“The First of Many”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
It is natural in life to be enamored with the aura or the prestige of being “first.”To be the first of something, the first to do something ensures that amidst the seemingly endless throngs of humanity, you may always be guaranteed some significance. Your name may appear in almanacs or encyclopedias. You might become trivia for crossword clues. You and your legacy may be something that nerds use to outdo each other in terms of random knowledge accumulation. To be the first means that when you are remembered people will use active, yet often times cliché metaphors to describe you; you are a trailblazer, pathfinder, boundary buster, glass ceiling shatterer and a history maker.
The excitement around the “first” of something can sometimes be peculiar, especially for those receiving the title. Even if it is your name that is written down, it is truly the world that should get the credit. Too often you being “the first” has nothing to do with your innate greatness, but is more about the context of the time and the circumstances involved; fate just happened to smile on you and tilek your ear, helping you hit History’s Jackpot.
One of the inherent problems with holding the title of first, is that should your claim to fame be more luck than anything else, and not truly represent a historical event or a manifestation of how the world is changing with you at the vanguard, your historical shining moment, may soon become an ugly stain. After all, what is the value of being the first, if there is no second? This is why being the first is often referred to as “paving the way.” You break a barrier, hopefully making it easier for those who follow.
This can be the true test of whether your first has any historical substance or whether it was an anomaly. Does your achievement remain lonely on the map of history? Or does it help guide many more to follow you? So much history is written over the glory of being the first, and rarely do the sages of history record the trails of being the second to do something, or the third.
I recall when Guam’s first feature film, Shiro’s Head made by the Muña Brothers premiered in 2008. It was an inspiring moment. People were proud of these two Chamorros who using their own money and a dedicated team of actors, family and friends, had created something so many had talked about before, but none had actually seen through. Many movies have been made that feature Guam or mention it, but Shiro’s Head stood out as the first where it was locally shot and locally made.
Although the excitement at this first Guam film was justified I remember, for all the reasons listed above, still being cautious. After Shiro’s Head was released there was so much talk about how Guam could now have a film industry. How we could use film to represent our beautiful island to the world, how we could finally tap into all the creativity here and stop relying on others to make our commercials and movies.
But what if this first wasn’t truly historical? What if this was simply about the tenacity of these two brothers and their desire to make a movie, and what if in truth Guam isn’t ready for this and there is never a second Guam film? When I first met with Don and Kel I mentioned this fear to them; that while it is important to honor those who come first, if you want something real, you have to make sure there is a second, a third, a fourth and so on.
This past weekend the island was treated to the Guam International Film Festival. Helmed by the Muña Brothers, the event sported dozens of short and feature films from 18 countries. It was an epic and beautiful weekend to say the least. The most exciting aspect for me was the many Guam and Marianas related films. To see the amount of talent mixed with the desire for local people to create, make a mark in the world and represent their islands was an inspiration.
I am impressed with the commitment and dedication of the Muña Brothers in helping ensure that their first film was not the last from Guam. They could have simply enjoyed the title of being the first and sat back and enjoyed their place in Guam’s history and let fate decide if any follow their lead. Instead, with this festival and their other efforts they have worked tirelessly to make certain that Shiro’s Head would not be the last Guam film, but the first of many to come.