Independent Lens

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Ciara Lacy

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Ciara Lacy

 

Documentary filmmaker Ciara Lacy was valedictorian of her graduating class at Kamehameha Schools and Yale University alumna is the daughter of a Native Hawaiian activist. Lacy’s love of storytelling and social justice causes began in Central Oʻahu with an electric typewriter, and led her to New York and Los Angeles and work on a succession of films and other media projects. A painful medical condition forced Lacy to reevaluate her life and return to Hawaiʻi. She underwent treatment and found a new source of inspiration in a story about Hawaiian men trying to reconnect with their native culture as inmates who’d been shipped to an Arizona prison. This drove Ciara (pronounced Kee-ah-rah) to create the documentary film Out of State, with colleague Beau Bassett, chronicling the journey of two released prisoners returning to Hawaiʻi to make a new start. This May, Lacy’s documentary will premiere nationally on PBS stations, including PBS Hawaiʻi, on the film series Independent Lens.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Mar. 3, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

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Ciara Lacy Audio

 

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Transcript

 

Your gender in doing this prison story …

 

Yeah.

 

How did that affect the dynamics?

 

I will say that the prison setting had more yin-yang, feminine and male energy than I would have expected.  So, it wasn’t an all alpha male situation.  There was a lot of spectrum of gender that presented at the prison setting.  So, as much as like, going into it I had thought of like, you know, whatever X, Y, Z bad movie I’d seen about a prison, that wasn’t the truth.  You know, when you make a movie, you want to show up and own the space, and say: This is how everything has to work.  Right?  This is my crew, this is my schedule, this is what it has to be.

 

Because producers are …

 

Because producers …

 

The synonym is, bossy people.

 

I’m so bossy.  I’m so bossy.  And you know, when it came to working in the prison, I call it Daoist filmmaking.  You know, you don’t have control, and you just give it all up.  And you say thank you for whatever you’re able to do.

 

She’s a filmmaker who went into an Arizona prison to document the stories of Native Hawaiian men who were incarcerated thousands of miles from home. Ciara Lacy, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Ciara Lacy is a Native Hawaiian producer and director of the documentary, Out of State. The film follows two Native Hawaiian men from their confinement in a for-profit Arizona prison to their struggles reintegrating into society on Oahu.  While still locked up in Arizona, the men began to reconnect with their native culture, even though they were isolated thousands of miles away.

 

I never knew one ounce of Hawaiian before I even came jail.  I learned everything in jail.

 

[CHANTING]

 

I always took from people.  That’s how I knew how to get what I wanted in life.

 

Why couldn’t I have learned my culture while I was outside?

 

Ciara’s path to making this film was also filled with her own personal struggles. She spent her early years growing up in Central O‘ahu, where she loved to draw and write stories on her electric typewriter.

 

I was born early.  So, I was born like, six weeks early, and my mom and dad didn’t have a name.  My mother studied opera at UH, and she was singing an aria at the time, and Ciara was one of the words in the aria.  And they needed to give the baby a name, and she pulled that out.

 

What does it mean?

 

It means light, or clarity.  So, it’s like, kinda like chiaroscuro, like light and dark, the painting technique.

 

Oh, that sounds like you’re well-named.

 

What’s your earliest memory?  What was your home life like?

 

I had a great family.  You know, my father worked at Pearl Harbor for like, thirty-five, thirty-seven years.  And you know, I was lucky; I didn’t realize it at the time.  My mother was a housewife in the 80s and 90s.  And it was the four of us; you know, my mom, my dad, and my sister.

 

Did you have adversity along the way?

 

I mean, I was weird.  I didn’t necessarily fit in, but I was okay with that.  When I was very young, I don’t know, maybe five or six, my dad went to a garage sale.  My parents love garage sales.  And he went to a garage sale, and he bought an electric typewriter.  And I fell in love with the thing immediately, because I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.  And so, I would sit there, and I would just type at it.  And I’m sure some of my teachers from elementary school, like, they must have thought my mom was typing my homework.

 

Because I would turn in all my homework typed.

 

In elementary school?

 

Because I liked to type.  And I remember in fourth grade, I wrote a really weird story about like, a drug addict in Vegas.  And I’m like … what fourth-grader does that?  And I’m sure my teacher thought this was weird.  But it made sense, because that was the kind of thing I would do.

 

Future filmmaker Ciara Lacy went on to high school at the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama Campus.  She applied herself, and became valedictorian of her graduating class.  That opened up many possibilities for her future, although she wasn’t quite sure what that future was going to be.

 

When I was little, I knew we didn’t have money for me to go to college.  Which is not uncommon.  Right? I mean, college is super-expensive. So, I needed to make sure I could go. And that was what drove it.  So, it’s like, I mean, whatever college is, you know, like, I didn’t know; I just knew it was something that I needed to do.

 

And did you know what you wanted to do with this life-changing experience of college once you’d attained it?

 

No.  And I think that was the problem.  Like, I knew I needed to get there.  And then, when I showed up, I was like: Well, now what?

