I grew up with folk tales as lullabies. During my early teen years, still newly adjusting to life in the US, my mom would comfort me on those nights when my anxieties would tense my sleepless body into a question mark. Wrapping herself up next to me in bed, she’d start, “Yeki bood, yeki nabood,” the Iranian version of “once upon a time.” One of my favorite stories was about a clever rabbit who outwitted a lion’s insatiable appetite for forest creatures. The rabbit was able to use the lion’s own weakness—his pride—against him to fell the cruel predator and save his animal peers.
Editor Walter Murch writes that what audiences remember from a film is not plot or cinematography or even editing. “It’s how they felt,” he writes. Neither mom nor I remember the exact details of the story, but the thought of this story even now, 20 years later, brings me right back to that singing forest where animal intelligences avoid some great peril and live happily among their loved ones and where mom and I fall asleep thinking we clever rabbits may actually be able to do the same here in the dark forests of this new country.
I’ve been pursuing storytelling ever since, finding in it a great refuge and a connection, however faint, to my roots. In direct response to my own experiences living as an immigrant in the U.S., I’m most interested in stories that explode the myth of the individual hero and instead illuminate where character confronts the “systems and structures” that shape character (Sonya Childress).
In my experience, politics is not a choice or a hobby, but a constructing agent, a system of levers and pulleys against which we negotiate. I believe that storytelling is, like teaching, our hope for exposing these levers and pulleys, the vehicle to foster critical consciousness which can lead to transformative action, a la Paolo Freire.
I am especially drawn to documentary storytelling for the ways it can hold narrative, lyricism, political struggle and solutions all at once. But I don’t see documentary as a product to be made (I in fact make very little product!) but as a process (or set of processes) that engage all stakeholders — those in front, behind, and alongside the camera — in collaboration, conversation, and co-creation. It is in this space between and among us, where we enact new systems, new ways of being, new connections, that we can build brick by brick the better road ahead.
I thrive in collaboration so reach out if you think we might be able to dream something up together!