Lessons Learned from Three Slow-Walking Apparitions

April 18, 2021 8:40 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

 

At some point in January I sat down to write this monthly community letter and realized that taking the time to write it would mean getting even more behind on a litany of looming deadlines, so I decided to wait a month. When I reopened the document in February, I realized that instead of shrinking, the deadlines had found the secret to exponential propagation, so once again, I chose to wait, hoping to catch up to them before writing the next letter. As you can imagine, the deadlines haven’t subsided. I’ve come to realize they are unlikely to ever do so and that I need to be OK with that because deadlines mean engagement and possibility. They are signs of a blooming creative life. Something I am infinitely thankful to enjoy. But in this year of reckonings, I’ve decided to change our community letter from monthly to whenever I have exciting things to share with you and the time to do so. I figured that if Entertainment Weekly—a magazine I’ve read religiously for over a decade—can switch its format from weekly to monthly and keep its original name, I can also slow down, writing when time and inspiration present themselves.

Inspiration today came in the form of three women that my husband Nate, our sons William and Santiago, and I ran into while visiting a marsh near our house. Nate is an avid birdwatcher, and I love to walk through nature as fast as my feet will carry me. The blend of extra oxygen coursing through my body, chirping birds, and trees swaying in the breeze makes my wounds and anxieties recede for as long as the walk lasts—and often for longer. Today as we made our way toward the bog we saw three figures standing in the distance. As they slowly came into focus with our approach, I made out three women somewhere in their sixties. One of them had two canes, a flowing skirt, and a shawl over which her waist-length white hair fell generously. The second wore a magenta coat with equally long white hair braided down her back. The third was wearing baggy jeans and a black hoodie.

The women asked if we were birdwatchers and struck up a conversation with Nate about a colorful duck they couldn’t identify. In a hurry to feel the rush of walking, I left them there, talking about wingspans and migration periods. I ran into the women again walking single file as I circled back. They smiled at my purposeful speed and told me they were going slowly because they were doing a walking meditation. I told them that was wonderful and rushed to the other end of the pond so I could have the joy of watching their exquisite slow journey as I made my own way down the path. Three archetypal symbols of womanhood surrounded by spring blossoms and a reminder that not everything has to be weekly. It can be monthly. Or it can have no schedule at all beside a strike of inspiration…whenever that arrives.

A Family of Stories

A lot of exciting things have happened with our feature documentary in the last few months. The most foundational one is that we changed its title from A Family of Stories. We’ve known for a while the original title no longer fits the story we are now telling, but we weren’t sure what to replace it with. After a long weekend breaking down why I love my favorite film and book titles, I came up with this new version, which gets at the heart and tone of the film. If you want to learn more about our new draft, this Tuesday, April 20 from 3-4 pm Eastern Time, I will give a Zoom talk kindly hosted by The Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, where I will show new scenes from the film and discuss the experience of making it. You can join the event, which is titled “Art in the Time of Chaos: Intersectional Feminist Collaborations Between Latinas Across Continents,” by registering through this link.

Unearthed Photo

Some people are born filmmakers. The moving image runs through their veins from the moment they open their eyes as babies, seeing the world in all its blurry glory while their eyes take months to develop fully enough that they can finally see it all in focus. I am not such a filmmaker. It never occurred to me that I would end up behind the camera until I was in my early 30s. I had until then channeled my love for storytelling through words, and I’m still grappling with the visceral visuality of film. One of the issues we struggle with most for A Family of Stories is our recurring reliance on photographs to bring my father to life on screen. As my editor Cristina Carrasco and I were working with consulting editor Andrea Chignoli on the film, Andrea suggested we needed to find a clearer aesthetic for how the photos function in the film.

After much debate we settled on an experiment. There is a recurring scene in which my sons, my mom, and I look at slides from the 1970s, and Cristina, Andrea, and I decided to turn the rest of the photos—136 to be exact—into slides and film them as if they were part of the same slideshow. This meant that the paperness of the photos, their scratches and de-colorings, needed to disappear. So for weeks I dwelled in the land of Photoshop and Broadway shows (the only soundtrack that gets me through menial tasks) as I painstakingly labored over my father’s image, one white dot at a time. For someone who as a child was terrified I’d forget my father’s face after he disappeared, this was a surreal time. For a while it felt like his features were more deeply woven into the fabric of my subconscious than my own—and that is some earthshaking movie magic for someone who vanished in 1983.

My MSU DocLab Profile, Filmmaking, and Teaching

Claire Bahorski wrote “Alexandra Hidalgo: Making Films About Love and Helping Students Shape the Future of Media” for the MSU DocLab Blog. In her thoughtful profile she discusses my approach to filmmaking and pedagogy and the role that love plays in my work.

Our New and Improved agnès films Website

Web and graphic designer Hannah Countryman and I have been collaborating on digital projects for over five years now. She can always make something extraordinary out of any task I send her way, and after a year of work together we are happy to unveil our new version of agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers, an online publication of which I’m the editor-in-chief. I hope you enjoy this design labor of love, and while you’re there, check out the article “Finding Your Real and Metaphorical Sisters: Our Favorite Films and TV Shows that Celebrate the Sisterly Bond,” which I co-wrote it with Mimi Anagli, Kara Headley, and Allison Simpson. It will provide you with hours of entertainment exploring the splendors of sisterhood.

Getting a Closer Look at the Black Experience

Mimi Anagli, Mitch Carr, Kara Headley, Allison Simpson, and I collaborated on the agnès films article, “The Films and TV Shows that Capture the Black Experience with Love and Courage.” As yet again the US mourns the murder of an unarmed Black man by a police officer, this article brings together content that uses pathos, humor, and inspired storytelling to remind us of the devastating wake that systemic racism has left in this country and the world while providing glimmers of hope for a more egalitarian future.

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This post was written by Allison Simpson

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