 

And when you showed up, you showed up at Yale.  You got a very good …

 

I was very lucky.

 

You got good scholarships, and you got a top college.

 

Yes; I was very lucky.

 

Did you find it intimidating at all, this idea that everyone at Yale could be the smartest one in your?

 

Oh, my gosh.  Everyone at Yale is super-smart.  Are you kidding me?  It’s like, two hundred percent imposter syndrome.  Like, okay, what am I doing here?  And it takes a second, and you realize everyone’s thinking the same thing. And you know, everyone’s coming from vastly different spaces.

 

And what did you end up majoring in?

 

I ended up majoring in psychology.  And I did crisis counseling in college.  And that, I really connected with.  But I wasn’t sure if that was gonna be my career.  And I thought that counseling and the crisis counseling would be good for business.  And that was about it.  But I didn’t think I wanted to go into therapy as my career.

 

But unlike many people, you didn’t stay on the mainland; you came back.

 

I came back.

 

And then, how was the job hunting when you came back?

 

Job hunting was hard.  I had a really hard time getting a job.  And I wanted to work in production.  I like, had a secret love of music videos.  I still have a love of music videos.  And that’s what I wanted to make.  But I didn’t have a degree in that, because who gets a film degree. It’s way too lofty.  And that’s not a real job.  These are things I’m telling myself.

 

M-hm.

 

Right?

 

A year after graduating from Yale University and returning home to Hawai‘i, Ciara Lacy decided to pursue her secret passion: to produce music videos. So, she packed up again and left for New York City to enter the world of video production.

 

And I went back, and I showed up in New York. And I had two thousand dollars in cash, and a credit card.  And I sold hotdogs at the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, and I taught the SATUs for Princeton Review.  And I temped, and I interned for free, and I did whatever I could to kinda just figure my way.

 

So, you’re out there selling hotdogs.

 

And somehow, you get hired in media production.

 

So, I had no idea where to get started.  And at the time, I was like: Okay, I don’t have any contacts, I don’t know anybody, I’ll just go on Craigslist.  You know, you can get a couch, and maybe I’ll a job.

 

And so, I was like, putting my resume out there, and sending it off into the ethos.  And I sent off for a music video, to work on a music video as a production assistant.  And with no credits, no experience whatever.  And I got an email back from this guy; his name is Terry Leonard.  And he said: Meet me tomorrow at the McDonald’s at Union Square.

 

And you didn’t say: Uh-oh, this guy could be a total crank or serial killer.

 

I was just like, well, It said the McDonald’s at Union Square, so I’m not gonna die.  And I said, okay.  So, I went and I met him, and we talked.  And he said: Okay, show up to work tomorrow; we’re working on this music video.  And I showed up the very next day, I had no idea what I was doing, and whatever he said, I was like: Okay, I’m down.  Like, he sent me to go pick up gear with a five-thousand-dollar deposit.  I’d never held that much money before in my life.  I had five thousand dollars on me, I’d just shown up in New York City.  And I was like: Well, you know what, nobody’s gonna rip you off because—

 

And he trusted you with five dollars.

 

He trusted me with five thousand dollars. ‘Cause he was like: Well, you went to Yale, you’re not gonna steal my five thousand dollars.  So, I guess that helped.  And I was like: Well, nobody’s gonna steal it from me, because nobody’s gonna look at me thinking I have five thousand dollars.  I went and I did that, and then he sent me off to the mayor’s office of film and television, and I went in and got the permits for the next day. Did I know how to get a permit for a shoot in New York?  Absolutely not.  And I think that sort of like, I don’t know anything, has been a big part of just like, how I’ve done my career.  Like, I don’t have to know everything; I just have to be able to ask somebody else who does, and be okay with—

 

Yeah; as long as you’re learning.

 

Yes.  I ask the question.  And I’m not afraid to ask the question.

 

Ciara Lacy spent about ten years between New York and Los Angeles, working in television production.  She climbed the ranks, moving up from an intern to a producer, and she was finally able to work on music videos and rock documentaries for artists, including the members of the Dave Matthews Band and Cindy Lauper.  However, in 2011, a medical condition sidelined Ciara.

 

Yeah; it was a mystery.  Like, when I first started getting sick, I thought it was carpal tunnel.  I had all this pain in my arms, and in my hands.  And it was absolutely frightening.

 

And then, it turned out to be worse than carpal tunnel.

