Tag Archives: documentary

We all might just be slightly insane

Sitting here a little over a day before taking off for Uganda, I am struck by how quickly the past week of preparation has flown by. It feels like just yesterday that I showed up to the first day of class with a room full of strangers and was completely and totally lost as Tim spewed off facts about anything and everything that anyone could ever possibly want to know about cameras and videography. If I’m being honest with you, it felt as though Tim was blasting me with a water cannon of information. All kinds of terms like: pull focus, f-stop, white balance, and aperture went in one ear and straight out the other as I sat shell shocked in my seat.  A mere week after that first shell shcocking day, thanks  to endless hours of painstaking practice doing everything from taking still shots to running a mock interview, I feel like I could set up and run an interview like a professional videographer. Well, that might be a little bit of a stretch – but you get the point.

Perhaps even more amazing than my exceptionally rapid growth in the realm of videography has been the way that a group of eight strangers that I bararely knew from Adam have come together to form a tight-knit community ready to travel across the globe to film a documentary. It’s really crazy to think about how far that this group of people from all different walks of academic life have come in such a short period of time. I honestly think that we must all  be a little insane to be putting ourselves through something as incredibly stressful, exciting, and all together nerve-wrecking as backpack journalism. There’s really no other way to describe someone who would be willing to learn videography in the span of a week, fly across the world, and film a documentary about refugees in Uganda than slightly insane

The brave and slightly insane 2018 Backpack Journalsim crew in the only slightly decent looking group photo that we took out of about 15 attempts.

At this point in the backpack journalism experience, my excitement about traveling across the world to film a documentary about refugees has morphed into some sort of nervous restlessness similar to what you’d experience right before the big drop on a rollercoaster. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly excited to be able to be a part of Backpack Journalism and to have the opportunity to travel to Uganda. Out of everything that there is to look forward to in the coming days, the opportunity to interview refugees and get their firsthand take on of the the world’s worst conflicts and the trauma that it has caused stands out to me the most. How many people can honestly say that they have visited a refugee camp and had the opportunity to learn about something most people will only read about in a newspaper firsthand? The answer to that slightly rhetorical question is not many. I feel truly blessed to have this unique opportunity and really want to make the most out of it through the documentary film that I am apart of.  I guess this sensation of being at the top of a big drop on a rollercoaster is merely a byproduct of my slight insanity that motivated me to be apart of something like Backpack Journalism in the first place.

 

Why Backpack Journalism?

There are few things that bring back memories of my childhood quite like sitting down at the kitchen table in the early morning hours to read the local newspaper. From the time that I learned how to read, I was infatuated with the newspaper and would excitedly spring out of bed at 6:00 am on the dot in order to ensure that I had as much time as humanly possible to read about everything going on in the world around me before school. There were two sections of the newspaper that really stuck out to me – the sports and world news sections. By reading these two sections, I was able to experience all of the “important things” going on in the world without ever having to leave the comfort of my hometown situated snugly along the U.S. – Mexico border. In particular, stories about far off places with seemingly unpronounceable names in Asia and Africa captivated my imagination and filled me with curiosity. One day, when I was about eight or nine years old, I remember telling my mother that I would go and visit these far off places and write stories about them as a journalist. I remember her just sort of chuckling about my constant comments about this dream. Nevertheless, I insisted that one day I would really visit these far off places and write about them as a journalist. 

Fast forward a few years and suddenly my home snuggly situated along the U.S. – Mexico border and its sister city just across the Rio Grande were the center of the news stories that I loved to read. Witnessing these stories firsthand was completely different than reading about them. Corruption, poverty, rampant crime, and bloodshed became harrowing realities instead of far off issues that others had to deal with. With these horrors, my childhood innocence and almost everything that I had loved about my home disappeared.

