Our short documentary will be a biography on Fadia Afashe, artist and activist living in Los Angeles. We are interested in her use of art as a medium of activism. Just as we have been studying in FAMST 165DA, activism on a digital platform is now common and effective, specifically in the Middle East. As a refugee from the Middle East, Fadia has had to translate her experiences and her activism in her own form which is in art. We will film her, giving her an identity beyond her art and ask her to speak of her own form of activism, displaying the diversity in activism and how it is expressed. Some questions we will ask her include, how have you connected your identity as a refugee to your own form of activism? How can you connect your artistic activism to that of digital activism? What do you see that they have in common and what do you see that they don’t? Considering your art is available to see online do you think you have some sort of combination of digital and physically artistic activism?
It would be interesting to delve into the difference between non-verbal and verbal activism. Some forms of digital activism are rants online, journalistic articles, twitter posts, Facebook posts, etc. Some activism though includes photography and, in Fadia’s case, paintings. These examples of activism depend on visual stimulation and comprehension. I think this is a worthwhile concept and theme to investigate in our interview with Fadia, asking her about how her form of activism differs from verbal activism or how it can be coupled with verbal activism.
As a way to understand Fadia and her social justice work more, we’d like to ask her about her I Rise, her first exhibition in the US. I’d like to discuss with her if and how she gets her art to Syria or the Middle East as she is painting in the US. Does she feel a sense of safety being able to pain in the US? Does she share her work digitally as a way to bring her paintings and activism across to Syria?
Moreover, the purpose of our documentary is to display a different example of not only the experience of a Syrian refugee but the different forms of activism that exists in our contemporary world. Whether it be non-verbal or verbal, 2D or 3D, digital or on canvas, people figure out different ways to express their pain and experiences as a way to advocate for change. I hope that this documentary inspires people to open their minds to the lives of different refugees and the different forms and possibilities in being an activist, motivating people to experiment with their own forms of activism in diverse mediums.
What We Hope To Present
Through our short documentary on Fadia Afashe, we hope to present a personal story of a Syrian refugee living in the United States. Both an artist and an activist, Afashe will be a great subject who should provide valuable insight on the experience of being a refugee and on different methods of activism. Our final product will be a video roughly five minutes long that consists of a straightforward interview with Afashe intercut with footage of her art and life. In order to generate empathy for refugees, we hope to tell her personal story of fleeing Syria and coming to America. With Donald Trump currently spreading fear and hatred against immigrants, we hope that this mini-doc will provide a human story that will make people think about the United State’s role in accepting refugees.
We plan on shooting in HD on a Canon 60D and recording sound on a Zoom H6 with a wireless lavaliere mic. We will record to SD cards and back-up our files on a hard drive. Then we will all sit down together and edit on Premiere Pro CC. We also plan on making background music since all three of us play instruments. We may use Logic Pro for recording music.
For the interview, our plan is to keep it very simple and use a black backdrop similar to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXGfngjmwLA
Inspiration: My Aleppo
The original inspiration for our project was the short film My Aleppo by Melissa Langer, a filmmaker currently studying in the documentary program at Stanford. In her documentary, Langer documents the day-to-day lives of a family of Syrian refugees living in South Africa. She captures incredibly personal and human moments that effectively communicate the pain that this family is going through. One aspect of the film that inspired me was that there were no “talking heads” like traditional documentaries, it was more like a series of portraits that depicted the family and their struggle. The personal connection that this film made me feel with the family made me care more about the Syrian crisis than any news report ever could. It was a great example of how human stories can move people more than hearing about things through news and statistics. My Aleppo would be a great film to screen in our class as it covers Syrian refugees and shows the effectiveness of the concept of show-not-tell. Our film will be more of a traditional documentary, consisting of an interview and shots of Afashe’s life and art. I would love to do something more personal but there simply is not time to build that level of trust with a subject.
Roles of Each Student
Kassandra Guitierrez: in charge of facilitating the interview with Fadia and producing the documentary, scheduling the interview with Fadia. In terms of the midterm assignment, Kassandra was in charge of the shooting plans and scheduling.
Shaina Goel: in charge of sound for the short documentary and also responsible for being in contact with Fadia in addition to developing questions for the interview upon research and preliminary discussions with Fadia. In terms of the midterm assignment, Shaina is in charge of sound and roles of students.
Johnny Rafter: camera operator/director for the short film. Depending on the time constraints, Kassandra, Shaina and Johnny will either create their own music for the short documentary or decide to contact music minors to collaborate with. In terms of the miderm assignment Johnny is in charge, as director, for the storyboard, shot list and overhead.
Each student typed 500 words for the 1500 word description compiled for the midterm assignment.
At the beginning of our thought process we really had a slim amount of options to turn to for a subject to our documentary story. I (Kassandra) started off with tweeting a couple of news reporters who had done similar news pieces on Syrian refugees, as well as researching any local resources which have been involved in donating or helping out with the refugee crisis. Meanwhile, Professor Sakr was able to suggest we try and get ahold of a couple of her good friends, a painter and an actor. After being able to get in contact, via email, with artist and painter Fadia Afashe, the hopes of our original documentary plan began to seem more real and the planning process began. First, we contacted Afashe asking if she would be interested in being the subject and story for our documentary. After her approval we were able to set up a time to talk over the phone.
My phone conversation with Afashe was very eye opening to the realism of the situation. The fact that she was a refugee who had left all her life behind in hopes of finding a safer living space was more emotionally overwhelming than anticipated. Although hopeful, you could hear in her responses that she has been distressed for a while, due to the lack of time she has been able to put into her art since her move to the United States. She mentioned to me that her art was the means through which she could fully express herself, but since being in America she has found the need to work more hours, which has resulted in very little free time causing her to not be able to find time to paint and express herself. That being said, we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with Fadia Afashe, as she takes time from her busy schedule for us to work on this project.
During our phone conversation we also agreed that this documentary would be an opportunity for her to share her story, and our group also saw the chance to make this an opportunity for her to express herself. Not only do we hope this becomes a moment in which Afashe is able to release her innermost struggle, but also an opportunity for us as humans to learn more about the own battles others face, and with that knowledge hopefully feel more compassion and connectivity with Syrian refugees.
After our phone conversation concluded, we had came to the agreement that we would meet this upcoming Friday to shoot the documentary. Due to classes, the original meeting time is set to be in the evening, however we are currently working to meet with her earlier in the day in hopes of catching better and more suitable lighting for our documentary theme and story line.
The process has been a learning experience, and also an opportunity to enhance skills I have had experience in, such as interviewing. Our group gave me the opportunity to work prominently on the interview, which will enrich me a whole new experience, as well as allow me to practice journalism. I will also be working on finding music composers for the short documentary. There are many talented musicians within my music minor who are capable of taking on such task.