 

Yeah.  And then, I was like, okay.  So then, I was like: Okay, this is carpal tunnel, I’ll go get like, acupuncture, and I’m starting to do yoga, and I’m doing all these things.  And like, that wasn’t actually what it was.  And I couldn’t lie down, and then I couldn’t stand up.  So then, I was like, constantly in pain.  I was living in New York at the time.  I couldn’t carry my laundry to go do my laundry at the laundromat down the road. Like, I just couldn’t do things. And I was young and super-functional; you can’t like, ooh, what are you doing?  Like this is not Ciara.  Ciara can do stuff.  It took a while for them to kind of figured out what was wrong.  And I was diagnosed with this neuromuscular disease called thoracic outlet syndrome.  And you know, it’s probably repetitive stress.  It’s bilateral; it’s probably from all of this that I’d been doing, and I’d been doing a lot of it.  And it was the world saying I needed to slow down.  I moved back home, and I was thirty-one, and I was told I might have to get a new career.  And it really affects your ability to think when you’re in a lot of pain.  It’s just like, super-foggy.  And like, you know, I was the kid that used to wake up before the alarm clock.  Right? And now, I was just sleeping all the time, because that was the only thing I could figure out, outside of taking the medication to take the pain away.  So, it’s just like a very different person.  And I gained a lot of weight, and you know, it was a pretty dark moment for me.  But again, like, when I look back at it now, right, I don’t begrudge any of it, because it’s helped what got me into the place where I think I really wanted to be. And it got me back home.  I never left home thinking I didn’t want to come back. I just didn’t know how. Right?  And you know, I found myself back at my parents’ place.  And you know, I left very young, and I’d always been independent.  And to have to return and not know what I was gonna do about work and money, you know, I didn’t want to be a burden.  I’d never thought of myself as that before.  And so, it was a lot of, like: Okay, what can you do?  And just rethinking a lot of things.

 

But you say this is all gonna turn out for better.  I know one thing that happened.  That’s when you came back here, and you were ill, you met your husband, your future husband.

 

I did.  I met Chris Kwock.  And like the night I met Chris, I hadn’t gone out in a very long time.  And you know, I went out with my very good friend, Kristen. And she’d been kind; she’d taken me out for my birthday the night before, and she was like: Will you come out with me the next night?  You know, I wasn’t going out, and my first response in my head was no.  And I was like: That’s not what you should say; you should go.  And I went with her, it was the end of the night, and we were about to go home because Kristen’s teaching Sunday school the next day.  And we bump into this party, and oh, it’s my birthday, and I was like: No, it’s my birthday.  And then, we have the same birthday, and it turns out I meet this guy’s friend.  And I had lost my grandfather.  I had lost him the year before, and he always had these like incredible shiny eyes.  And I met Chris, and … I saw those eyes again.  And I’d been so—I’m sorry.

 

I’d been so sick for so long.  And I was just so sad.  And … when I met him, I thought: You could be happy.  And I’d forgotten … I’d forgotten.  And like, I don’t do good if I’m not happy.  You know.  It’s just sort of how I am.  And so, it was so random.  In this moment, where like, I shouldn’t be here, and I don’t want to be at a bar, and I’m super-sick.  And like, this guy I’m talking to, this like idea clicked in my head.  It’s such a small thing.  You could be happy.  Like …

 

And it’s nothing he said.  It’s just who he was.

 

I was like, this guy with the shiny eyes.

 

And like, it was something I’d forgotten. And in the haze of everything, my friend turns to me and she goes: We have to go.  And I was like: Okay, we’ll go.  And I’m not thinking straight, and we walk out the door.  And I gave my number to his friend, and I said: Tell Chris to call me.  And we walked across the street for some reason, and I got a text message.  And it said: That’s not your real name.  And I was like, because whose name is Ciara, I guess. And I wrote back; I’m like: That’s my name, and where are you?  And I turned my head, and he came running to where we were.  And we ended up just hanging out with him, and dropping him off at his house.

 

And you’ve said something about him; that he taught you something you actually really didn’t know, that there was more to life than work.

 

Oh, yeah.  I didn’t know that.  My whole identity was like, my performance.  Right?  My whole identity was, okay, what are the outcomes I provide.  Right?  Like, how did I do in school, how am I doing at work, you know, those are the things that I knew I had control over.  Right? You don’t have control over people. I have control over the things that I can do.

 

Achievement.

 

Yeah.

 

M-hm.

 

Totally.  And you know, I never thought of my life as having somebody else in it.  I never did.  And I think that was just partially just because in was always off doing my own thing, I just never assumed anyone would be there to do that.  And you know, and my identity was so wrapped up in my work. And that’s why it was so crushing when I got sick, because it was like, if you take away my work, you’ve taken me away. What’s left?

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s a very sad thing to think.  It’s a very sad thing to think.  And yet, at the time for me, it was true.  And you know, as I spent more time with Chris, you know, he would say things that I think most people would be like: That’s terrible. He would say things like: You’re not that special.  And when he says that, it wasn’t that I’m not special, it’s that your work doesn’t prevent you from having the other obligations.  The work doesn’t come first.  Right?  The work is part of it.

 

Ciara Lacy and Dr. Chris Kwock got married two years after they met.  As Ciara was still adjusting to life with her medical condition in Honolulu, she found the inspiration to create her first original documentary film.  She would pack her bags again, heading this time to a prison in Arizona.

 

So, I was in physical therapy, and one of my mother’s friends who’s a physical therapist would throw out all these ideas. Oh, you should do a film about this.

 

Or you should do a film about that.

 

I’m sure that happened to you all the time; right?

 

No, it didn’t, actually.

 

No?

