Versión en español.


For months now the COVID-19 pandemic has felt like an abstract menace. It’s been the creature, unseen in the shadows, that watches my husband Nate, our sons William and Santiago, and me as we stay home trying to protect ourselves from something we can neither see nor comprehend. That abstractness shattered when a few weeks ago my mom wrote to tell me that Diego, my stepfather’s youngest brother, who’d been living in Chile, had been hospitalized with a serious case of COVID. The first thing that crossed my mind was that Diego had three children, a 13-year-old son and ten-year-old twins. The last time I saw Diego was at a Christmas celebration in Venezuela a decade ago. His daughter was a gorgeous baby with soulful eyes, and I held her for a long time, hoping she’d be a good-luck charm to help me get pregnant with my own baby. She must have worked her magic, because two months later, William was growing inside me.

Diego fell asleep by her side while putting her to bed in my room that night. I watched them for a while, awed by that simple display of quotidian love, an exhausted father of three small children missing a party for a chance to get some desperately needed sleep. As Diego’s battle with COVID dragged on, I realized that, even though he’d been in my life since I was 11, we’d never really known that much about each other, which is a pity because he had a wicked sense of humor, and we ended up working in the same field. He was an editor for film and TV, and as it turned out, he’d collaborated with some of the same Venezuelan filmmakers I now work with on my own projects. Last Monday, when news arrived that there was nothing else to be done and that they were unplugging him, I felt like I was walking underwater with no sense of direction or strength to move a foot in front of the other.

We may not have been as close as we should have been, but we shared a beloved family and that family is struggling with paralyzing pain, not just for his loss but for his children, who now have to go through life without the father who spent so much of his creativity, passion, and wit making sure they knew how uniquely spectacular he found them to be. Diego was 47 years old, and he suffered from none of the conditions that make people more susceptible to COVID. He joins over 650,000 other COVID victims in leaving us bereft of their presence, talent, and potential, bereft of the infinite stories and gifts they had to offer. He’s gone. They are gone. And it hurts. At some point I know that we will make sense of all this and learn from it. This week, though, it just hurts.

Come to Our Online Work In Progress Screening This August

still from The Weeping Season film rough cut, Alex, sons, and mom reading a letter from a suitcase
We have a Work in Progress screening of my feature documentary The Weeping Season at the Denton Black Film Festival Institute on Friday, August 28 from 7-8:30 pm, EDT. For those who sign up to attend, we will have the screener of the film’s latest draft available online for 72 hours, and on that Friday we will host a zoom event in which the film’s editor, Cristina Carrasco, and I will discuss our creative process and then answer questions and receive feedback on the draft from audience members. Please save the date for the screening and stay tuned on social media for updates on how to sign up to watch the film’s rough draft and attend the discussion.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

Christmas in Venezuela with Nate and Alex's Family
My husband Nate and I met while in college at Ohio University in April of 1999, and he came to meet my family in Venezuela that December. While we were there, incessant rains caused days of flooding and mudslides in coastal towns near Caracas, where we were staying. We’ve never really known how many died. Some accounts claim that we lost as few as 3,000 people, others as many as 30,000. In this portrait, taken at my mom’s annual Christmas party, we’re all trying to find some joy together as we digest the disaster and the experiences we had during our time volunteering with families who lost their homes during the flood. Our smiles seem slightly awkward under the unforgiving light of the flash from my run-of-the-mill 35-millimeter camera.

Diego stands in the middle in a red shirt, his head angled toward my mom. He had yet to meet his future wife and was only beginning his work as an editor. When I look at this photo, I think of the two decades ahead of him. Decades for falling in love, for bringing three adored beings into the world, and for finding ways to shine in his career as he collaborated with others to bring stories to countless screens. Decades for growing into the person he wanted to become and for enjoying the thrill of making some of your dreams come true. Two decades may feel short, and they are indeed short in the larger scheme of things, but I choose to believe that they were not short for him but rich and complex with a texture that made his time in the world something those who love him are proud of, even as we mourn him.

My Documentary Feature Vanishing Borders Is Available on Amazon Video

My 2014 feature documentary Vanishing Borders, which tells the story of four extraordinary immigrant women living in New York City, is available to rent or buy on Amazon Video. As we struggle to find compassionate responses to our current global turmoil, this film’s message of hope and resilience in the midst of difficult times will help viewers find comfort and inspiration for their own journeys.

A #BlackLivesMatter Conversation For You

Black Lives Matter Protester with flag
I moderated a conversation for constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space, the peer-reviewed journal of which I am editor-in-chief, in which five black faculty and graduate students—Sharieka Botex, Michelle Grue, Alicia Hatcher, Eric House, and Sherita Roundtree—discuss their experiences. Please check out “Academic #BlackLivesMatter: Black Faculty and Graduate Students Tell This Stories” for a nuanced and stimulating conversation around one of the most vital ongoing issues in American society.

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