A few years back, I left behind my career to to be a documentary filmmaker. I chose this art form as a means to share my own experience in a way that I thought could have the greatest impact. However, when you’re so close to the story you’re trying to tell, you often don’t see the larger picture. At least that was the situation in my case...
The film that has become Kol Hanashim (Voices of Women) comes out of my own background. I was raised in a very religious Jewish home, one that prioritized maintaining our faith and values over embracing mainstream American culture. For me though, this was very challenging. Growing up you want to respect you family and traditions, but for happiness you also need to embrace your own path. The results were not good. Conflict. Confusion. Anger. A lack of understanding as to why. In the end I moved out from my parents home when still in high school.
I set out with a goal to prevent others from going through the situation I did. I figured that if I could create a film that would humanize the parties in this conflict to each other, it could diffuse the conflict to an extent. While a parent will never agree with their child rejecting their values, if they understood why, if they understood that it wasn’t rebellion or spite perhaps it could be dealt with in a more constructive manner. Ideally, this would work in both directions, while a teenager isn’t going to understand their parents, seeing someone in a similar situation might help them distance themselves enough to at least get where they’re coming from.
As the project developed, friends who are from other ethnicities spoke about their own issues in dealing with this challenge. It was then that I realized that this wasn’t solely a Jewish story, rather one that has its roots in the American story of immigration and diversity. And so my goals changed. It was no longer a film for the jewish community, but one telling this broader story though a jewish lens.
So now what? You want to make sure people “get it”, so you try to shoehorn in various other cultures.
Guess what it doesn’t work.
So now it’s two and a half years into production and you’re presenting a short from your film publicly for the first time. You nervously wait for the Q&A. Are people engaged? What do they ask about? Does it work?
And then the last two questions of the evening come from a Hindu women discussing how she relates to the film, followed by and Muslim women, asking what are the plans to bring the film into the religious Muslim community.
And you finish the night knowing you have a lot more work to do, but with your vision affirmed.
How a Story Changes Before Your Eyes