too, for everybody in this room
and people who I think are being,
you're taping this and televising this, anyway somewhere.
But I think anybody who's ever, who's watching
what we're talking about, it's really incumbent
upon our audiences and the people that are
in the communities, the people who can come out
and support these works, because if we don't have
that audience, like you were saying earlier,
we're not gonna be able to keep pushing this out
and that financial model will not work.
And we'll be this,
we'll always be able to overhear the side issues.
- Yes, and we need the audience
and we need people of color to traverse
into kind of telling stories that don't necessarily match
with their identity.
You know, like I was in a meeting, where we wanted to,
you know, Ava's someone who I love,
and who I've always looked up to,
and have a good relationship with,
and we wanted to approach bringing Ava onto a project.
And the reception was, well,
it doesn't feel like it's an ARRAY type project.
And basically what they were saying nicely was like,
'cause they do like color stories and this is like not that
so like why would you go there, you know, type of thing,
and I'm like, but they're good producers,
like it's not about that, you know what I mean?
But that's kind of how, with all the success,
there still is that.
It's like, oh it's not, you know, about that,
so why would you go there?
And it's like we're not in that, it's not...
So at what point is the audition over, you know what I mean?
What else does Ava have to do, for example,
to not be seen that way?
And if she's seen that way,
imagine how much everyone else is seen.
So like that's the thing we have to take advantage of,
and I think it's like it's amazing to get the minority
and put them on the board and put them on the panel
and put them on this but at the same time we have to be able
to get people throughout the whole ecosystem to be able
to do that or else you're just brought in as the feel good.
It's like look we had 50% more this year,
and look at the colors of the people in the street,
and look at the... You know, and that's all wonderful,
and I'm sorry I'm not trying to be alarmist
but the reason I say this is two things.
One, I agree with you, Abi, technology's changed things,
but I've just made a film about
how technology actually is making us more into silos
and actually we're in more of bubbles
than ever we've been before,
so actually technology is a double edged sword.
So it is problematic, yes it's a weapon
but it's also a crippling tool,
so we have to be careful which it is.
Secondly, I view that we're at war right now,
I'm sorry, I'm just gonna say it straight up.
This is a war against the open society.
It has been waged all over the world.
For some of us who have been living
in these minority communities, it's nothing new,
but the stakes are epic,
because we're talking about this is a forest
that is now moving into fascist realities
across the entire world, right?
And the entire image of what a world could look like
post World War II, where some idea of human rights was
forged after we burned half the world upside down
is now being unraveled and that's a major crisis
because in that world we don't exist,
we go back to tribalism, we don't have multiculturalism,
we don't have the open society
so we have to really look at ourselves and realize
how are we going to win this war?
Because it is at that level
and it is a very sophisticated level,
and it is being funded at the highest level
Oligarchs from the same backgrounds using technology,
using mythology to ignite people's fears,
using the same tools that got Barack Obama elected
to now use them to sell fear instead of hope,
and guess what?
Fear sells more, unfortunately, but it does,
and that's what's happening.
So I hate to be alarmist but from where I'm sitting
that's how I see things.
- So, from where we're sitting, Karim, a lot of that is
about whose hands are on the capital, because, you know,
Ava has brought a lot of money into this space
and brought a lot of organizing in this space,
but she can't, unfortunately, be the whole thing
because the whole thing is billions and billions of dollars
and we're talking about tens of...
- And many decades old.
- Yeah, and so...
- We've only been kinda going through this
for this amount of years, we have a long way to go,
but I think like as someone whose closely worked with her,
use her example.
She did not come into this industry to be
in the studio system.
She came into the industry to tell her story
and she was going to do it however it was necessary
for her to do it.
She built her own, I think that is the example
that everyone should take, that with ARRAY,
with everything that she's done, it came from a place
of really, truly wanting to tell her story,
however she needed to tell it,
and whether it was one person in the theater
or if it was a thousand people in the theater,
it didn't matter, you know?
I think that's how we can shift the system is that we know
what the system is, we know how we want to change it,
so create your own.
This is what independence is about,
this is what this festival's about
and this is what being an independent filmmaker is about
and absolutely we wanna be embraced by the studio system
and all that, we all wanna be seen and heard
and all those things, just as human beings,
but I think her best example is the fact
that a lot of these things, you know,
she worked as a publicist and a marketer,
she figured it out, right?
And did it for herself.