Almost as quickly as these horrors descended upon my home along the U.S. – Mexico border, they disappeared without a trace. Even though they have disappeared from the the front pages of newspapers across the globe, the horrors of what took place never truly left my mind. Instead, they have left a lasting impact that has inspired me to truly be the change that I want to see in the world. These horrors have inspired me to strive for justice and to seek out ways in which I can bring justice about.

For me, the Backpack Journalism program represents a truly amazing way to bring about justice and awareness in the world that I live in. It allows me to tell the story of people living on the margins of society suffering from a violence much like that which struck my U.S. – Mexico border home. I truly feel that the way to end the world’s suffering is to highlight the issues faced by marginalized members of the human population. If more people are aware of the things plaguing human society, there are sure to be more people willing to go out and fight for justice and bring forth positive change. As a future journalist, Backpack Journalism offers me the opportunity to make a difference in the world around me by utilizing the skills of my future profession – while at the same time fulfilling my childhood dreams. That’s why I am participating in the Backpack Journalsim program.

Because of Backpack…

I anticipated that I would finish the five weeks with new knowledge of immigration, the ability to turn a camera on and other practical skills every journalism student should know. I had no idea that the knowledge would change me. I know, I know that it sounds incredibly cliché, but it’s true.

Because of Backpack… I am a seeker of truth.

Because of Backpack… I am margin traveler.

Because of Backpack… I am a listener.

Because of Backpack… I am a team player.

In my first blog, I wrote about how I am a “Yes Woman.” And even though I found this trip by saying no, it taught me that it is almost always right to say yes. By saying yes to the early morning B-roll, the extra interview, the longer explanation… I have learned so much and gained an incredible amount of confidence. It is Because of Backpack that I have grown as a writer, a film maker and as a friend. Saying yes, even to something that scared me, has been the greatest decision of my life.

Because of Backpack… I am thankful.

 

My teammates. My friends.
My teammates. My friends.

 

So, what is something I can do differently based upon what I learned? I can stop worrying about needing to say no and start embracing my love of yes.

For now,

Natalie

Piece by Piece

My comfort zone is located in several odd locations: any rollercoaster, local coffee shop, or airplane.

However, you won’t find it anywhere near spicy food.

You won’t find it by a scorpion.

You definitely won’t find it behind a camera.

After two weeks of hanging out with all of the above, it felt incredible to be welcomed back with words.

I was in my element in Hitchcock 203. The satisfaction of seeing the story sprawled out on the surface was spectacular. (Side note: I love alliteration. Can you tell?) I loved collaborating with my teammates and organizing our hundreds of pages of material. It was much harder than expected to make the cuts; I wish our movie could be a day long, but I don’t know any film festivals with that requirement.

Overall, I loved reading the interviews again. That’s when I knew we had something special, when I was excited to read an interview that I already knew by heart. The writing team would shout out great quotes from the transcript they were reading and we would all comment on how much we adored it. Praise for our people became a regular pastime in that room. I hope… No, I know that we will make them proud.

I have a wonderfully excited feeling about this film and I cannot wait for you to watch it.

The Piecing Process. PC: Carol
The Piecing Process. PC: Carol/Aly

More to come,

Natalie

The Realization of Complication

Complicate.

It’s a word that we learned on our very first day in Nogales. One of the Kino Border Initiative’s main goals is for groups to leave with an understanding of the complicated reality of migration. After two weeks on the border, I can’t imagine anyone leaving without complication packed in his or her baggage.

I thought I learned complication from the desert walk, our discussions with people who work on the border, Operation Streamline or the migrant’s stories, but I didn’t understand it until I got back home.

When my family asked what I learned, my mind went blank. I felt like every question, every frustration, every sign of hope was at the tip of my tongue but couldn’t escape; I had so much to say, but no way to say it.

That frustrating feeling was when I truly understood the layers of complication that migration carries. I always knew the layers were there and I uncovered even more during the trip, but to know and to understand are not the same thing.

I think this is part of Kino’s magic; they taught us as much as they could, but left the understanding for a later date.

