A Lot Like YouEliaichi Kimaro (2011)
Categories: Documentary, Industry Screening
Tanzania, USA (2011) 80 min.
DIR Eliaichi Kimaro CAST Eliaichi Kimaro
Told through the voice of the filmmaker this documentary has a wonderful voice that relate her own experience of finding her cultural identity as it is happening on camera. We all discover it together. What happens when a woman goes in search of her identity and discovers that the cycle of violence she’s been fighting to end in the US is part of her family's history and culture on another continent? Eliaichi Kimaro is a mixed-race, first-generation American with a Tanzanian father and Korean mother who spent every other summer on the same coffee farm on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro where her father was born and raised (and where his siblings still live.) As a child who struggled very hard to be 'American,' Eliaichi didn't always appreciate these summers spent in Tanzania. It wasn't until she was much older and in an interracial relationship of her own that she finally grasped the importance of understanding her family's cultural heritage.
In 2004, Eliaichi returned to Tanzania, intent on making a documentary about her father who had just retired and moved back to his home on Mt. Kilimanjaro for good. She wanted to capture his struggle to fit back in with the family and Chagga culture he'd abandoned for his career some forty years earlier. So this journey begins with Eliaichi pointing her camera at everything that even remotely resembles “Culture” to her, only to find that nothing she’s capturing feels authentic. As she searches for her idea of culture, everyone she encounters performs their own brand of Chagga culture, one they think that Eliaichi - as a tourist - wants to see. So Eliaichi shifts her focus, and decides that interviewing family members will give her more immediate access to Chagga life. With her father’s five older siblings all living within walking distance, Eliaichi organizes a family gathering. But as the siblings start to arrive, the air grows heavy.
What Eliaichi discovers on that trip – in Tanzania, in her family and in herself – is the subject of this deeply personal documentary, A Lot Like You, which examines one woman’s discovery as only she can tell it.While she is clearly family, Eliaichi also brings an outsider’s curiosity which leads her to ask questions that most people who grew up on Kilimanjaro would never think to ask. When her questions tap into a well of hidden truths, Eliaichi discovers her own deeply personal connection to this culture.Her stoic Aunts open up about their lives, telling her stories of trauma and survival they’d never even shared with each other as sisters.
Eliaichi’s own experiences, as an abuse survivor and a professional trauma counselor for over 10 years, seem to have uniquely prepared her to bear witness to these women’s stories. This simple act of sitting together and asking questions releases her aunts from a lifetime of pain, and inspires Eliaichi to dig deeper and reveal the hidden truths of her own story.As the film ends, Eliaichi reconciles this culture she’s inherited with how she defines herself today–as a woman, as an activist and, perhaps most of all, as a mother. And in so doing, she translates her father’s culture on Mt. Kilimanjaro into her own personal legacy.
Themes ~ The more personal and vulnerable we got in our storytelling, the more universal our story became. The issues we cover (trauma, gender violence, multi-cultural families), these are the particulars of my own personal journey. But at its core, A Lot Like You invites us to consider the stories we inherit about who we are and where we come from; how we choose to filter the stories we pass down, and why.
Style ~ Our story unfolds over time, revealing itself in successive layers. As the journey begins, we follow my father’s story, then weave in my own. We expand to reveal the broader socio-political context, then move in to experience the intimate unfolding of my family’s stories. This film breathes, in and out, weaving through time and space, taking the viewer along for the ride, complete with surprising turns that remain true to my own journey of cultural awakening.To tell stories with no footage, we developed an graphic style reminiscent of the traditional batiks that were popular in Tanzania when I was young. We adapted these batiks to create exquisite animation sequences where the images appear to be moving within the paper.
Notes on music ~ While Pete Droge’s music has American folk roots, it complements a movie that lives and breathes in a remote village on Mt. Kilimanjaro seamlessly. For two years, Pete composed original “sketches”, creating a variety of musical landscapes for our film to live in. This raw, emerging score inspired the evolving tone and pace of our story. When our film journey took a turn, requiring us to dig deep to reveal hidden truths, Pete gave himself over completely. He became my musical voice in this film. And so in those moments when the audience needs space to breathe, I hand the storytelling over to Pete, and he masterfully takes us where we need to go.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
|10:30 pm||Zion Lodge|