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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Blog posting by Kayla Reopelle, Documentary Studies and Production ’14, FLEFF Blogger, Roy, WA
“I don’t really want to give you an answer, I just want to show you that this is our global process that we have designed for producing textiles and so do we believe that it’s equitable and fair and moral or not?”
Associate Professor Laura Kissel, Director of the Film and Media Studies program at the University of South Carolina, will return to Ithaca for the world premiere of her documentary, Cotton Road, at the 17th annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Cotton Road moves “from dirt to shirt,” exploring every step of textile production from cotton farms in South Carolina to factories in China.
Two years ago, Professor Kissel screened a 40 minute cut of her film at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. This cut focused on the textile factories in China.
“I think there’s quite a bit of the story that got left out in the rough cut screened at FLEFF two years ago. What you can look forward to now is the entire journey from field to finished product.”
Kissel’s inspiration for this film originated from a film she worked on in the early 2000’s about a rural Georgia landscape. That project brought her to a cotton gin for the first time and she became fascinated by the process of textile production.
“That really made me understand how much we take for granted, how much about our clothing we don’t have access to in terms of its production,” Kissel said. “I became really interested in trying to visualize that process and make it more accessible to people.”
Kissel wants to show the process of textile production, without laying out specific solutions or courses of action, unlike the trend for mass distributed American documentaries which lean on solution-driven narratives.
“Most mass distributed documentaries these days seem to follow the same kind of formula: they set up a problem and give you a solution or they set up a conflict and allow you to key into some protagonist and antagonist to see how the conflict is resolved at the end of the film.
There’s certainly a place for [these kinds of documentaries]. They can be very entertaining, but they sort of tell you what to think.
My film doesn’t do that.
It doesn’t provide any kind of solution to the environmental problems it documents. It doesn’t provide an economic solution that would be more fair.
It’s a film that really invites audiences to really wrestle with the complexities of our globalized economy. It also asks audiences to have empathy for all of the people who are within the supply chain.
There are different pressures on a migrant worker in China than there are on a factory owner in China than there are on a farmer or a minimum wage farm laborer.
My film is not really proposing any one way of understanding all of these complexities, but it’s really inviting the audience to engage with the elements that get presented.
A lot of issues are presented in the film... I think in terms of dissonance then, it’s perhaps the viewing of the film itself that creates dissonance within the audience.”
The world premiere of Cotton Road will be held on Saturday April 5 at Cinemapolis at 2:10 pm.