Serving The Story?
by Yuleisy Michel Audain
As a person of color, it has been installed to us the concept of always giving back to your community. There is this sense of duty that is imperative for us to tackle, ultimately serving the purpose to present to the world through our perspectives as directors the missing stories that are not out there. This is something that we as individuals got to do, it’s more of like a duty that we have to pay homage to our heritage, but sometimes I think, is this a bad thing?
I want to direct movies and I always had this concept that people of color are always boxed in when it comes to doing movies. Like any other director, who is not of color, it seems rather easy to jump from one genre to another, some of them dominate their specific genres, giving an auteur perspective towards what they are doing, but I feel like we always get to do movies in which we use the stereotypes that we encounter and we sometimes do not expand or get out of these little box of types of movies.
The concern with this topic to me is that it’s not a bad thing to do these types of movies, rather I find them to be one of the best, if not perfect people to portray these images to the world, but because we ‘categorize’ ourselves in such shelf, we as filmmakers won’t even get considered to do something different. It’s this categorization, this boxing of the certain movies that we categorize ourselves with, would it hurt us at the end of the day?
The reason why I write about this is because of my findings Ava Duvernay speech about this subject. The video was of Duvernay’s keynote speaking on the South by Southwest (SXSW) where she gave a 45 minute video on her trajectory of her directing methods, and what she has accomplished from her first video, to the last one, Selma, which received much praise for it’s work.
As I mentioned before, Selma was the first film that I have seen of her work and I appreciate it. Not only it made me see Dr. King’s trajectory, but also the highlight of the little stories, where they would give names to those key people who they lost their lives to the freedom that we are still fighting for. Her speech came not only from her success really, but from telling her struggles and her throwing up and crying tears of anxiety outside in the bathroom theater of her release of her latest movie.
She explained this raw, yet powerful speech with one thing that rounds everything back with the question of the feeling of being boxed in a certain type of film. She explained that at the end of the day she did her last three movies at the expense of the details the numbers, and that with Selma she just served the story.
To do a movie with such magnitude, to not being the first choice to present this film, to her doubts and her fears, she strive passed that and used her purpose.To just serve the story and not focus about her but ultimately what she is doing, what she is waking up everyday to do is to use the perception of this era that impacted our lives for years to come as a portrayal of endurance to any battle.
When she went in front of all of these individuals who to know about this woman with such power in her hands, it made me remember that when I was younger, what I would see in the television screen never looked like me. I had my only Barbie doll colored down in black because I thought she would look better, and that I didn’t accept myself because of what I looked in the mirror. It was not only a portrayal of oppression where it was not only coming from my society, but also from myself. Now, because of this awareness we have barbie dolls that represent us in different skin colors and professions.
When DuVernay was asked of the ways that we could change this perspective of looking at ourselves, she and many of us come back to the topic that we are being neglected to: Opportunity. It sounds like a broken record with one word, opportunity, being said over and over again but it can never happen because it’s like nobody is listening.
She highlights at the ways that her tackling this important story and her duty as a woman of color not only guided her, but supported her into doing this movie. That in a sense, it was her duty to do the extensive research, to find the right characters, to even composing a beautiful score that would help portray with more of an impact to whomever was watching the movie. She even explains that she doesn’t’ know how it got so popular, which she let it be on it’s own and things appeared from left to right.
Looking back, I understand her anxiety, her terrified perception at it being something of such magnitude. Her questioning and her purpose ultimately brings to me the answer to the question I proposed before, is it a bad thing? and I think the general answer would be no, but that the problem lies with the people who have the power to realize how many people of color, artists who can prove themselves could present this magnificent and truly life changing experiences not only through film, but beyond.
Following this idea to pay homage to our roots is not a bad thing at all, but how is it as the artist that you are to combine it to some modern topics is what eludes real art. I see it every time I see a new film, portrait and picture that describe the heritage and their meaning with every shot, with every scene and with every movement a movie has, ultimately the purpose of what is being presented exceeds its expectations.