 

It didn’t.  And like, at first, it caught me off guard.  But in my mind, I was in such a dark space where it’s like, I can’t do anything.  Like, I could barely ride in a car at this point.  One day when I was in physical therapy with my aunt, she was like: You know, there are these guys dancing hula in Arizona.  And I took pause, because I was like, this doesn’t make any sense. You know, dancing hula at a prison in Arizona; why are they in Arizona?  And like, how does that feel to you, Ciara, knowing they’re dancing hula behind prison.  You know, behind prison bars.  And I packed it away in the back of my head, and I went off to go wallow in my own sadness. And two weeks later, I was at home … on a Friday night.

 

Doing nothing, ‘cause was lame and sick, and I Googled what she had said, and I saw a video online.  And I cried.  Because I was seeing people who, in the moment that I saw, were so far from our community, and were trying to find a point of reconnection, and were coming back from what was probably, you know, without having specific details, really tough stuff, man.  I mean, probably some of like, the toughest stuff one could think of to come back from. And yet, they were still trying. And I saw that, and I was like: You have no excuse; you have absolutely no excuse.

 

You related to them.

 

Yeah.  And in that moment, again, this like crazy click in the head.  I was like, maybe we can heal each other.  And I didn’t know what that really meant.  But I tucked it away, and I thought about it.  And I saw my cousin Beau.

 

Beau Bassett.

 

Beau Bassett.

 

Your co-producer or part of the producing team.

 

Yeah; my producer on Out of State.  And at the time, he was a public defender.  And I mentioned to him this idea, and he was like: You know, this is a big issue for Hawaiians right now.  And he’s like: We should do this.

 

Filmmaker Ciara Lacy, along with her cousin Beau Bassett, and her mentor Terry Leonard, set out to produce Out of State.  The documentary is Ciara’s directorial debut.  It chronicles the lives of two Native Hawaiian men leaving the Arizona prison where they’d been serving time, and returning to Oahu to make a fresh start.

 

You know, the goal was to be as honest about what we were seeing.  So, I almost even intentionally didn’t look up statistics and facts, because I didn’t want my mind, as we were making the film, to be clouded with, oh, this is how things are supposed to go, because this is where the numbers are at.

 

Mm …

 

So, let’s just stay true to what actually happens. Right?  And as small, and as like, humble as we can appear is more important, because the process was never about us.  Right?  This film is not about me.  This film is not about Beau.  This film is about the men who were willing to share their lives, and hopefully, we can do something positive with this.

 

And they were reconnecting with Hawaiian culture.

 

M-hm.

 

In an effort to be whole, and to go back and make a life for themselves.

 

Yeah.  And I mean, you know, that effort, I can get behind.  If you’re gonna try, like if you’re gonna try and nobody else is helping you—this is a very organic program that they have.  This is something that the men developed themselves.

 

There are many interesting themes in your film.  And one of them, I think David Kahalewai, one of the prisoners, talked about how it’s really hard to forgive yourself.  It’s hard to start on that journey where you can change.  And then, for the others too, how can somebody be ready for change when they have known nothing like what they really want to be.

 

Yeah.  No; and I think, you know, first thing to that is, what a humble and like, vulnerable position for someone to put themself in.  Right?  For someone like David to be willing to recognize that, and to share that with other people.  You know, we were very fortunate because the men that participated in the film wanted to make sure our community understood what they were trying to do.  Right?  Wanted them to understand how hard it could be, and wanted do this film to help each other. Like, maybe if I tell my story, or share my story, maybe if somebody knew how hard it was for me, that’s gonna help one of the other brothers who are in prison to figure it out and do better.

 

You forgive yourself for a lot of stuff that you did.  Yeah. I think I had to go to the ends of the Earth and hit bottom to really find out who I was.

 

I’ve been locked up fifteen years.  I’ve been waiting all this time; I want to come home. But where is home?

 

I don’t want to go back to jail, ‘cause I have too much to lose.

 

We don’t live in isolation.  No man is an island.  Right?  And so, it’s about knowing that it’s all about interactions.  Doing better, for them, is important for them to do the work and put it out there.  But it’s also gonna be hard, because the other people around them are gonna have to do the work too.  And as a Hawaiian, it’s like, we talk about hewa; right?

 

M-hm.

 

We talk about hewa, what is wrongdoing.  And how does hewa work?  It doesn’t go in one direction.  If I do something bad to you, I have to apologize, but I also need your forgiveness, and I also need you to be ready for that.  The solution is both of us.

 

Right.

 

So, the solution isn’t just me coming out, trying to do better.  The solution is, I need your forgiveness.

 

That reminds me of what you said about your own life as a filmmaker, which was, life tends to be incremental, one foot in front of the other.

 

I just show up, man.

 

I just show up.

 

And you keep going, and you hope to be in a forward step.

 

Yeah.  You hope everything you do is a little bit better.  Do you always get it right?  No. But do you hope to put yourself out there and try?  Yes. And for me, it’s like, I make a million mistakes every day.  Like a lot.

 

M-hm.

 

But I know that I’m at least putting myself out there, and I show up.  And if I do something wrong, I will apologize, and we’ll figure out a way to fix it.  And I’m not afraid of that.

