Saturday, October 05, 2013

Beyond the See

Guam is truly fortunate to have its own international film festival. It is even more fortunate that it has been able to enjoy this festival for three years in a row now. But it is the most fortunate of all, and I don’t think we realize it enough, that we have people here who are willing to take on the task of organizing the festival and making it a reality for the community.

The 3rd Guam International Film Festival, titled “Beyond the See” took place last week. All in all, the festival offered over 45 films from across the world and took place over 6 nights at the Agana Shopping Center. The trailer for the film festival invoked the word “passion.” The more films I watched and the more I interacted with both audience members and filmmakers, the more I could feel this passion.

Filmmaking, especially in this small-scale, grassroots form is a very delicate and personal art. For many filmmakers, it is something they want to do, hope they can do, but struggle to find ways to sustain and establish themselves. They are kept moving by that feeling of passion, it overrides all of the evidence around them that states that getting a “real” job would be safer, doing something that is more practical would be a smarter choice. They are driven to create and this passion pushes them. It unfortunately can’t always pay the bills or feed the family.  

What I find amazing about each year when the Guam International Film Festival takes place is the community that comes together to create for it and organize it. In that community you find a rag tag collection of people who have passion and who have dreams, but don’t always get the support they deserve.  

Each year the local short film showcase show us the work of this community. Movies that are created after one long conversation between someone who has an idea and someone else who has been looking for a reason to get a better camera. Movies that are created between a group of people that are looking for a place to act and someone who wants to tell a compelling story about our part of the Pacific and the world.

While this community is inspiring to see at work sometimes, it is also disheartening. For every story of a short film being made, there are plenty more of project going nowhere and lacking any real local support. Creating a movie on your own, taya’ salape’ style is possible, but it can be incredibly hard. After three years of film festivals and several locally made feature films, the question that always hangs over each GIFF is, now that we have your attention and we even have some of your support, where is the investment? Are you ready to finally start investing in local artists and truly promoting this place?

This year the festival seemed determined to push that conversation out there.

Prior to each movie was a preview for the upcoming documentary film “Talent Town” created by the Muna Brothers, who have been the main organizers for the film festival itself and famous for creating the first Guam film “Shiro’s Head.” I am really looking forward to this film being released, and not only because I was one of the subjects they interviewed for it. The film is a showcase for the types of local talent that Guam has to offer and their ideas for taking the local art scene to the next level.

The preview is filled with snippets from the more than a dozen interviews the Muna Brothers conducted, with local musicians, visual artists, small businesspeople. Each of them express elements of the frustration they feel with being in Guam and creating in Guam. One musician joked about how even if your relatives and friends are supportive of your musical creation, they don’t see any problem with asking for freed copies of your CD instead of buying it.

In their minds they don’t make the connection that supporting you with lovely words is nice and can give you plenty of warm fuzzy feelings, but supporting through seeing the films you make, attending your fundraisers, or buying your CDs or artwork is even more important. The phrase “putting your money where your mouth is” comes to mind here.

The life of a creative artist is rarely easy. Many on Guam feel like it is particularly difficult here. While we may assume that this is the way things should be because Guam is small and supposedly isolated, this is precisely the reason why art is essential to our island. Given the beauty around us, the complexity of this island’s history and present, it is essential that Guam be able to represent itself effectively. Our artists will be the ones who determine how we are represented whether to visitors, to investors or to the world. We must invest in our artists and develop those creative industries locally, or else we are inviting the rest of the world, as they have done in the past, to tell our story for us and basically tell us who we are.

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