As the Ashland Independent Film Festival fades to black for another season, the theme of resistance is a thought it hopes attendees take with them.
“We are honoring those working outside the mainstream and showing how films can contribute to speaking truth to power and to show film’s capacity to counter the demonization of outsiders,” said Richard Herskowitz as he dashed between film makers at a breakfast honoring their work on Saturday at Dragonfly restaurant just a block from the screens and seminars.
AIFF Board President Maylee Oddo, in thanking those present, said the theme created itself as Americans and global leaders speak out against all forms of oppression. “These films and film makers are so timely and welcome. I cannot think of a more important time.”
Several of the films in the festival dealt with themes of marginalized populations and poverty. “Uno Nueva Tierra” is a project set in the desert of New Mexico where a small community has formed off-grid living neighborhoods, not for environmental reasons but because the residents could not afford any more than the bare land.
Jackie Munro spent three years piecing the film together while tracking the efforts of residents like her main character, Bernardo, who suffered a stroke and built his home with one arm. “I’m interested in people making something out of nothing,” says Munro, the young film maker who looks more like a film star than a gritty director camping in the desert for the right shot. “I wanted to investigate perseverance and what it’s like to live on the margins.”
She describes meeting people at their level without judgment, something she hopes those who view her film will experience. “I hope that they will be able to create a relationship with the individuals on film and take away a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be poor in America.”
Munro came away with a unification of knowledge. “I am trying to bring people to the place of showing that people are more similar than we may realize.”
Pamela Yates showed her trilogy of films about Mayan activists resisting dictatorships in Guatemala. “When the Mountains Tremble,” “Granito,” and “500 Years” all showed during the festival, fresh off of the Sundance festival.
Yates tracked the resistance there for 30 years, beginning as a sound recordist for news and documentary film makers in the ’80s. “These are all films about Mayan resistance and what we can learn about how to resist a government.”
Yates says while the film is set in South America, it does not only apply there. “There are universal themes; injustice, racism and corruption.”
The film maker wanted her trilogy to show to provide the context that activism and resistance is a long game. “How are we going to resist? It’s not something you do in one election, it’s a life’s work.”
Yates hopes those who watch her films see the takeaway in their own nation’s movements, especially those in the United States. “It’s a scary time, we have to take heart. You see people in resistance and you take away, I can do it and I must do it,” she says, slightly leaning in an almost conspiratorial voice, her long, dark hair resting near her face. “However you can do it, do it. It’s not about the plight but the fight.”
Each year the Ashland Independent Film Festival creates a theme which they feel honors the mood and need of the year. Last year it was the theme of women film makers and equity. This year the theme focused on films about resistance and activism. Among the offerings, numerous pieces focused on social change through resistance.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.