And so that's what we have to do,
we have to do it for ourselves.
- I'm not saying,
I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for...
- Oh absolutely, yeah.
- And for all you guys and ARRAY, what I'm saying is like,
I'm just using it as an example of like being in a setting,
where I was like,
when I suggested ARRAY as a production partner,
I wasn't seeing ARRAY as a, through any color lens.
- But in the room there was still that,
I mean that was shocking to me,
because I was like at what point,
what else do you have to do to not be seen that way.
- You have to create your own.
You know what I mean?
You have to create your own room,
you have to create your own space,
you have to create your own audience, your own.
We have models like Netflix.
We have so many, you know, avenues where we can do that,
that if someone tells you that in the room,
number one, come to me, don't go to them.
You know what I mean?
So there's always an alternative.
You know what I mean?
And they use those weapons to make us feel like this.
And right now we have so much power,
we don't have to feel like this.
- Let's take another question from the audience.
The young lady right here please.
- Hi, I'm Noelle Lindsay-Stewart from Define American.
We are a media advocacy organization dedicated
to shifting the narratives around immigration
and immigrants, just making America a more welcoming place.
I wanted to touch on what you said about like us being
at war essentially and I think one of things
and one of the problems that we face is infighting.
We've been fed this myth of scarcity of resources,
with like colonization we look at everything
through like our community's relationship to whiteness.
And that has resulted in a lot of anti-blackness
in certain immigrant communities,
a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment in black communities,
and antisemitism, all across.
How can we, as creators, as filmmakers, as content creators
start to hold our own communities accountable for that,
and bridge down those walls
so that we can be like truly intersectional
and like work for shared liberation?
- Yeah, I wanna...
Hi Noelle and Define American is amazing.
- [Noelle] Love you Marya.
So one of the things that we do at Harness,
and I think this is not just an organizational thing,
this is like an approach, a modality,
that we all need to start thinking about, is how do we get
into deep relationships with each other, and how do we start
to address the really uncomfortable things in the room,
like anti-blackness when we talk about immigration,
or you know there's this incredible research
that just came out that said immigration is like incredibly
unpopular on the left.
Forget the right!
- [Noelle] Less than 8% like of the left
actually is pro-immigrant.
- Yes, exactly.
So I mean, when we, if we wanna talk about like
our own people, right, we've got a lot of work to do.
One of the things that we do is that we host an annual
retreat where we bring together
a hundred artists and activists every year,
and we bring together kind of like the leaders
of social justice movements from different parts
of the country.
Most of whom have never met each other,
which is so, so shocking.
And then we bring together artists
from very diverse communities
and then they spend three days together
in deep conversation and the shifts that have happened
and the way that people have started talking
about their work and the types of amazing art
that have come out of that is transformative,
but it requires us slowing down,
and not feeling that scarcity of resources
and that competitive feeling, right?
Because that's all capitalism, that's all,
we're steeped in this colonization, right,
it's like, it's occupying our minds
and really being intentional
about building deeper relationships and listening
and visiting each others communities', like
that's really where we're going to imagine a way forward.
- You have a question over here.
So just a quick note before I even ask my question,
in terms of the term colonization,
I love that we're using it in the context of like
almost interchangeable with whiteness 'cause like
ask a Filipino or a Korean what color their colonizer is
and it's Japanese.
So already it's you know the timing is really interesting.
But I did have a question specifically about if you are,
you know, an Asian American, what advice do you guys have
for Asian Americans who don't necessarily have
their motherland any more?
You know Egypt still exists, Japan still exists,
China still exists.
Hawaii, we don't have our country any more,
Okinawa doesn't have their country any more,
and are we somehow betraying our people
if we align ourselves as Asian Americans
and where do we kind of draw that line
and at what point are we sacrificing our identity
by aligning as an Asian American?
- That's deep
- I think there's room for a lot of different stories.
And it doesn't have to be specific to, you know,
a region or your race, or you know, where you're from.
America is so diverse.
And there's just again the human story you know
I think we can all relate to each other no matter
what the color of our skin or our experience is,
you know just being Americans or living in America,
so there's tons of room for stories and I think
that we shouldn't feel limited in the types of stories
that we tell.
We shouldn't feel like we should have to tell one type
You know, as a people, we have so many stories to tell,
so I think that we're limiting ourselves
when we feel like we have to, you know,
touch on a certain motherland or touch on a certain topic
or touch on a certain thing.