 

In 2017, the documentary Out of State was released, and went on to win several awards on the film festival circuit, including Best Documentary at the Cayman International Film Festival and the San Diego Asian Film Festival.  Ciara Lacy’s health has improved, but her medical condition still requires management.  She continues to produce and direct with a slate of new film and television projects. Mahalo to Ciara Lacy of Honolulu. And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Yeah; I think for me, the provocation is important. It’s like, it’s about instigating that ripple.  Right? I push the ripple, and then we start asking more questions.  It’s not necessarily about always finding the solution.  Right?  Maybe the questions help us get to the solution, but part of it is, we need to start asking more questions.
 

 

 

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
Kumu Hina

INDEPENDENT LENS Kumu Hina

 

Over the course of a momentous year, Kumu Hina, a native Hawaiian mahu (transgender) teacher, inspires a tomboyish young girl to claim her place as leader of an all-male hula troupe, as Kumu Hina herself searches for love and a fulfilling romantic relationship with an unpredictable young Tongan man.

 

Preview

 

 

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

 

This is the first feature-length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and dozens of others, the film is a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that gave rise to a new revolutionary culture in America.

 

 

‘I Am Not Your Negro’ continues James Baldwin’s legacy

By Katie Moritz

 

Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X and Medgar Evers hold hallowed places in the United States’ civil rights history. But one man, whose name likely didn’t appear in your history book, provides a thread that binds their three stories together.

 

INDEPENDENT LENS: I Am Not Your Negro
Author and activist James Baldwin, center, whose unfinished manuscript spawned “I Am Not Your Negro.”

 

James Baldwin was a black, gay writer whose novels and essays documented and explained the civil rights movement and the realities of black life in a deeply segregated and racist society. Though his writing and speeches gripped audiences at the time, he’s far from a household name today.

 

A team of filmmakers wanted to change that. Decades after Baldwin’s death, a book he never finished about the murders of his friends King, X and Evers would be turned into a documentary that would grip the country, and the world.

 

The film, I Am Not Your Negro, directed by Raoul Peck and co-produced by Peck, his brother Hébert Peck and Rémi Grellety, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017. Its script, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, is adapted from Baldwin’s own writing, Remember This House.

 

“Baldwin had been really, truly effected emotionally by the death of these three friends of his,” Hébert Peck said. “He felt that, in writing this book, it will help him not only tell the story and how they all mattered and were part of the same story, but also would get him out of what he was experiencing.

 

“He was there during their lives as a person who was a witness to what was going on.”

 

Baldwin was fiercely committed to telling this story, but he died before he could finish the manuscript. The filmmakers picked up where he left off.

 

“In these 30 pages he was very clear about how he was going to write the book, why the book was so important and vital, telling the history of America, looking at it from a different perspective,” Hébert Peck said.

 

“We traditionally see American history as history from different points of view. For (Baldwin), no, this is all of the same story, and we need to tell this story, because that’s what makes us Americans.”

I Am Not Your Negro will air on PBS’s Independent Lens on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Monday, January 15 at 8 pm on PBS Hawaiʻi. Hébert Peck said he’s excited for it to reach new audiences in their own homes. Peck recently spoke about the decade-long making of the documentary and Baldwin’s legacy.

 

Why was James Baldwin chosen as the entry point to telling the story of race in the U.S.?

Hébert Peck: James Baldwin had been an important person initially in Raoul’s life. When Raoul was a young adult, reading James Baldwin provided him context for his experience as a young black man in a very powerful way. He read everything he could get his hands on about Baldwin and always had a Baldwin book with him. Eventually he did become a filmmaker, and it wasn’t until maybe decades later when he was an established filmmaker that he felt he wanted to tackle James Baldwin as a topic, as an important person who was one of our top writers of the 20th century in America.

 

Hébert Peck, co-producer of “I Am Not Your Negro.” Photo courtesy of Hébert Peck.

 

He was interested in really creating a film that would hopefully do for an audience what Baldwin had done for him. And also he felt that Baldwin had disappeared from our society and that it was important to bring him back. The task was tougher than what I explain here—it took us 10 years to make the film.

 

The most important thing was to get the rights from the Baldwin estate. When we did secure the rights, we had access to everything—all of his published works, all of his unpublished materials, photographs, personal letters—which, in the industry, is kind of unprecedented. When we got the rights, number one, it was great, number two, it was a lot of pressure. You better do something good, because it was unprecedented to have that (access).

 

Yet at the same time Raoul was still looking for an entry to the story. He knew he didn’t want to create a typical documentary (with) experts talking about Baldwin and explaining to us what’s happening. He really wanted this to be a Baldwin experience—the story would be told from Baldwin’s perspective. He also felt strongly that the documentary or the film should use only Baldwin’s words. When you have those guidelines it puts you in a pretty tight situation.

 

It wasn’t until four years into the project that (Baldwin’s younger sister) Gloria Karefa­-Smart handed Raoul these 30 pages of an unpublished manuscript that Baldwin had written to his literary agent about the next book he wanted to write, or the next book he felt he needed to write. Reading this material, for Raoul, it became, this is it. The task really started at that point.