Now that I truly understand, I am so thankful for the outlet of film.

Even though I often find myself frustrated and overwhelmed with migration’s level of complexity; knowing that there will be an epic film full of b-roll and sick edits, gives me relief.

Credit to CU Backpack
Credit to CU Backpack

More to come,

Natalie

If Memory Lane were a Photo Album…

When I studied abroad in Rome last year, one of my favorite professors forbid photographs. He would take us to the most beautiful churches in the world and go absolutely ballistic if he saw a student snap a photo.

Despite my initial annoyance, I learned how to appreciate whatever was in front of me (something very hard to do nowadays). Besides filming and updating the Snapchat, I didn’t take pictures during my time at the border.

Thankfully, my classmates did.

Here are some of my absolute favorite people/memories:

Lil' John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Lil’ John. Our tour guide for the desert walk.
Fr. Neeley and Daniela
Fr. Neeley and Daniela. Two awesome interviewees!
Desert walk selfie!
Desert walk selfie!
Some of the CUbackpack team
Some of the CU backpack team
Dinner/Dance Party!
Dinner/Dance Party!
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona
Entrance to Mexico
Entrance to Mexico

(Photos do not belong to me)

That’s a Wrap!

Many of my blog posts have reflected on my experience in Arizona and Mexico in a deeper, more analytical way. To say that I am grateful for this experience would be an understatement.

I never expected to “be changed” by this experience, but I think there have been little moments where I’ve stopped to think, “Wow, I never would have thought this way before,” and I’m glad those moments made me step back and realize that this experience helped me appreciate many things in my life.

I have gained a better understanding of a major issue facing our country and I think this understanding came from the migrants we interacted with and the people who give their time and energy towards helping migrants better their lives each and every day.

I am more confident in my abilities as a journalist to tell the stories of others through film. I am humbled to have experienced my faith in a way I haven’t before, through seeing God every day in the migrants who hold such hope in their hearts, even after everything they have gone through.

I am content in telling the story of the migrants, but I am not content with the way immigration is handled in the United States and Mexico. There is so much that needs to be done in both governments, and I hope one day there could be a solution, one that includes treating migrants with the respect and dignity they deserve.

The biggest question to wrap up this experience is what I can do differently based on what I learned. I think there are many things I could do, from grateful for everything in my life – the big things and the little things, to telling others of my experiences and what I encountered in the two weeks we spent in Nogales. While I’ll undoubtedly incorporate this into my life, I think the biggest take away is to approach every individual and situation with a sense of compassion, to look at things from their perspective, and to never underestimate the humanity of our world, the good and the bad. It’s too easy to focus on the negativity that exists in the world, but centering on the positive moments in our lives is something that I believe outweighs all the hardships.

I hope audiences view our documentary with an open heart and open mind. It’s impossible to replicate our experiences in Nogales through film, but I think our documentary explains the human reality of migration and puts a face and life experience to the issue. I could not be more appreciate of this experience, for many reasons, and I know there is still much to be done, but I’ll use that motivation to tell the stories of others in the future – stories that give a voice to the voiceless.

Not a goodbye, but a see you later. So happy I worked alongside such gifted and compassionate individuals who put their hearts and souls into this experience and documentary. Couldn't have asked for a better group of coyotes to "hoo-yip" through the desert with, gracias CU Backpack Arizona!
Not a goodbye, but a see you later. So happy I worked alongside such gifted and compassionate individuals who put their hearts and souls into this experience and documentary. Couldn’t have asked for a better group of coyotes to “hoo-yip” through the desert with, gracias CU Backpack Arizona!

Distractions

Being back on the ranch was really tough for me in a new way than any problems I ran into on the actual trip itself. I think the hardest thing about being back on the ranch was that I was “back” meaning my life was back to its full array of distractions. Friends had returned to Omaha, I was working on moving into my house, getting a car, and starting at my new job. With all these distractions, it was easy to feel like because the physical trip was over my responsibility to the project was over as well.

