Sunday, July 19, 2015

Film Love

Light and shadow. Imagine night camp 50,000 years ago. The fire sparks and pulses as a storyteller rises to begin speaking the night's tale to the circle gathered. Perhaps the story tonight is the celebration of a birth. Or glorious victory in battle. A promised union happily joined; a quest begun this very day, the outcome unknown, inexperienced youth alone against a hostile world.

Your eyes widen, conjuring the marching legs of heroes in the smoldering logs, you hear the joyous cry of a new mother, see the triumphant arm of a youth raised to the sky as the sparks explode upward, touch the heat of passion with the palm of your hand outstretched.

Humans love story. Storytelling is how we identify ourselves, how we align ourselves with the cosmos, and the way we know what we know of human experience. For millennia the stories were mist and shadow; impermanent imagery except for the devoted storytellers who passed on oral tradition. Artist/storytellers drew scenes on rock cliffs and cave walls-early days of visual media.

Aristotle spoke of the camera obscura- sunlight through a tiny hole projected an inverted image on a surface in a dark room. Fast forward to 1545 when a drawing of camera obscura was published. 1558, Magia Naturalis is published describing a camera obscura with lenses and concave mirrors. 1816. Metal plates coated with chemical emulsion became Aristotle's darkened room.

1902-1906 Alice Guy Blaché directs over 100 phonoscènes, films made for Gaumont's chronophone, and the intriguing history of women peering through lenses to satisfy our intense ongoing hunger for drama, laughter, intrigue, pathos, chills and story, story, story through moving pictures begins with this remarkable pioneering woman's achievement.

The woman in the director's chair coordinates the collaborative forces that would animate the logs we saw in our prehistoric vision. She hires the youth with the raised arm, chooses and supervises the sound engineer who brings us the new mother's cry, guides the set designer for just the right number of stars in the sky and the correct angle of smoke, wrangles the producer, assigns the 1st and 2nd assists, all while seeing the screenplay's story and keeping her own vision true through to post production.

2015. We humans who love story will this year celebrate madly, wildly, lovingly that woman in the director's chair with the Directed by Women Global Viewing Party.

From September 1 through September 15, 2015 there is a party going on, and the world is invited! For those 15 days we will be celebrating women filmmakers around the globe by watching films, discussing filmmaking, and contributing to the knowledge base of women's roles in media historically and today. As of today there are 7,127 women directors listed on the Directed by Women website.

Engaging in this celebration can be as personal as watching a woman-directed film at home, hosting a viewing party with friends, texting afterward; posting photos on tumblr, instagram, Pinterest, facebook, tweeting films watched or film wish lists. Interviewing a woman director for your blog. On a community scale, coordinating events with your local library, school, college, film groups, cinemas. Talk about films directed by women, do some internet research, check out books from the library, encourage group discussions about the wonderful discoveries you make. Worldwide, you can find a viewing partner in a country you're interested in knowing more about and create an international film lovers' festival without leaving your house.

Directed by Women Global Viewing Party is a magnificent chance to awaken to and appreciate the voluminous contribution of women to film, visual media in all its storytelling glory. Let's make this year the beginning of the revelry, and rejoice in the synergy that brings together creative women filmmakers and their devoted global viewers.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I Support We Need Diverse Books

We grew up with my mom who was outspoken about race. A lot of other things, too, but she corrected racist language used by other people and enhanced those corrections as teaching moments for her children. It didn't work well for changing other people's attitudes, but we were taught equality and came to adulthood believing all people deserved our respect. We moved in May this year, and I went through my mother's file cabinet. She wrote letters, asked questions, involved herself in all manner of important issues. I am more proud of her than ever. She's busy conducting protests in the next world, I'm sure. My siblings started having their own children in the 80s. I have nieces and nephews, and now a grand-nephew. For the first next generation, I borrowed an idea from my mother to collect tree ornaments - one each year - for the new babies. Mom did an add-a-pearl necklace for her goddaughter who wore that necklace to her wedding. I did add-an-ornament. I found out fast it was impossible to find any but a white angel. I was already the book aunt, loving books and wanting to share that joy. I bought books with animals, alphabet letters, colors - avoiding the all-white human representation on the cover and in the story. Books with cultural diversity in the 80s and 90s were hard to find. Now we have another generation. And not much has changed. There are ornaments now. But books have hovered in the same dreadful ratio for decades. Diverse books can be found by searching farther and deeper. One book I bought recently is Little Humans by street photographer Brandon Stanton, recommended by a friend. I gift Patricia Polacco books. She writes and illustrates culturally diverse stories (including In Our Mothers' House) and she is a Michigan author/illustrator. She also depicts older people engaging with young people: another missing human contact in mainstream children's books. We need more diverse books written and illustrated by people who have lived the stories. We need to see ourselves in print and picture. Stories are how we identify ourselves, how we understand each other in the beautifully diverse life of the cosmos. And in our homes.