Tag Archives: humanize

How to Tell a Story

With interviews that often lasted longer than an hour, editing the documentary down to just 25 minutes was a significant challenge. The writing team had its work cut out for them initially; scouring the transcribed interviews for quotes that beautifully summarized everything we had just learned to create a coherent narrative.

Before splitting into our groups as editors and writers, the class built a rough story outline based off Kino’s goals to humanize, accompany, and complicate the issue of immigration.

Joanna was the first person to introduce us to the idea of humanizing, accompanying, and complicating the issues on the border.
Joanna was the first person to introduce us to the idea of humanizing, accompanying, and complicating the issues on the border.

It was such a natural outline I began to think about how that framework should be used in each story we tell. For example when I talk about my little sister as someone with a disability rather than as a disabled person, I am humanizing her. Her disability is a part of who she is but it is not all that she is. In the same fashion when talking about someone who has been deported, it’s important to remember that they have inherent human dignity, which should be implicit in any retelling of their story. They have been deported but that is only one part of their history, not its entirety.

After seriously considering the idea of the humanize, accompany, and complicate framework, I realized that it’s the way all stories about people should be understood. When I was a younger my pastor put a significant emphasis on learning how to listen deeply. Listening deeply implies that the listener isn’t thinking about how they will respond to the speaker but rather the listener is genuinely engaged with the speaker’s narrative.

While the bottom line is that the general audience will get what they want out of a story, its incredibly important to build every story off this framework. Even in fictional writing, telling a tale about a person without humanizing them makes it impossible for the intended audience to reap the message. Harry Potter wouldn’t be much of a story if all we knew about him was that he was an orphan.

Although our documentary veered off this track later in the week, because it was originally built with that outline, the story accomplishes those goals. It tells a story that we as a Jesuit university can be proud of because it maintains the principle of inherent human dignity in all persons.

What do I say?

As  I lay in my bed after a long day of editing, I find myself missing my airless air mattress that I spent two weeks sleeping on.

I miss the dry heat.

I miss the people we encountered.

I miss the car rides (kinda).

I miss Nogales.

When I came home Saturday, I was immediately asked by a friend how the trip went. But I couldn’t for some reason come up with a clear and concise way to answer her question.

Why?

Because it’s complicated. The immigration crisis is complicated. There isn’t just two sides to this story. The narrative intertwines and intersects different perspectives creating a web of conflicts, relationships and mistreatment.

I can’t compile a paragraph and just explain everything that happened the past two weeks.

How do I explain my emotions when I am so unsure of what I am feeling? Over the past two weeks I’ve felt, mad, ignorant, ashamed, upset, hopeful, excited and unsure. And I am still processing all the experiences and information that I’ve received.

During our interviews we asked the question, “What would you say to people who think they are not responsible for migrants because they are not US citizens?” The response we received every time was, you need to come to the border, you need to see what life is like for the migrant.

And we did just that.

This trip transformed my thoughts on immigration. Through our interviews and experiences,  immigration was humanized. It is easy to disassociate ourselves from it because of distance or lack of interest.  But it’s important to humanize immigration.

When you have to stare at something directly in the face you begin to break away little pieces in order to find the problem. It’s not an easy thing to face a problem so head on. When you do, you realize that you are apart of the problem. We all are. We are not helping fix the current immigration crisis by how we are currently living. People are arrogant of what is actually going on. You might think you have a grasp on what is happening but it is not until you are there facing it head on that you can truly grasp and attain all the conflicts that are happening just in Nogales.

I think what it ultimately comes down to is that there is no easy solution. There are problems not just in Mexico but in the United States. The problem all across the border are effecting all of us, yes all of us. We are all contributing to it.

So how do I explain that to somebody?

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Getting the b-roll.

Well, my hope is that the film will give people just a taste of what is happening and then that will  invite them to learn more and to ask those complicated questions.