by Via Bia
On a stage almost too far away to see, I heard a voice, light as air, yet full of energy –
“…everything in this world has come from the body of a woman.” It was Dolores Huerta, and I was at the Women’s March in Park City.
A few months ago, I hit the lottery. Not a money lottery, but something perhaps more significant – I was asked to co-present a workshop on conflict resolution for filmmakers at the Sundance Producers Lab.
Had I known that my past social justice work with kids who had been arrested and treated like their lives were disposable (usually children of color in cities like Philadelphia and Fresno) would pave the way for me to have the experience and the cajones to finally reach for something “unreasonable” and start on the shaky path of indie film, I would not have believed you.
But it did.
Once I had my daughter, I knew I had to take my desire to be a storyteller seriously. I had to use these experiences to give me courage – courage to know that under-represented voices matter and that telling those stories was necessary in the world.
At its best, this is what filmmaking does – it helps us feel included – seen and less alone. And while being in Park City during Sundance is to breathe in some rarefied-as-hell air, it is still real.
Just because we have chosen the sometimes unrealistic task of storytelling, doesn’t mean we are less legitimate citizens or less worthy of being heard.
At OUR best, we are pushing forward narratives (whether through documentary or fiction) that resonate with people; helping them FEEL and ENGAGE in the world. It is not just entertainment, it is the work of weaving lives together.
And though I did attend a few receptions, go to some great films and panels, and even talk to
Parker Posey (she was very nice and full of laser-beam emotion, just like you’d think!), I understood that those things are all set-dressing, and not the true reason I chose storytelling.
I chose storytelling because I had things burning in my heart, and if I didn’t start figuring out how to move past my own silence and into a place of community, I was going to burn up inside.
So yes, I was at Sundance, but I was there to be part of something bigger, to give and receive support with like-minded people… and I was claiming my space.
While there, I had the thought that even if filmmaking only reaches other artists, other creative people, that would be enough. Inside each of us are stories – the coalescence of experiences unique to only you, but universal to many. And so, I think we are all creative.
I see the work of storytellers as buoys in a sea that sometimes feels impossible to navigate. If I can offer one image, one line of dialogue, one experience that an isolated person can cling to in tougher moments, I consider myself lucky to bob in the water, waiting for someone who needs me and my unique set of experiences, to pass.
Because how often have I wrapped my arms tightly around their stories, clinging on for dear life? How often have they lifted me to safety?
Via Bia is an indie filmmaker and script consultant in the Washington DC region. Her short, THESE COLORS DON’T RUN, has received film stock support through Kodak, and grants by the Arlington Commission for the Arts and the Love Your Shorts Film Festival, and is currently finishing post-production. For more info, go to www.viabia.com.