You know just tell the story about your experience.
My family is South Asian and we've been in diaspora
for over a hundred years and so it's been interesting
because I don't feel a connection to India at all,
and in fact it's a genocidal fricking government currently
that's trying to kill us
so it's not a great place to connect with.
I mean I just came from there and saw the colonization,
but, I, so what I would say is also there's a specificity
of place and experience that's really important to a story
and it doesn't have to be by country,
like I also think country is a construct of colonization,
So how do we think about like the place that we're from
and the people that we're from in a broader way.
- Other questions from the audience.
- Hi, I'm Shirley Sneve,
I run the Vision Maker Media.
We're the American Indian and Alaskan Native consortia
like CAAM, only we're...
- And you have a film here, right?
- What's the name of your film?
- Words From A Bear by N. Scott Momaday, biopic.
I just wanted to acknowledge
that we're on the traditional lands of the Ute,
and the Gosiute, and the Shoshone.
But I also wanted to talk about what happened last week
in Washington DC with the indigenous people's march,
the Hebrew Israelites, the Make America Great children
and all of the controversy that has come from that
and that nobody's listening to each other
and it's really gonna make or break us as a country,
unless we just quit social media
and only listen to what we wanna listen to.
I mean we don't have newspapers any more.
That used to be our common ground, was the newspapers.
I mean I still get the newspapers
but if they quit the crossword puzzle,
I'm quitting the newspaper.
But how do we take what we do as filmmakers and story makers
and be uniters, you know?
And we can learn from each other and respect each other.
- I did make an attempt in that direction
when I made Armor of Light.
You know my name is revered among right wing people.
They just love my uncle Walt so very much.
And I decided that, because you have to ask yourself,
why was I born in a position this way, why?
There has to be reason.
And I thought maybe this is what it is.
White Evangelical Christians support gun culture by,
you know, 90 plus percent.
You know, unquestioned, unlimited guns in the hands
of pretty much everybody everywhere all the time.
So to me having been raised in a Catholic family,
it just doesn't strike me as a Christian position,
it's not how I was taught.
So I thought perhaps I could reach
into the right wing Christian community
and in all good faith and love you know go
into some of those churches and say, you know,
what the [bleep], you know?
And I found a pro-life evangelical minister
who wanted to work with me, 'cause he thought I was right.
Even though he had a deep history of virulent homophobia
and sexism and racism, he had a long history of awfulness,
but he and I would go into these churches
and I would say look I'm a pro-choice feminist.
I mean that's like saying you're satan in these churches,
and I have been all my adult life,
but I don't think you're crazy,
and I don't think you're stupid,
and I really, really just wanna talk to you.
And in every single case they wanted to talk to me back.
And there was an extraordinary conversation,
and there was much more common ground on talking about guns
than anybody would think.
So I'm not sure the newspapers, or the networks,
have helped us as much as we think they have
because what they do is they narrow things down
and they offer the voice to the loudest,
the drunk at the end of the bar guy, and what I found was,
in these rooms, like, after the film we'd do the Q & A
and the loudmouth would get up,
and he would say like bullying and things,
and he was really obnoxious
and he was Bill O'Reilly, you know, in every single church,
but when he was done, I would say,
not, I wouldn't engage with him,
I would say thank you so much for your input,
I really appreciate your honesty
and I'm just wondering if anybody else has anything to say.
Then there came a really nice conversation.
So I have made real actual deep friendships
with right wing people, and let's just admit it
they're our Achilles heel.
We're just all full of love and everything,
an embrace for everybody except for right wing people,
and I understand why because there's a hell of a lot
of racism happening there.
But there is hiding underneath the very loud vitriol,
there is a lot of room for conversation,
and I was gonna say earlier
in terms of this being a viable business plan,
that's a pretty coherent community,
like just speaking as a marketing person,
that could be reached out to and they have, you know,
in terms of marketing, pretty targeted media
that speak to them, and we're ignoring the hell out of them
and they wanna here from us,
They are under thirty, are so much more positive
about homosexuality, so much more positive on race,
so much more positive on immigration,
so much more positive on gay marriage
than you can ever imagine.
The under thirties are only different from you
basically about choice.
And so if you wanna make some conversation
that will actually change people
I suggest you try reaching out to evangelicals.
- We have a point, over here.
