When I spoke to Italian filmmaker Roberto Minervini in Venice, he told me why he made his latest ‘What You Gonna Do When the World’s On Fire?’ “One of the biggest reasons I made this film is that I realized that progressive America to which I belong, has accepted a level, a threshold of tolerance which includes inequality.” His words were haunting but then Minervini added, as a mantra that now accompanies my own daily mundane struggles as a woman, “there is no more fight for equality, lesser inequality has become the new equality.” We as a society now tolerate, we no longer wholeheartedly accept or refuse. And we seem to be OK with simply tolerating a lot of our fellow human beings.
In introducing Lorna Tucker’s latest documentary ‘Amá’ I feel like I must mention my fellow Italian Minervini, because I, like him and Tucker, wear a different pair of glasses when looking at American society today. I see America through the lenses of a first generation immigrant. I don’t see President Trump as the new evil, but simply a reincarnation of all that is considered to be as “American as apple pie” — institutionalized racism and the persecution of people who are different and who have the courage to remain different.
Now don’t get me wrong. America is still one of the most beautiful and utterly democratic countries in the world. It’s just that it has become a rundown house these days and the politicians, as well as the media keep fixing the windows and repainting it pretty, instead of getting down to work and reinforcing its broken down foundations. The crumbling of our country depends on having forsaken its original people, the Native Americans and the people who built it up to what it is now, the African Americans. The Whites, in the great scheme of things, are simply those windows — it’s the indigenous and Black populations that form our foundation.
I first fell in love with Tucker’s filmmaking with ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’ a film which I was lucky enough to write about for The National. She is one of those rare filmmakers who puts herself in the story but as a means to its end, not as a form of self importance. And she just happens to be a phenomenal woman, making films about other phenomenal women.
In her latest, Tucker tackles the story of “thousands of Native American women [who] have been sterilized without their consent” in our modern day good ol’ U.S. of A.. Yes, systematic sterilization, along with relocation and the Americanization of their names has been the Government’s way of controlling the American indigenous population. Ever since they thought their words sounded revolutionary. Wait! — isn’t that one of the principles on which America was founded? On the basis of freedom of speech… Most of us who work in media have learned the hard way that’s only an ideal.
You can say what you want, as long as you say what they want you to say. Don’t try to be different, or have a unique point of view.
But I digress. So Tucker features in ‘Amá’ (which means “Mother”) the beautifully wise Jean Whitehorse, herself a Navajo, DJ and activist Charon Asetoyer and Yvonne Swan. Some of the courageous Native American women who have either undergone this sterilization or are fighting against it. But she also hauntingly goes into the home of Dr. Reimert T. Ravenholt, who was the director of USAID’s Office of Population from 1965 to 1979 — and responsible for creating this family planning method to end poverty. A concept that still divides people today. In a country which is mostly Evangelical and thus gung ho about protecting the rights of the womb, how can a policy which forces women to be sterilized against their consent make any sense at all? If you said it doesn’t, you’re right.
While ‘Amá’ is undeniably beautiful, in the way it’s shot and told, and hauntingly actual, it is not just the power of the film as a work of art that makes it so perfect. It’s how perfectly it fits into the age of #MeToo and the newfound feminism of the Millennials. I mean, if we are so outraged about what men can do to women on the casting couch and in the boardroom, why shouldn’t we be able to find the same passion, and compassion, to help women in the Reservations.
The world premiere of Lorna Tucker’s ‘Amá’ will be on opening night of the 4th Global Health Film Festival at the Curzon in London’s Soho, this coming December 6th, 2018. The film is co-produced by Colin Firth and Ged Doherty who will be in attendance along with Tucker for the film’s screening.
And finally, to get involved and do more about this crucial cause, so that a shame like this will never be repeated again, check out the film’s fascinating site.