INTERVIEW

 
1. Why did you decide to work on The Other Side project?

“The Other Side” is part of a larger project titled, “The Wall” which I had been working on for a year before I produced the short film. The project focuses on a particular stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border fence called “Friendship Park,” where families convene to see their loved ones through the massive metal wall that separates them. I met Jose Marquez in May of 2016, during one of my frequent visits to the park, which is located in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego. The 67 year old Mariachi singer had come to see his daughter Susanna. Although they live just a few miles apart, they have been separated for 15 years, since Marquez was deported from the United States. I was touched so much by their story that two months after I met them, I was back in Tijuana to shoot this short documentary.

My goal is to contribute to the conversations surrounding current immigration policies by showing the effects they have on individuals whose lives are disrupted, those who are often ignored in the contemporary discourse of immigration reform.

2. How did you feel your project fit the Born The Same theme?

Global migration and displacement is a major topic of public debate. In the United States, anti-immigrant rhetoric negative media portrayal of ethnic minorities have contributed to shape most people’s perceptions and strengthen stereotypes. Despite being born the same, immigrants are seen as different, and different people are hated and feared. America’s shifting ethnic landscape is seen, by many, as a threat to its national identity. The ideas of hordes of Mexicans crossing the border and the fear of eventually feeling foreigner in their own land seems to have legitimized a need to build an even bigger militarized border wall. But the wall already exists and it is very real and very much part of our daily lives. Immigrants, and in particular undocumented ones, are creating families in a country where they don’t have full legal rights and are living in a society which does not accept them within or without. But at the same time they are creating spaces of belonging across national boundaries that supersede citizenship status, showing strength and resilience and challenging dominant discourses of difference and exclusion.

3. What’s your point of view on the medium of photography making a real impact on perception and public opinion regarding important social, cultural and political matters?

I believe photography is a powerful tool to create social change. Documenting social injustice to change people’s behavior and public opinion. Not photography by itself, but the process, the use of photography to make people care, to confront them with a reality that they may not be aware of.

My objective is to change dominant narratives that perpetuate stereotypes and have a huge impact on people’s perceptions. Perceptions that guide our thoughts and actions.

4. Do you think video or multimedia can be more impactful than still images?

Photography and video are just different tools. What is important is to tell compelling stories. Some stories require moving images and sound to deliver the message in a more effective way. In the case of “The Other Side”, it was necessary to use video and sound. There is a metaphor about music crossing borders and physical barriers that I think would have been very difficult to convey with still images. Sound and video add in this case another important level of meaning.

5. Did you produce the video yourself or did you collaborate with others?

I produced, directed, filmed and edited the video myself. I had the ideal in my mind. I knew exactly what I wanted and I knew I was capable of doing it by myself. But there are stories and projects that require a team to work together. And I love working that way too.

6. Do you think today photographers needs to expand their skills to include video and multimedia production, or it’s better to work in collaboration with producers?

I think it’s important to expand our skills both if we work alone or in collaboration with others.

I have always loved films and I took several classes on film theory and diaspora filmmaking when I was at Journalism school, which informed my approach to visual storytelling. A couple of courses were about minorities or diaspora filmmaking, helping us to challenge mainstream filmmaking, where minorities are stereotyped, ignored or absent. To me it was a natural decision to transition from stills to video. I like them both and I need them both.

7. Is The Other Side a finished project or there will be more chapters?

I’m currently working on another story. Another family separated by the wall.

 

Griselda San Martin is a documentary photographer currently based in New York.
The Other Side is a short film, part of the BORN THE SAME global tour.

 

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GRISELDA SAN MARTIN – THE OTHER SIDE

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