- I have a, I think also with the stories you tell,
like we have a, in our film that played yesterday,
one of the main characters she began as an Obama intern,
and was there when they were setting up the Facebook page,
and was deep in the social media,
creation of political social engagement and then she's been
on a pretty crazy journey and we'll save that for the movie
but she ends up at like you know as one of the lead people
at Cambridge Analytica and working on the Trump campaign,
and I think in seeing her journey, we kind of see,
we go into these, kinda both worlds in a way,
and glimpses of it
and kind of understand how people can be shaped
and can be moved and can traverse and can live in gray.
And we need to embrace the gray, you know,
I think is the answer, we need to, you know,
I think one of the things that we do with,
the films I love are always the films that try to, you know,
they enter areas where there is a deficit of language
Where we don't have the actual vernacular
to explain how we feel or what's happening,
and the film can create that opening.
And so I think use your craft to do that, you know,
and force, and then bring people into it,
as Abi's saying, from all walks of life,
but I think the responsibility of the artist is
to create that space, right, to create that portal,
and then make it accessible to all walks of life
and make it accessible and like the biggest compliment
that comes to me is when someone who comes
from a totally different political identity can relate
to my film because to me that means that like
I've pierced through the shield of politics
and I've tapped into humanity,
and that's the power that we have,
that's the gift that we have,
that's the ultimate privilege that we have,
is the ability to tell these stories that can do something.
- May I just react to-- (audience claps)
to something, Abi, that you just said.
And I think, the reason I wanna share this is
because I think it has everything to do with perspective,
and upbringing and culture.
So much of what you've said today has I think been brilliant
but you just made a comment about how you have deep
and lasting relationships with people who are right wingers.
And I liken that to the difference between me,
who is of African and Chinese descent
and grew up on welfare, and maybe you,
is that I make up in my mind that you're the person who,
when Thanksgiving dinner is held,
and family members from all over gather at the table
and a difficult conversation comes up,
the matriarch of your family can say
"yeah, but we don't wanna talk about that now,
it's Thanksgiving, we don't want to discuss this
at the family table"
and then we table it.
In my family, it's life or death, right?
We don't have the ability to say,
this is probably not the forum,
and we don't wanna hurt people's feelings,
and let's maintain and recognize and understand.
I say that because in the context of young filmmakers
I think everyone has to know what your role is.
This is not a homogenized group, right?
People come at it different ways,
and some people are going to advocate for some things,
and some people are going to advocate for others.
I just want to say that in my entire life,
I don't think, and I'm 67 years old,
I have not and cannot make a statement
that I have lifelong deep relationships with right wingers,
I'm not going to, because in order for me, just me,
coming from where I come from,
and somebody in my family may have a different perspective,
but I want to give these young people the option
of not going along with what you said,
because I think it is important to understand
that there is a war going on,
and a part of what happens
for all of you is you're in the room and something happens
and you say, "Is it me?"
"Is it just me?"
It's not just you.
They're trying to make you think you're crazy!
And you have to understand when that happens.
So at my dinner table here's how it works,
that right wing [bleep] ain't getting a seat
at my table.
(audience claps and cheers)
Not gonna happen.
Take that somewhere else
where somebody is going to try to engage with you.
I am perfectly fine being over here, in this position,
and I don't wanna hear [bleep] you said.
Now maybe that doesn't make me the right kind of filmmaker,
but I am a filmmaker.
- Thank you for saying that, I appreciate that.
And I am a hundred million percent in agreement
with what you just said.
I am very privileged, like I say.
So privileged that I can't see the water I swim in
a lot of the time.
And that privilege, because I enter into no risk,
personally, when I walk into those churches,
I recognize that I can do that, so this is an eternal,
this is always a problem in social change,
this is always going to be a problem,
because there's always going to be a group of people
who can't engage, and then there's gonna be this group
of people that has to change.
They have to change.
They are such a huge part of this country and who they are
and they have led us by the nose for thirty years now
down this stupid neo-liberal nonsense
which has led us into this awful mess we're in.
If we don't change that core group of people,
and the only way to do that is to go to them where they are,
that means that my role, because I'm privileged,
is to go there, and your role is to go there,
and we know our parts.
And I just want you to know,
I'm not the matriarch at the dinner table, believe me,
I've been kicked out of more Thanksgiving dinners
than you can possibly imagine.
- So we have time for two more questions.
We'll take, there's a young lady here,
and a young man behind her.
- Hi, good afternoon. I'm a little nervous
and my palms are shaking.
