WHAT IS YOUR SOMETHING?
WISDOM FROM OUR Q&As
FROM ZOË ELTON, MVFF DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING
It’s hard for words to sound anything other than empty when we are dealing with such profound moments in our lives and culture as we are now. Yet in words there is power, and in the right words there can be solace and insight. Words that can perhaps support, or provide some “Ah-ha!” moments. And: this is a time for listening.
As programmers and educators working with film, we’ve often had the privilege of being in the company of many great artists and creatives whose words have moved us from the Rafael and Sequoia stages. The CFI programming teams have re-visited our archive of onstage conversations and Q&As to seek out some of the wisdom we’ve been party to. We’ve pulled together some quotes that we offer here along with links to the Q&As. Watch out for others we’ll be posting on social media.
A lifetime high point for me was the conversation after MVFF36’s 12 Years a Slave premiere, with Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Lupita Nyong’o. Their eloquence and their insights on the heritage of slavery and about the creative process continue to inspire me. There’s always something to be learned in small moments. You can read the whole conversation here.
This film was Lupita’s first feature. She was just out of Yale, and the role won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar®. What she said then continues to resonate:
“I just want to say that what I’m excited about in sharing this film is it gives us a common story, a common reference point to start talking about things. When I first watched this film, I watched it with my team and my best friend. My best friend is half black and my team, my agent and my manager are both white, and the first time we left, after about an hour of crying, and went to a restaurant and had a conversation about our relationship with the opposite, with the other races in a way that I don’t think would have happened without this film. Those are the kinds of things that I’m excited are happening because that’s the power of film.”
As we made a list of recent films, what became noticeable is that the titles articulate the journey from slavery to the present. From 12 Years A Slave to The Hate U Give; from Harriet to Just Mercy, there are through lines that create a greater narrative that can be explored through these stories.
And the conversations invoked have been amazing. Listen to the words of Cynthia Erivo as she spoke with human rights activist Ericka Huggins about her work in Kasi Lemmons’s film Harriet. The profound insight that came from the stage that night was as much about life and the nature of truth as it was about the creative process of bringing Harriet Tubman’s story to the screen.
As it was with Amandla Stenberg, then 19, talking about The Hate U Give with a grace and wisdom way beyond her years. And with the team of Just Mercy: Jamie Foxx addressing the moral quagmire of contemporary life, and Karan Kendrick’s revelation: “everyone can do something.”
These stories offer a way to witness and understand where we’ve come from, how we got here, and who we are. And their creators offer the wisdom of their lives and their art in these onstage conversations. That’s the power of film, and the importance of the voices of artists. Join us in revisiting and listening to these voices.
12 YEARS A SLAVE (Steve McQueen, 2013) Where To Watch
CLEMENCY (Chinonye Chukwu, 2019) Where To Watch
DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (Julie Dash, 1991) Where To Watch
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Barry Jenkins, 2018) Where To Watch
LIFE AND NOTHING MORE (Antonio Méndez Esparza, 2017) Where To Watch
LOVING (Jeff Nichols, 2016) Where To Watch
MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins, 2016) Where To Watch
MUDBOUND (Dee Rees, 2017) Where To Watch
We encourage all CAFILM Blog readers to look into ways to take action with SURJ: Showing Up for Racial Justice, and to consider donating to the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson, whose story is told in JUST MERCY.
CHECK OUT PREVIOUS CFI STAFF SELECTIONS HERE