However, as we got further into the editing process and we began to watch our story come alive, I again became exhilarated and focused on the task at hand. But then, I would go home or go to work and again be distracted by a whole variety of things that didn’t exist while we were back in Nogales living in one space together, always focused on what we could contribute to the project next.

I think this process of distraction and refocusing was a good one to have immediately after the trip because it made me cognizant of that loss of focus whereas if I would’ve just come home and done nothing with the trip, I would have immediately sunk back into my routine without any sort of immediate reflection on the trip and what it meant to me. This way, I was not only forced to stay focused on what I’d learned, but I was also able to help put something together that will allow other people to get a glimpse of that experience as well.

Additionally, I’ve learned now how quickly I can get distracted, and I don’t want that for myself. I want this trip to always be on the back of my mind when I’m navigating my life in the larger scheme of things.

Putting together the storyline for our documentary.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

This past week we’ve been editing our film, an arduous process that requires concentration, patience, and an abundance of teamwork. I could not be more grateful to have worked alongside such compassionate, inspiring, and talented individuals that understand the importance of showing and telling a story. However, as we sit at our computers editing film or hovering around a table rearranging the text, I felt something missing.

Editors at work
I and my fellow editors have been hard at work organizing the film. Seeing some powerful quotes and experiences a second time around is even more meaningful than before!

On our journey back to Omaha, I was excited to be home, but I was also sad to leave Nogales and the individuals we encountered. As I have mentioned in my past blog posts, my experience in Nogales was really moving, on many levels. So as I’ve looked over the text and edit the film of the people and places I encountered, from the bustling Comedor that accepts every individual with grace to Sister Alicia and Joanna’s constant smiles and warmth, it’s impossible not to feel like the journey isn’t over.

In some ways, sadly, threads of this journey don’t necessarily have an ending. It’s a hard reality to understand and accept that we may not know the fate of the people we met in Nogales, to comprehend that their journeys wherever they end up could end positively or negatively.

I do have hope, however, that this film will bring justice to those we encountered. I hope this film allows viewers to be informed, to perhaps step outside of their comfort zone, and to feel a sense of humanity in such a dehumanized issue.

Angry

Shrine in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo Cred: Nicole)
Shrine in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo Cred: Nicole)

 

I grew up in a conservative, small town in Wisconsin. I was raised to believe that immigration was wrong and that the “illegals” were stealing our jobs. I accepted that because I wasn’t exposed to the reality. Perhaps that is why I am understanding of those who are still against migration. The north is like a bubble, safe from the truth of the ugly parts of the south. However, it is a personal responsibility, no matter where one lives, to be educated and exposed.

When I entered college, I began to think for myself and discover what makes me mad. For me, anger is the strongest motivator. I am so angry here. I am angry that for every person found dead in the desert, there are ten more bodies. I am angry that men have come back to the comedor with bloody, torn up faces because BC pushed them into barbed wire. I am angry that the cartel keeps constant watch over the people and migrants of Nogales. I am angry that our country is just now processing paperwork from 20 years ago. I am angry that the reason some migrants carry drugs is because of the Americans who demand them. Mostly, I am angry that these people are classified as criminals and rapists when a large majority of them are just trying to survive.

As I said, anger motivates me. I’m the type of person who needs to brainstorm solutions whenever I hear a problem. I think that stems from my dad’s catchphrase, “Ok. So what are you going to do about it?” With him, I could never just complain or vent, I had to take action to solve my own problems. Listening to the stories of the people here, from both sides of the issue, has confirmed my desire to attend law school so that I can start a solution of my own.

So many of the people we have interviewed here have talked about young people and how they give them hope. A lawyer we spoke with called us “dreamers”. Those same people have also said that the dreamers fade out and the next round comes in and tries to change the world. I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to learn until I am no longer ignorant. I want to think until a problem is solved. I want to dream until I am no longer angry.

 

More to come,

Natalie