I Admit I Was Wrong

By Makiyah Adams, Culture and Communication '23, Philadelphia, April 13, 2021
Each time, I was proven wrong.

Following the lead of our guests and speakers, I’d like to conclude my FLEFF experience with some takeaways. The art of a takeaway is imprecise; some choose sweeping summaries, others fixate on minutiae. In this blog,  I’ll dabble in both.

Takeaway 1: Film analysis is as much about what’s left out of the frame as it is what makes it in. 

This point was first articulated to me by author Terri Francis, however, it was hammered home during the ‘ADAM’ and ‘Skies of Lebanon’ talkback. During this event, Professor Dale Hudson made the observation that despite being a film very much about war, ‘Skies of Lebanon’ contains very little depiction of it. 

After hearing the discourse generated by this observation, I returned to the film again, with a more critical and discerning eye. The conspicuous absence of war footage made me reevaluate the purpose of the film and challenge my own expectations as a viewer

Takeaway 2: Disability has nothing to do with individual ails and everything to do with societal ails. 

Prompted by the question “But isn’t everyone disabled in space?” speaker Jon Robinson, a disability rights advocate working in Artificial Intelligence, perfectly articulated the problem with common grapplings of disability. Often disability is framed as an individual shortcoming, whether it is explicitly or implicitly stated as such. Due to strides made by disability rights activists, including Jon Robinson himself, there has been a shift away from that prejudiced manner of thinking, however, there is still much progress to be made. 

This brings us to the point Robinson brought up during FLEFF’s Roundtable on Disability, Outer Space, and Artificial Intelligence. During this event, he problematized the term disability by arguing that it’s not a descriptor of an essential mode of being but rather a social construction impacted by a society’s refusal to make accommodations.  Robinson’s argument felt particularly poignant as one of the largest talking points about upsides to virtual experiences had to do with accessibility.

With the steady rollout of vaccines, I’m left wondering if folks’ eagerness to return “back to normal” will result in amnesia about the strategies for improved accessibility we’ve encountered thus far. 

Takeaway 3: Medicine is always has been an intensely personal practice. 

As a person born at the dawn of the new millennium, nationalized medicine is really all I know. While I’ve come to know and appreciate different cultural practices for healing, I must admit to a healthy dose of skepticism when encountering them. If I’m offered the choice between an Advil or a CBD oil-infused tablet, I’m always going to choose the Advil. 

It’s this positionality that makes the We Tell: Body Publics selections stand out so clearly in mind. Particularly, the first film “Nature’s Way” which compiles interviews from different Older Southerners who speak about using local plants for home medicinal practices. Their medicines are used for everything from birthing twins to curing cancer and each speaker talks with total confidence in their work. 

Their confidence gives me the most pause. The fervent avowals of effectiveness, the personal testimonials, the lack of capitalist greed. At no point, does a speaker try to sell you a product, in fact, many give you a rundown of the recipe so that you can make your own. “Nature’s Way” documents a true sharing of resources, not for profit, but for solving. It’s apt that “Nature’s Way” opens the FLEFF We Tell selections because it demonstrates the values behind We Tell. The We Tell exhibition organized by Scribe Video Center, prioritizes community over currency, community agency over individual ownership. Their films show how the personal is political. In this case, it’s medicine which personal, and in turn, political. 

The range of my takeaways which go from exact quotes to inferred connections is evidence of the range inherent in the FLEFF Experience. Often, I’d start a new film or enter a talkback, apprehensive of the subject matter’s ability to capture my interest. I’d say “I’m not really a STEM person so I don’t know if the roundtable on Disability, Outer Space, and Artificial Intelligence is for me. ” 

Each time, I was proven wrong.