To put it lightly, we’re living in interesting times right now. Perhaps never before in many of our lifetimes have we seen such deep political divides in our country, such animosity, separation and alienation of people. We are living in a time when people fear one another based on religion and skin tone and where free and open debate in the so-called “free world” is stifled. We live in a time where the freedom of the press is under direct assault by the executive branch of our government; in a time when xenophobia – fear of foreigners, of immigrants – is at an all time high; [is anyone here a true American by ancestry – meaning they can trace their ancestry all the way back to here, this country? Any Cherokee? Any Navajo? If not, then everyone in this auditorium is or comes from people who are not native to this country. Think about that] This is something to think long and hard about when our actual native people – specifically, the Sioux Native Americans - are again being violently abused and robbed by American authorities. The same American authorities who committed genocide against them but we don’t really talk about that in school, do we?
Lady Liberty has had her hands tied. The media is having its tongue cut out and it sometimes looks like the only one left standing is Lady Justice…and she’s on pretty shaky ground.
Both the alt right and the alt left – from the anarchists to the fascists – want to break the system. Destroy it and create something new. For some, the collateral damage, the people who are destroyed in the process, doesn’t matter because the ends justify the means.
What does that have to do with the Film Lab? With the 72 Hour Shootout? Everything. The Film Lab promotes diversity in entertainment media. Not just for fun or out of hubris, but as a positive and constructive means of effectuating necessary social change. Entertainment media is power. It’s power because it shapes our perception, a culture and as a society, of race, gender, sexuality, and religion on a national – if not a global - level. Perception creates reality.
The Film Lab’s 72 Hour Shootout provides a platform for people, faces and voices marginalized, stereotyped and erased altogether from the mainstream media. The Shootout enables those who have been silenced and hidden to be seen and heard in a meaningful and substantive way.
2017 is the Shootout’s 13th year. Lucky 13, I hope. It is, perhaps, the Shootout’s most important year in terms of where America is, politically and culturally. And what we at the Film Lab want to focus on is not walls or threats or divides; we want to remind everyone what brings us together. What connects us. We want to focus on our common humanity. The black woman lighting the candle at the vigil for the fallen Asian American police officer. The Latino man at the Women’s March shouting, “Equal pay for equal work!” The white woman standing in solidarity at the Black Lives Matter rally. The straight, Asian American man waving a rainbow flag at an LGBTQ demonstration.
We need to support one another – now more than ever. We need to create entertainment media that shows our possibilities and our potential. In order to create an equal playing field where all are welcome and respected, we need to welcome. We need to respect. We need, Ladies and Gentlemen, to stay woke.
This is easier said than done. But it is possible if we care enough to try hard enough. With the Shootout, you have the power to control the narrative. You have the power to shape our reality.
I’ll close with a quote I love from Ernest Renan, who said, “People are slaves neither of their race nor of their religion, nor of the course of rivers nor of the direction taken by mountain chains. A large aggregate of people, healthy in mind and warm of heart, creates the kind of moral conscience which we call a nation.”
This year, our Shootout hashtag is #StandTogether. We hope you will. I hope you will.