 

There’s a treasure trove of archival footage and photographs featured in the film. Where did all of that come from and how did you decide what to use?

HP: We had to not only look at Baldwin’s archives, but also look throughout the world at where Baldwin spoke, where he wrote, because he was really this international person, and that meant we had to look everywhere.

 

An anti-integration rally in Little Rock. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

A lot of the footage, the civil rights footage, (people in the U.S.) are very familiar with it. Because we see it every Martin Luther King day or every Black History Month, a lot of that material is back on television or back on our screens, or back on the web. People get used to it and they don’t really pay attention to it. It becomes a symbol more than actually looking at it.

 

We thought, some of the stuff that we are going to use that has been used a lot—how are we going to make that fresh again? How are we going to make it possible for the viewer to pay attention to the details? The final idea was to colorize some of the footage. And in just making that switch with some of the footage, it really makes you pay attention to what you’re watching.

 

Although Baldwin was talking about things that happened 50 years ago, some of it resonated in the present in our current lives. How do you create that vision that the future and the past are kind of the same? So, some of the contemporary footage, some of the protest footage, some of it (is) in black and white. It’s a seamless thing that happens in the viewer’s mind and in our minds.

 

There have been lots of documentaries about race. Why do you think this one became a phenomenon?

I think it’s a combination of many things. Number one, I think it’s Baldwin—his ability to make us see the world with more critical eyes but in a way that it resonates with us and it makes us realize, that thing that I was thinking, it actually does make sense. Number two, I must say the way Raoul tells stories, the way he respects his subjects, the team that he had with him—from the editing team, to the researchers, to the voiceover that he had.

 

And also the mood in the country. You had a situation where there were things people in the black community were aware of, were sharing over the years, even over the centuries, but that up until now weren’t seen on the 10 o’ clock news or on people’s mobile devices. There was some outrage. People were having a difficult time with what they were seeing.

 

And I think there are so many things going on in the country at the same time. We were becoming more and more divided as a society along political lines, along racial lines, and so I think one of the things that Baldwin was able to bring to us, and I think the film, was context for what we were seeing and experiencing. There was almost this thirst for some sort of contextualizing of what we were experiencing as Americans during the past few years.

 

Fifty years ago, Baldwin was skeptical that the U.S. would have a black president any time soon. We did that, and yet many problems Baldwin wrote and spoke about remain. What do you think he would say about the state of the country today?

HP: I don’t think he would be surprised at where we are now. Baldwin always talked from a point of view of love—Baldwin truly loved his country and I think he was frustrated that we continued to operate in silence as if what we call the American dream was the American dream for everyone.

James Baldwin, left, and civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

He wanted to make sure we understood our history as Americans. Yeah, it’s not a pretty story, but we need to make it part of our history so we can move forward, so that we can understand who we are and we can imagine the possibilities and actually create, as he said in the film, something that has never been done before anywhere.

 

And so I think he would not have been surprised because he would have said we haven’t done the work we need to do; this is a logical movement toward where we are going to end up if we don’t do the work we need to do. It’s hard work but we have to do the work. Otherwise, it just gets worse each decade.

 

He would say yes, we have progress, the fact that we can even make a film like that, that’s a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go. He would say it’s the responsibility of each of us to find the solution to go forward. It’s not going to come from anyone else but us.

 

For people wanting to explore Baldwin’s writing, what’s your favorite book of his?

HP: “The Fire Next Time.” I think because it was my first Baldwin book, when I read it I was a young adult, it really resonated with me. After reading that I started getting my hands on everything I could get by Baldwin.

 

“I Am Not Your Negro” premieres on “Independent Lens” on Jan. 15. You can also watch the film online at PBS.org or the free PBS app starting Jan. 16.

 

Katie Moritz is the web editor for Rewire, an online content provider for PBS stations based out of Twin Cities PBS. Moritz is a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at kmoritz@tpt.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.

INDEPENDENT LENS
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

 

John Coltrane’s boundary-shattering music continues to impact and influence people around the world. This portrait of a remarkable jazz artist reveals the critical events, passions, experiences and challenges that shaped his life and his revolutionary sounds.

 

Photo Gallery – Indie Lens Pop-Up: ‘Chasing Trane’

On Tuesday, October 24, PBS Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi Women in Filmmaking kicked off a new season of our free community film screening series, Indie Lens Pop-Up. About 30 attendees enjoyed a free preview of Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary before its broadcast television debut on Monday, November 6 at 10 pm on Independent Lens.

 

Enjoy photos from the event! Click each image to enlarge.

 

Our next Indie Lens Pop-Up will be for I Am Not Your Negro on Wednesday, November 15 at 5:30 pm at PBS Hawaiʻi, 315 Sand Island Access Road. Attendance is free, and first-come, first-served!

