This year, I was able to see 5 films at HIFF, though I wish I could’ve seen more. Four out of five of the films I saw were part of the New American Perspective program for HIFF, so I think I learned quite a lot about different cultures, specifically the culture in Saudi Arabia, which I previously knew nothing about. While the fifth one was not, it still told a story about the reality of discrimination towards minority groups in the U.S. This year, I really wanted to watch movies that focused on representation of minority groups, as I think, especially with the current political climate, that it’s extremely important to see and hear these stories from their point of view.
I did not attend any social or media press events, but I was able to attend a couple of the Q&A sessions at the end of films I watched. The highlight of the film festival for me personally was getting to meet Saudi Arabia’s first film maker, Haifaa al-Mansour. As a woman of color who is working to be a director/producer one day, it was really inspiring to meet someone who’s broken so many barriers through her work.
I love participating in HIFF, as I really enjoy venturing out into independent films. It’s also a bit of an inspiration for me that hopefully one day I can produce something that may get chosen to screen here. I especially love that HIFF puts a big emphasis on showing a range of diverse voices. I think all of the films I watched influenced me for different reasons. They were all very strong in their own way, which I think is a good learning moment for me. One that particularly challenged my ideas was 37 Seconds, as usually when I think of representation, I think in terms of race or gender. It definitely made me expand my view in that differently-abled people are especially underrepresented in the media. Another one that challenged my ideas was Just Mercy. I am no stranger to the discrimination and prejudice that black people face in America, but one thing that I never thought about was how inmates on death row are treated. I learned a lot about how many are falsely convicted and never receive fair trials. It’s definitely something that I would like to learn more about what I can do/how I can vote to change this.
There was nothing I hated about any of the films I saw. They were all really amazing and I hope to see more from these directors in the future. I think this collaboration is a useful learning experience, but also somewhat a professional one in that I take things away from these films that I hope to incorporate into mine someday to better them. I would definitely recommend HIFF to friends and family, one, because I think it’s important to support independent filmmakers, but also because there’s such a range of stories and experiences in this program, you’re bound to find something that speaks to you.