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Parting Thoughts: The Power of Film Is Unmistakable

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Nancy Buirski and the middle school-aged students at Colegio Agroecológico Holanda in the rural community of La Mesa de los Santos.

Nancy Buirski, director, The Loving Story

Nancy Buirski is the director of the documentary “The Loving Story.” She recently joined Film Forward in Colombia to screen her film for the local community. Below she reflects on her experience.

The notion of violence permeates our trip. It is ever-present. With deer-in-headlight eyes we read the State Department security memo issued to all Americans who travel to Colombia, whether for business or pleasure. It warned us not to venture out by ourselves, not to explore on our own – as filmmakers and photographers are programmed to do. It warned us not to flash jewelry or other signs of wealth, so no bling in Bogota. It gave us fair warning, and, once issued, the rest was up to us.

Throughout our trip we have been very well taken care of by U.S. Embassy personnel; we’ve traveled in bullet proof cars, with prominent bullet holes as reminders, and we are told that is ancient history. Indeed, our hosts go to some length to tell us that gang violence and drug drama is no longer part of their lives and we can relax. We do.

But it was clearly part of the lives of those to whom we showed The Loving Story. This is the reason they button their mouths, they say. Technically, this is a country that supports free speech; in practice it is another story. This was the memorable issue that surfaced in our screening at the school in La Mesa de los Santos, high in the mountains. When we asked a classroom of pre-teen girls how they related to the interracial marriage of Mildred and Richard Loving, they said that intolerance and racism, though they exist, were not the critical issues for them. What they are haunted by instead is misogyny, and that Mildred’s ability to stand up for herself and act on the intolerance against her and the man she loved was an inspiration to them all.

So this trip accomplished exactly what it set out to do – remind us of our similarities as well as our differences. Our films – The Loving Story and Chasing Ice – elicited revealing, poignant responses, humbling us time and again. I’m sure I speak for director Jeff Orlowski as well as myself when I say we learned as much, if not more, than our audiences. Unforgettable!

Thank you to all who support this program – the government agencies, the many hard workers at Sundance Institute, Sundance Channel Global, and especially Film Forward. The power of film is, indeed, unmistakable. For some things there are just no words…

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Sundance Institute Piloting Direct Individual Support for Mediamakers Through the Sundance Institute | Humanities Sustainability Fellowship

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in general, and halted production and distribution for many creatives, the nonfiction field was plagued by issues of sustainability. For several years, sustainability has been an urgent and vigorous topic of study, debate, and organizing, as more and more filmmakers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living solely on the basis of their creative work. 

In Memoriam: Diane Weyermann (1955–2021)

A singular force within the documentary film world with a global reach, Diane Weyermann passed away at age 66 after battling cancer. Over the course of her 30-year career as a funder and an executive, her work elevated the documentary form and expanded its cultural impact.

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