World Channel


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.

AIRED: July 29, 2019 | 1:32:06

♪ 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.

(audience applauds)

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.

(audience applauds)

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.

(audience applauds)

So without further ado let's bring our panelists up.

From Level Forward I have Abigail Disney.

(audience applauds)

Right there.

From Harness, it's Maria Maji please.

(audience applauds)

From ARRAY please welcome Tilane Jones.

(audience cheers and applauds)

And then representing the filmmakers,

my little brother Karim Amer.

(audience applauds)

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,

especially women.

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.

- Great.

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.

Thank you,

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.

(audience applauds)

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.

(audience laughs)

- So I think what's interesting

from my personal journey at least

is first I feel like there's almost three stages

of being,

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.

(audience laughs)

- No choice.

- Right.

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?

- Sure.

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.

(audience applauds)

14 seasons.

- [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,

all women.

- Yes.

- 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.

- Yes.

(audience laughs)

- 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.

(audience applauds)

And I know it's me holding a microphone saying that.

(audience laughs)

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."

(audience laughs)

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.

(audience laughs)

Or is there a better more different story to tell?

It all comes back to Paris Hilton.

(audience laughs)

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?

- Yeah,

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

but casting,

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."

(audience applauds)

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.

(audience applauds)

- 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.

(audience laughs)

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.

(audience laughs)

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?

(audience laughs)

- 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.

(audience applauds)

- 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.

(audience laughs)

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.

(audience applauds)

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.

(audience applauds)

- 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.

- Yeah.

- And we have to support them as well.

(audience claps)

- 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?

You know?

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

across continents.

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.

- Right.

- 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.

(audience claps)

- 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...

(audience claps)

Amazing question.

Hi Noelle and Define American is amazing.

- [Noelle] Love you Marya.

So, yes.

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

and collaboration

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.

- Hi.

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

of story.

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.

- Yeah.

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.

Over there?


- 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?

- Yeah.

- What's the name of your film?

- Words From A Bear by N. Scott Momaday, biopic.

(audience claps)

I just wanted to acknowledge

that we're on the traditional lands of the Ute,

and the Gosiute, and the Shoshone.

(audience claps)

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.

(audience laugh)

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.

(audience claps)

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--

(audience claps)

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.

(audience claps)

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.

- Thank you.

Thank you.

And we have one more behind you.

- Hi.

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

every week.

There's a camera crew shooting in Chinatown.

And you know what the story's about?

Prostitution, trafficking,

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?

(audience claps)

- 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.

(audience claps)

- Yes.

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.

- Marya.

(audience claps)

- 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.

(audience claps)

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.

(audience claps)

- Tilane.

- 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.

(audience claps)

- Karim?

- 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,

(audience laughs)

You know?

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.

David Magdael!

(audience claps)


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