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“Lately It Has Been Difficult To Turn Away from Screens”: Micaela Durand and Daniel Chew on Violence, Racism and Complicity

In April, as we began to put together the Summer, 2020 issue of Filmmaker, we asked directors, cinematographers, editors and other film workers to send us their thoughts on the quarantine and their own creative lives. The responses printed here were collected from April through mid-June — personal statements that speak variously to individual filmmaking practices, films halted mid-production, politics, art and life. Read all the responses here. — Editor

Lately, it has been difficult to turn away from screens. Screens that show us the casual abuse of power. Screens that instill rage and dread. These screens are important in showing us just how ugly things are, but we want a world where better screens exist. Screens that do not show yet another Black body waiting to be buried. Screens that do not have to police the police. Screens that do not replay generations trying not to die at the hands of these terrorists. Screens we can live with.

Filmmaking is social. We do not make films alone. We want to acknowledge our friends who have braved acting in front of the camera, worked as crew, helped and encouraged us. The perspectives they bring cross boundaries of race, gender and sexuality. Their friendship is what makes filmmaking meaningful for us. This time is a reminder that they are worth protecting.

While blatant violence is something we cannot ignore, we want to point out the racist complicity in this industry. The violence of not casting Black and Brown bodies. The violence of not centering their stories. The violence of tired stereotypes. The violence we don’t typically deem as violent. This is a problem beyond representation. Change needs to happen in front of and behind the screen. What is needed is a conscientious strategy grounded in dismantling systemic racism in every industry and taking people of color seriously.

We say this to encourage others and also to hold ourselves accountable. We know it starts with us. This is what we can do in our community. Film is a visual medium, and we deserve to look better. With great power comes great responsibility. As RuPaul would say, “Don’t fuck it up.”

Filmmaker duo Micaela Durand and Daniel Chew have exhibited their work at International Film Festival Rotterdam, MoMA PS1, White Columns, 47 Canal, Sheffield Doc/Fest, and MOCA LA. They live in New York.

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