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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Kayla Reopelle at 6:49PM
Cotton Road and Dissonance: A focus on the micro and the macro

Blog posting by Kayla Reopelle, Documentary Studies and Production ’14, FLEFF Blogger, Roy, WA


Information for this post came from a phone interview with Kissel and a follow-up e-mail.


“What does a small, rural town that nobody has ever heard of have to do with China?


"It turns out, quite a bit.” 


In 2004, Kissel worked on a project in a town of 500 people in rural Georgia. All the cotton processed in the town’s gin would be sent to China. It was this dissonance that inspired Kissel to make Cotton Road.


“Here was something in front of me, the year's cotton crop, which was really NOT all about Georgia; it was really a global story disguised to me as a local one. 


"This dissonance led me to want to look more closely at the labor and industrial processes in a supply chain, to try to make visible all those things that are hidden to us as consumers.”


Cotton Road is wrought with visual dissonance: the juxtaposition of Chinese and English, hands working delicate looms and vast fields of cotton waiting to be picked. 


The composition of the shots emphasizes the balance necessary for this global system - the factories in China could not function without the cotton from America. American consumers would not get cheap clothing if not for the overworked laborers in China. 


The vastness of this interwoven system forced Kissel to face a lot of internal dissonance while producing this film.


“I have a level of education that affords me certain opportunities in life that other people don’t have. 


“It was very clear to me when I was in China, in those factories, that probably everybody who I was meeting, all of the factory workers, would never have the opportunity to leave China. Not only because it’s difficult for Chinese to get visas to travel, but just because of their economic situation. There is no way that any of them would ever be able to come to America. 


“That created a great deal of dissonance for me, perhaps discomfort, but also, maybe gratitude at the same time because I felt pretty lucky to be able to see the things that I was seeing and go on that journey. You know, not everyone can do that. 


“Maybe your privilege puts you outside of something, which is where dissonance comes into play. 


“This privilege which makes me feel like an outsider is actually [what] causes me to make the strongest film I can make, communicate what I’m seeing to others, [and] bring this experience to other people who won’t be able to have it themselves.” 


The world premiere of Cotton Road will be held on Saturday April 5 at Cinemapolis at 2:10pm.

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