For most of this film’s life, we were trying to tell the story of Dad’s return to Tanzania, and his struggle to fit in with the family and culture he left behind when he was 18.
But when our story unearthed hidden truths that we could not ignore, Eric (editor/co-writer) and I realized we had to shift our focus from Dad’s journey to my own. And so we had to overhaul the script we’d spent the past seven years writing.
Without a doubt, the toughest part of this 8 year film journey for me was believing I had the right to take up space with my story; that what I thought—as a queer, mixed-race, woman of color who’s the daughter of immigrants—would Matter to anyone but me.
Honestly, I couldn’t even imagine how my own story would unfold. So one night, I set aside my journal, and pulled out a sketch pad instead. I was determined to map out my journey through this film. So I started with the word “me” in a circle in the center of the page.
Then I took a deep breath. I let go of my brain. I disarmed my heart and opened myself to the story that unfolded on the page…
After this mapping exercise, my journal entries flowed more easily, emerging from a more fluid, integrated sense of self. I was politicizing the personal, and personalizing the political, telling a story that captures this process of unpacking culture — and of the love and compassion that emerges when we allow for the beauty, the brutality, the messiness, the grief…telling the story of this culture through the real lived lives of my family.
This writing and mapping formed the scaffolding for the new narrative of our current film, A Lot Like You—a film that is ultimately about the lens we all bring to the story of our lives…the stories we inherit about who we are and where we come from; and how we filter the stories that we pass down to the next generation, and why…