- It's okay.
- Greetings and blessings.
My name is Joanna Cruz and I'm the room manager.
I'm sorry I'm gonna cry because I feel so,
I'm just feeling the energy of this room and so inspired
and just feeling, just grateful for everyone to come here
into this space to be able to have dialogue,
and to be able to--
to break the boundaries, of like our own like,
whether it's institutional or constitutional mentalities
to like really see each other, and that's really the work
that I've been doing like for the last, like, 10 years,
and I'm just thankful to be in this space
with like my community and the people here
as well as all of you who I hope to build with
and bridge with moving forward,
I have like so many questions, but now I'm like shaking.
I wanted first to acknowledge the indigenous people
of this land of northern Ute
who are committed to,
I'm sorry, who are committed to create a thriving community
within their people,
but also are working hard to preserve the natural
and cultural richness of the various monuments.
So thank you to the producers here
and the indigenous people here represented in this room.
I wanted to just quickly address what was being said
in regards to privilege and right wing people.
I think that they come in all colors and all cultures
and as a person who comes from a diverse group
of blood related and non-blood related people
I have done my very best to create spaces to be able
to have dialogue and conversations with people
who are not like me so that we can form these bridges
and I wanna like really encourage people to do that.
My, like, you know, tool has been art and music,
and to be able to really bring those stories, you know,
in those forms, I feel like is the way
that we can masonically, and also in our heart's space,
really come together and make these stories, not just, like,
tell the problems and the issues
that we are all already pretty much aware of,
but really bring the solutions, you know,
come up with solutions together.
I personally am very, like, passionate about climate change
and I feel like it affects all people,
it doesn't matter where you're at.
Especially people of color, low income people,
and people living in the, like places like the islands,
like the Philippines where I come from.
And so I just wanted to just take a moment to say thank you
to everyone for creating this space
and for bringing all of us together
and I wanna continue this dialogue and that's all.
- Thank you.
And we have one more behind you.
I'm from Chinatown New York, I grew up there.
And the Chinatowns in this country are dying.
Why are they dying?
They're being gentrified
and our story's been hijacked.
In New York there are 60 episodic TV shows shooting
There's a camera crew shooting in Chinatown.
And you know what the story's about?
stealing our jobs,
as Trump would say, China, China, China.
Last week, some guy came with a hammer, in Sheepshead Bay,
and killed three Chinese workers,
because they're Chinese,
but it's not a hate crime in Chinatown.
We never, we're invisible.
We've been here 150 years and nobody knows our story.
This year, May 10th, is the 150th anniversary
of the completion of the Chinese transcontinental railroad.
And if you ever look at a picture
of the transcontinental railroad,
there's not one Chinaman in that picture.
When I tried to get into the Local 52 IA
I been there 40 years in the IA,
I was the first Chinese guy in the Local,
you know what they told me?
You don't have a Chinaman's chance of getting in this Local.
And I was the first one in.
And the one thing that all my workers, who are blue collar,
Trump supporting, China hating people,
I have to correct them, every time I hear a story.
Oh, China's stealing our jobs.
Oh, China eat dogs.
How do we correct that narrative?
How do we get our people in the writers' room
when the country doesn't even recognize that we even exist?
- This is what we're all about.
This is what we're trying to do.
Honest to god, this is what we're trying to do.
- I think, I mean, what you just said is so powerful
and beautiful and real, because being invisible,
is, it sucks all your humanity out of you,
it's like you're lost without visibility really.
It's not like we wanna be visible because we just wanna,
you know, enjoy life.
We wanna be able to be acknowledged that we're human,
that we're not always kind of auditioning still.
And I think, there's been an amazing conversation,
you know the word colonization is something
that really triggers me because coming from, you know,
coming as an immigrant to this country,
and coming from Egypt to America, you know,
the Middle East has such a colonial history
as many places do.
And you know these constructs like West, you know,
I always ask like West of where?
From where did the West begin and end.
We have to ask ourselves these constructs
and how they allow the othering to continue.
And I think it's amazing that we're at this moment
where a lot of constructs are finally being recognized,
right, whether it's whiteness, whether it's patriarchy,
whether it's, you know, the colonial legacy,
and hopefully the concept of the West in itself,
because I think that's one of the main roadblocks
we have to having a true open society, you know,
it's like if we're talking about the open society,
we're talking about the dream of multiculturalism,
we have to destroy this concept of West versus East,
because it's not historically true, it's not logically true,
and it denies all of our, the human story, of torches,
of story being passed,
from one corner of the Earth to another.
