When a person can feel connections to complete strangers around them, it is an indescribable experience. I felt this way at the Full Frame film festival as I sat in a theatre surrounded by a hundred other people who were there for the same reason as I: to appreciate films. People of all ages, races, and gender connected in the shared emotion instilled in us through the powerful films that shown. All of us left our day to day lives to recognize the hard work people dedicated to the creation of their documentary, and learn from their work, and we all left feeling inspired, no matter what films we had seen.
There were two films that left me feeling especially inspired and reflective: América by Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside, and On Her Shoulders by Alexandria Bombach. Both of these films were displayed in a truly pensive and poignant, yet powerful stories. I also noticed a prominent connection between the two; both described people fighting and persevering for the sake of others, even if it takes over their whole lives and they must fight against all odds. On Her Shoulders is a powerful story of a girl, Nadia Murad, who is part of an Iraqi minority known as the Yazidi. She is a genocide and ISIS sexual slavery survivor, yet she is telling her story to the whole world in hopes of bringing change to the inhumane status of her people. The film did not dwell on what actually happened to her as an ISIS slave, but instead focuses on her strength and perseverance to tell this story despite the difficulties and all the weight that comes along with activism and fame. What I found truly powerful about her story was the complete guilt she felt as I survivor, making her feel an obligation to be the voice for her people, even though she did not want the fame; she wanted to live a simple, quiet life. The film did not shy away from long silences and emotional pauses, but instead constantly embraced them, displaying the uncomfortable tension and reactions Nadia felt to tell her story, yet she kept telling it. This decision for long silence, especially during interviews, also allowed the audience to reflect on what they had seen and try to understand what Nadia was going through at the same time Nadia was trying to get through the interviews herself. Also, Nadia’s TV and radio interviews were intertwined with clip from her day to day life as an activist, which really shows the constant pressure she was under, and how she handled this on screen and alone. No can really understand what Nadia is going through, but the director’s artistic decisions really aided in conveying the emotion and powerful activism Nadia exhibits.
Then, three brothers, Diego, Bruno, and Rodrigo, come together to take care of their grandmother, even with the many obstacles of this new lifestyle in América. After their grandmother, América, fell from her bed, her son and the boys’ father, was jailed for neglect, leaving her grandsons a feeling of obligation to take care of her out of love because América could not take care of herself, as she was 93 and suffering from dementia and physical disabilities. They cared so much for América that they put aside their whole lives for years to be her caretakers because they did not want her to be on medication or in a nursing home; they wanted her to have honor, dignity, and respect as she was dying and not to be alone. This in a way compares to Nadia’s effort to be the voice of her people and get the Yazidis a good life after what they had been through since they were not able to fight for themselves. Both Nadia and the three brothers felt guilt to help, and also carried the weight and pressure of a whole new lifestyle in which others depended on them now because of it. América effectively and powerfully displayed the struggles of these brothers to care for their grandmother, even if their actions were on a much smaller scale than the brave activism of Nadia. América presented prevalent themes of an appreciation for mothers, family, and coming together to help others in a raw, vulnerable, and unfiltered way that touched me. These themes got down to the roots of human nature, human instinct, and life’s cycle showing the need to be cared for once again in old age, and the young growing up to take on the parental role of caretaker. The interesting expression of this theme left me thinking long after I left the cinema from its heart wrenching and sentimental feature. I am deeply thankful I had the chance to experience this festival and be a part of this seminar. The films were brilliant and I feel I have taken a lot away, from the director’s creative technique to real world issues and lessens that I hope I can continue to reflect on and apply to my one life.