Ep. 96: The Story of Who We Are as a Country with Nancy Buirski
Updated: 7 days ago
On this episode of The Storytelling Lab, Rain reconnects with documentary filmmaker, Nancy Buirski. Nancy is most famously known for directing "The Loving Story," and is the Founder and Director of the Full Frame Film Festival . For all you passionate filmmakers out there, this is the episode for you!
There’s no question that stories have the ability to change narratives that our societies and cultures subscribe to.
Sadly, many times this strategy is used by dictators and the like with ill will or intentions against certain groups of people, or to promote their own insidious motives.
But there’s good news.
Because stories can be used to change false narratives and effective positive change. I’d argue that stories can do that more powerfully because the best stories leave us feeling inspired and hopeful for change. But one thing’s for certain, if we want that change, and we have the ability to share stories that could ignite that change, it's our responsibility.
One person who lives by that creed is documentary filmmaker Nancy Buirski.
On June 18th, Nancy’s film A Crime on the Bayou releases in theaters (theaters!) in New York and LA. My birthday is two days earlier, so if you’re in one of those cities and want to get me a present, go see this movie instead.
A Crime on the Bayou effectively caps off an unintended trilogy from Nancy, is about the case of Duncan vs Louisiana, the story of Gary Duncan, a 19-year-old fisherman who upon seeing his two cousins being bullied by a group of white boys. He pulled over to get his cousins into the vehicle and away from potential danger, and was soon after arrested and charged with battery for touching one of the white boys’ arms. He and his white Jewish lawyer Richard Sobol took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and were ultimately successful.
Nancy also directed The Loving Story in 2011 and The Rape of Recy Taylor in 2017. As a white man in an interracial marriage, the former had a massive impact on me.
All should be required viewing.
Because all face head-on the issues of social justice that we still struggle with today -- even though the events happened decades earlier.
And that is exactly why storytelling is so powerful.
Because something that happened over half a century ago (and much longer in many cases) can directly impact the culture and society of our present day. And when that narrative is misrepresenting a group of people or downright suppressing them, we have to be bold enough to stand up to it and share the truth.
As Nancy said in our conversation,
“Kids are brought up with certain stories through the textbooks and they’re wrong. Filmmakers have an opportunity -- I see it as an obligation -- to change the story as it's been told.”
I first met Nancy in 2005 at the Full Frame Film Festival, which she founded and directed for 10 years. She might not have remembered me, but I remembered her. And that’s because her work has made a direct impact on my life.
And I’m not alone in that.
If you’re interested in learning about stories that have shaped social justice and civil rights in our country, this is the episode for you!
Some of the highlights of our conversation:
“The Crime on the Bayou” coming out in June in LA and NYC
The embedded racial bias in the US
Importance of education, empathy, and tolerance
The “reluctant hero”
Race as a foundational element of the US
Responsibility of storytellers to help clear up the false narratives
Working as a photographer for the New York Times
Developing the Full Frame Film Festival
Using stories for racial and social justice
Telling the story of the storyteller
As always, I hope you enjoy the episode!
Peace and Love,
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