That's how we've survived, that's the reality,
but as soon as we put up these walls of construct
we were reducing people to this tribal perspective.
And just the last thing I wanna say is about the war,
that I've been thinking about this in this conversation,
and I think that there is a war, but I think as,
you know, as we got into this conversation,
everyone has a different role to play, and I think that,
for me personally I feel like, you know,
picking up on what she was saying so brilliantly,
it's like we have to kinda build our own
and I think we have to build our own land and spaces
and allow people, like we need to lead the cultural tide,
and allow the rest of America to catch up with us.
We don't have to go into their communities
and fix their miseducation.
We fix their miseducation by inspiring them
in a different arena.
And have them come to our arena.
But then on us though, we need
to also hold ourselves accountable to not judging people
and not reducing people who we thought were bad,
or who we thought are this, who we never met, right,
and not allowing them the opportunity to change as well.
Because if we do that, then we're being hypocritical
to our own oath to this openness, right?
And so we have to also create the space for people
no matter they've done to be able to redeem themselves.
If we don't have a space for societal redemption
on a human level we are never gonna get anywhere.
And I think that's an important thing we have to do.
As we're starting to wind down,
I wanna have you guys give any parting thoughts.
Let's start with you Abi.
- Redemption, that's a great word,
and I think, you know, as the person on the panel
who talks the most about privilege
that's an obviously icky word for me
because I feel I've spent my life wondering
if I'm redeemable or not
and I take it upon myself to make my life be
a sort of retroactive active redemption
for what's done in the past, by not just my family
on my father's side, that's better known,
but really more especially my mother's side.
And I'm trying really hard not to judge the people
who are politically so far from me
that I don't even begin to understand them.
And I just wanna tell you
that when I approached the minister to work with him
on the film, I said to him, you know,
we could fight right away about abortion,
we could really do that
and we'd hate each other, and we'd leave,
but if we just decided to table it for this moment,
which is not to say we'll never talk about it,
just in this moment choose to talk about everything else,
and choose to inhabit the spaces we share,
and spend time on them, by the time we do talk about it
we'll have enough of a relationship
that we won't wanna kill each other when we do.
And I learned that because I came
from a very right wing society, Reagan supporting family.
I had to love the people I was born with.
You have to.
And I violently disagreed with them,
and I worried that they were bad people,
but they weren't and I loved them.
And in this room they would be seen as irredeemable
to a lot of you.
I've worked with the minister for about two and a half years
before I told him I'd had an abortion myself,
because I was afraid that I was leading him on
and telling him an untruth in not revealing that to him.
And he said why would I not want to work with you
once I knew that?
And honestly he was more of a Christian than I knew,
and I'll tell you now,
Reverend Rob Schenck is probably the biggest ally
you'll ever find in Washington.
He's with us on every issue, I kind of overshot
and turned him into a lefty, and he's completely,
people can be changed
and they won't be changed because we're yelling at them,
they're gonna change because we're in relationship
with them, which is why I'm committed to storytelling
because it's the best way to be in a relationship
with the world.
- Thank you.
First, I want to thank the gentleman in the back
who shared you experience, I think that,
it takes a lot of vulnerability to share that
and I'd love to talk to you afterward
because one of the things that we try to do is bring people
from communities that are invisible into spaces
where they can really share that and hopefully
shape stories about those communities
so if we can do that, let's do that.
In terms of like parting thoughts,
there's a couple of things that I've been thinking about.
The first is, actually both of them fall under this idea,
of like what is the internal work that we need to do.
So, yes, structures exist, there's this systemic injustice,
there's the history that we're grappling with
and all of that is real, and also, like, we, I think, are,
the things that I feel like are often the biggest challenges
in rooms like this is cynicism, fear,
and really feeling like we can't acknowledge our own power,
and then we can't get beyond just the community we come from
and be in relationship, in deep relationship,
with each other.
I think if we were to organize across communities
and across the kind of access that we all have,
and the power, and the stories, and the rich histories
that we all have,
we would be able to transform the industry.
I really do think so, and I think part of that means
that we have to do really deep internal work
across our own kind of biases and communities
to really learn from each other and understand each other.