 

 

Free Screening of Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

 

Free, public screening of Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary

Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 5:30 – 8:00 pm

PBS Hawaiʻi, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

A part of Indie Lens Pop-Up – Presented by PBS Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking

 

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is the first film in the 2017-2018 season of the Indie Lens Pop-Up community film screening series. Set against the social, political and cultural landscape of the times, Chasing Trane brings saxophone great John Coltrane to life, as a man and an artist. The film is the definitive look at the boundary-shattering musician whose influence continues to this day.

 

Chasing Trane features never-before-seen Coltrane family home movies, footage of Coltrane and his band in the studio (discovered in a California garage during the production of this film), along with hundreds of rare photographs and television appearances from around the world. Coltrane’s incredible story is told by the musicians who worked with him (Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Reggie Workman), musicians inspired by his fearless artistry and creative vision (Common, John Densmore, Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Kamasi Washington), Coltrane’s children (Ravi, Oran, and step-daughters Michelle Coltrane and Antonia Andrews) and biographers, and well-known admirers such as President Bill Clinton and Dr. Cornel West.

Chasing Trane reveals the critical events, passions, experiences, and challenges that shaped Coltrane’s life and his revolutionary sounds. It is a story of demons and darkness, of persistence and redemption. Above all, it is the incredible spiritual journey of a man who found himself and, in the process, created an extraordinary body of work that transcends all barriers of geography, race, religion, and age. And naturally, the film is imbued throughout with Coltrane’s remarkable music.

Although Coltrane never did any television interviews (and only a handful for radio) during his lifetime, he has an active and vibrant presence in the film through thoughts he expressed during print interviews. These words—spoken by Academy Award winner Denzel Washington—illuminate what John Coltrane may have been thinking or feeling at critical moments throughout his life and career.


About The Filmmaker

John Scheinfeld is an Emmy®, Grammy® and Writers Guild Award nominee and writer/director/producer of documentaries for theatrical and television distribution. His films have premiered at Telluride, Toronto, Venice and IDFA and include The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him), We Believe, and Dick Cavett’s Watergate. In addition, Scheinfeld has written pilot scripts for drama series for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and received his MFA from Northwestern University.

 

 

 

 

‘Indie Lens Pop-Up’ film screenings return to PBS Hawai‘i’s studio

PBS Hawaii

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Liberty Peralta
lperalta@pbshawaii.org
808.462.5030

 

Download this Press Release

 

HONOLULU, HI – Next month marks the return of Indie Lens Pop-Up, the free screenings of films from the award-winning PBS series, Independent Lens. PBS Hawai‘i and fellow creative nonprofit Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking are the local co-presenters of Indie Lens Pop-Up.

 

Indie Lens Pop-Up brings people together for community-driven conversations around Independent Lens documentaries.

 

INDIE LENS POP-UP

 

All but one of the screenings will take place at PBS Hawai‘i’s headquarters at 315 Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu. The March 2018 film, Dolores, will be shown at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theatre, as part of Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking’s annual Women of Wonders film festival.

 

“At a time when national conversations about important social issues seem to be overwhelmingly divided, our work with this program has provided a unique space for community members of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to come together and engage in dialogue with one another,” said Duong-Chi Do, Director of Engagement & Impact at Independent Television Service (ITVS), the presenting organization behind Independent Lens.

 

Indie Lens Pop-Up schedule, Fall 2017-Spring 2018

 

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary / By John Scheinfeld

Tuesday, October 24, 5:30-8:00 pm

PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

Set against the social, political and cultural landscape of the times, Chasing Trane brings saxophone great John Coltrane to life, as a man and an artist. The film is the definitive look at the boundary-shattering musician whose influence continues to this day.

 

I Am Not Your Negro / By Raoul Peck

Wednesday, November 15, 5:30-8:00 pm

PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

One of the most acclaimed films of the year and an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary, I Am Not Your Negro envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words, spoken by Samuel L. Jackson, and with a flood of rich archival material.

 

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities /

By Stanley Nelson and Marco Williams

Tuesday, February 6, 5:30-8:00 pm

PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

Tell Them We Are Rising explores the pivotal role historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have played over the course of 150 years in American history, culture, and identity. This film reveals the rich history of HBCUs and the power of higher education to transform lives and advance civil rights and equality in the face of injustice.

 

Dolores / By Peter Bratt

Friday, March 2, 5:30-8:00 pm

Honolulu Museum of Art, Doris Duke Theatre, 900 South Beretania Street, Honolulu

With intimate and unprecedented access, Peter Bratt’s Dolores tells the story of Dolores Huerta, among the most important, yet least-known, activists in American history. Co-founder of the first farmworkers union with Cesar Chavez, she tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century.

 

Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky / By Laura Dunn

Tuesday, April 17, 5:30-8:00 pm

PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

Look & See: Wendell Berry’s Kentucky is a portrait of the changing landscapes and shifting values of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture, as seen through the mind’s eye of award-winning writer and farmer Wendell Berry, back home in his native Henry County, Kentucky.

 

Served Like a Girl / By Lysa Heslov

Wednesday, May 23, 5:30-8:00 pm

PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

Served Like a Girl provides a candid look at a shared sisterhood to help the rising number of homeless women veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffer from PTSD, sexual abuse, and other traumas. By entering into the “Ms. Veteran American” competition, these amazing ladies unexpectedly come full circle in a quest for healing and hope.

 


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

 

 

‘Newtown’ filmmaker Kim A. Snyder to appear at March 14 Indie Lens Pop-Up

PBS Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking will co-present a screening of the acclaimed documentary, Newtown, on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu.

 

Newtown filmmaker Kim A. Snyder is scheduled to appear for a Q&A after the screening. The event is part of “Indie Lens Pop-Up,” a film screening series that brings people together for community-driven conversations about documentaries seen on the PBS series Independent Lens.

 

There is limited seating available. Those interested in attending should RSVP online at newtownhawaii.eventbrite.com or by phone at 808.462.5030.

Kim Snyder, documentary filmmaker, Manhattan, UWS, New York, NY. Photo by Stefano Giovannini

 

About Newtown: On December 14, 2012, a disturbed young man committed a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that took the lives of 20 elementary school children and six educators. Newtown, filmed over the course of nearly three years, uses deeply personal, never-before-heard testimonies to relate the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Through interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, doctors and first responders, Newtown documents a traumatized community still reeling from the tragedy, fractured by grief but driven toward a sense of purpose.

Nicole Hockley, mother of a Sandy Hook victim, and first responder Sgt. William Cario, embrace after the 2012 tragedy that left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead.

 

Newtown premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 3, 2017, 9:00-11:00 pm on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

 

‘Indie Lens Pop-Up’ film screenings will relocate to PBS Hawai‘i headquarters

PBS Hawaii

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Liberty Peralta
lperalta@pbshawaii.org
808.462.5030

 

Download this Press Release

 

‘Indie Lens Pop-Up’ film screenings will relocate to PBS Hawai‘i headquartersHONOLULU, HI – Indie Lens Pop-Up – the free neighborhood screenings of films from the award-winning PBS series, Independent Lens – will take place at PBS Hawai‘i’s headquarters at 315 Sand Island Access Road in Honolulu.

 

Indie Lens Pop-Up brings people together for community-driven conversations around Independent Lens documentaries.

 

“At a time when national conversations about important social issues seem to be overwhelmingly divided, our work with this program has provided a unique space for community members of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to come together and engage in dialogue with one another,” said Duong-Chi Do, Director of Engagement & Impact at Independent Television Service (ITVS), the presenting organization behind Independent Lens.

 

PBS Hawai‘i and fellow creative nonprofit Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking continue to be local co-presenters of Indie Lens Pop-Up. Previously, Indie Lens Pop-Up screenings were held at Hawaii Filmmakers Collective in Kaimuki, and the ARTS at Marks Garage in Downtown Honolulu.

 

The Bad Kids by Lou Pepe and Keith Fulton
Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 pm
PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu
Click to RSVP on Eventbrite

 

Located in an impoverished Mojave Desert community, Black Rock Continuation High School is an alternative for at-risk students with little hope of graduating from a traditional high school. It’s their last chance. This coming of age story shows extraordinary educators and talented students combat the crippling effects of poverty.

 

Newtown by Kim A. Snyder
Tuesday, March 14, 6:30 pm
PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu
Click to RSVP on Eventbrite
 

Newtown uses deeply personal testimonies to tell the story of the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Through poignant interviews with parents, siblings, teachers, doctors, and first responders, Newtown documents a traumatized community still reeling from the senseless killing, fractured by grief but driven toward a sense of purpose.

 

National Bird by Sonia Kennebeck
Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 pm
PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

 

National Bird follows whistleblowers who, despite possible consequences, are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. The film gives rare insight through the eyes of both survivors and veterans who suffer from PTSD while plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries.

 

Real Boy by Shaleece Haas
Tuesday, June 6, 6:30 pm
PBS Hawai‘i, 315 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu

 

Real Boy is the coming-of-age story of Bennett, a trans teenager with dreams of musical stardom. During the first two years of his gender transition, as Bennett works to repair a strained relationship with his family, he is taken under the wing of his friend and musical hero, celebrated trans folk singer Joe Stevens.

 

PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

 

Hawai‘i Women in Filmmaking is a nonprofit organization committed to achieving gender equity in filmmaking and other creative media arts. We are a creative and safe space where film and media-makers connect, create, mentor and inspire current and future generations of women to explore and pursue careers in the field of filmmaking.

 

hawaiiwomeninfilmmaking.org | facebook.com/HIWomenInFilmmaking | @WIF4HI on Twitter

 

Indie Lens Pop-Up is a neighborhood series that brings people together for film screenings and community-driven conversations. Featuring documentaries seen on the PBS series Independent Lens, Indie Lens Pop-Up draws local residents, leaders, and organizations to discuss what matters most, from newsworthy topics to family and relationships. Make friends, share stories, and join the conversation.

 

Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing on PBS Monday nights at 10:00 pm. The acclaimed series features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by Independent Television Service, the series is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding from PBS, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

pbs.org/independentlens | facebook.com/independentlens | @IndependentLens on Twitter

 

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