- I'm hoping that you know through this conversation
that you're able to take away from it,
that you should continue to tell your stories,
that your stories are important no matter what they are.
And that you have people that want to support that,
within your communities,
people that are sitting on this panel
and people that are sitting in this room.
And that no matter what those stories are,
you know we're here to support you
and hold hands together to change the system,
because it's gonna take us, all of us,
to be able to do it on every level.
- Can I just say one thing before you Karim,
because you're gonna be brilliant,
and then I'm not gonna wanna, and, you're brilliant...
but I just want to say one last thing to my sister
over here whom I really love,
I just wanna add that I recognize that I do what I do
because of the privilege that I have.
Frankly, if I don't, shame on me.
So for the people who can't do the things that I do,
I just want you to know, I promise you
that I will carry what you can't, and I promise you
that I will carry what you ask me to carry.
- I can't top that.
Now it's like.
I just want to say first, before, like,
we get backpulled into this,
I think it's important to just remember, where we are,
and how incredible it is, for,
that dreams do really, dreams really can come true, like,
I came to this festival in 2012
and it was right after the heart of a year,
living in Tahrir Square in extreme conflict zone,
capturing this moment of hope and terror
that was all mixed together,
and living with a team of people,
capturing over 1600 hours of material,
came to this festival with a laptop and was going around,
showing a little trailer to people,
trying to cobble a little money together,
and a few years later we had the film at the festival
and here we are again with another film
and it is, you have to believe in the unbelievable,
you have to, you have to, and don't ever,
don't stop believing in the unbelievable,
because we can make it, we can make the impossible possible
and we all have the ability to do that
and when we do it together we can actually create
the systemic change we're talking about.
So I just want people to have that hope as well,
since this has been a complicated conversation.
And one last thing about redemption
and about what Abi was saying,
I think you know, each of us in this community, you know,
when we go into our smaller communities of like microgroups,
we all have members who,
if they committed an irredeemable act, we would hold very,
like, it would be a situation, you know,
we just don't air that to that larger group,
but it happens, and I think like, you know,
coming from a Muslim background, you know,
we have to grapple with the act of terror, right?
And how do you make sense of that, right?
And my sister, who's right here, is an amazing filmmaker,
has actually been making an amazing film about that,
going to the people who have been seen
as the most irredeemable, right?
People who were involved in the Charlie Hebdo attacks,
and people who were involved in the Paris attacks,
and trying to make sense of who these people were
and how did they get to that place
where they find nothing else
but that the only hope was to strap a bomb to themselves
and blow themselves up.
What happened to someone to get there?
And if we can't find redemption there.
I challenge you to find redemption there.
Because if those people can be redeemed,
then I'm not worried about your Thanksgiving dinner,
And I think it's important that Abi is here,
and it's important, like, that she's willing
to have these conversations is an important acknowledgement.
And Abi is trailblazing, because there aren't,
I can't name anyone else like her, to be honest,
so I think it's important to have people like her,
who are open to having this conversation, and learning,
and walking away with it, and coming and putting, you know,
connecting with all these people,
and being willing to listen to anybody in the room.
This is what an open society looks like.
This is what we have to protect, and preserve,
and expand upon.
(audience claps and cheers)
- So with that, I just want to say thank you.
This has been an amazing conversation.
I wanna thank all of you on the panel for sharing
and opening up and just,
I mean this is one of the more real panels
that I've seen here, at Sundance.
And I wanna thank CAAM.
I wanna thank the Sundance Institute.
And first, and also, I wanna thank you guys for showing up,
and being here, and being part of the conversation.
And I want that you take the same spirit
that we have up here, out with you
when you go back outside where it's nice and cold,
but also when you're seeing films,
but support these filmmakers, support all of them,
I see a lot of you guys in here who have films,
and I praise you guys.
We've got, on the Asian American tent,
we've got over 60 filmmakers and producers and artists
who have films in this festival, that's unheard of for us,
so I think this is the moment, it's a movement, embrace it,
and thank you very much.
Thanks a lot.
- Thank you to David Magdael.
More Episodes (28)
The Road to DecolonizationJuly 29, 2019
Opioids from InsideApril 09, 2018
Shot in MexicoMarch 02, 2018
Elevate, Incubate & Demonstrate: Asian American ArtistsJanuary 04, 2018
#MyAPALife: A Filmmaker ConversationMay 30, 2017
America By The Numbers | Students of Color: Left BehindSeptember 20, 2014