Archive for August, 2008

Here they come on a bright sunny Saturday. Women marchers and sufffragists in their vintage white outfits with purple sashes commemorating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. The Engage Her team was invited to participate in the parade and rally and at the end, there was the very first screening of our film, Engage Her: Getting minority women to lead and vote.

It’s been a crazy, furious 8 month sprint to get our documentary made from the first interview we scheduled in January to this first screening August 23. People said it couldn’t be done in time to release before the November elections. Veteran filmmakers told us it would take them $200,000 and 2 years to complete.  We ignored them all and plowed ahead with nothing more than sheer belief, determination and the desire to tell the stories of the women who voted and didn’t vote and the reasons that impacted those decisions.  It’s been an exhilarating journey full of surprises, joyful discoveries, unexpected challenges and the creation of new lifelong friendships.

It is a story of betting against the odds: we didn’t have funding, experience, connections and very little time. What we had was plenty of passion, determination and the overwhelming desire to tell the stories and make a difference in this election.  I laugh now when I think back to that fateful day when I was walking with  my good friend, Joan Blades cofounder of Moveon.org and Momsrising.org.  We were on a trail in Tilden Park along the ridge above the Bay Area and I said “I’m thinking of writing a book about minority women and how they fail to turn out to vote”.  Her response was “You should do a documentary about the issues”.  I remember thinking to myself “Great idea….but I don’t know zilch about making a film”.  Her answer?  “You’re smart, you’ll figure it out”. Well…..that was in October 2007 and it must have been fate, because so many things have fallen into place that helped make that fateful discussion a reality.

Quickly, one thing after another occurred that drove this project forward with the momentum of a speeding rocket. I met a Latina filmmaker, Maria Victoria Ponce the next month at a rally who quickly agreed to help me make the documentary. I called key women like Irma Herrera who introduced me to many more women who would eventually agree to become interviewed and turned us on to more women. Things mushroomed quickly, yet we had difficulties too. One thing we found out: it’s hard to find minority women who don’t vote and are willing to be interviewed to talk about their reasons why. We were running into blind alleys and dead ends in terms of finding the materials and interviews we needed. The clock kept ticking.

However, we persevered, called everyone we knew, even thought of hanging out at the corner of certain communities to just capture interviews. Luckily we started to get traction and kept scoring more interviews, including some famous leaders like Dolores Huerta, Aileen Hernandez and even our heroine, Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Great women like Elmy Bermejo helped introduce us to a lot of women who agreed to be interviewed and she championed us at a lot of events.

A very amazing thing happened along the way.  More and more women we contacted came back to us and said “My friends and I want to join you”.  We kept hearing that message and I thought to myself “What are they going to do…help us make a documentary?” Well it turns out that we were connecting with women and uncovering deep reasons why women weren’t voting.  The discussions excited them so much that they wanted to get involved at a deeper level. They said we were creating a movement! I remember thinking to myself “hmmmmm…..making a documentary is one thing, but a movement is a whole different animal.” I kept trying to downplay the requests to start a movement but the voices kept getting louder and more insistent. More women were getting involved and asking friends to be interviewed.  As it got closer to April my husband Craig even asked me “Are you up for this…..ready to start and support a movement?”

Okay….here’s a personal confession.  We have twin boys that I gave birth to when I was 51 and our boys were going to start kindergarten this September. I was thinking it would be great to be an involved parent volunteering at school, helping out at the PTA and really supporting my kids. Now there’s this huge movement that is building rapidly……how does this all fit in?

Honestly, I can only describe my feelings this way. “Imagine yourself sitting on a racehorse. You’re in the starting gate, the bell goes off, the gate flies up and your horse…..takes off!!!!  I mean you are barely holding on and hoping the horse doesn’t drop you off along the way.”  That’s how I felt these past few months. Like the jockey hoping to guide the horse along the race track in the fastest way possible, hoping you’ll both get at the finish line at the same time.  That’s what it’s truly been like these past few months.

It’s been an enormously great adventure and I’ve met amazing women, men and supporters all along the way. I can’t describe how exhilarating, crazy and incredible this ride has been. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So this weekend, to participate in this rally, have all these people sit in a beautiful auditorium at the Women’s History Museum viewing our film and then listening to all their questions and comments has been a wonderful unbelievable experience.  The fact that people stayed in their seats, asked a lot of questions, expressed great interest in the film and wanting to show it to their communities and groups has been so gratifying and fulfilling.

I want to thank all the people who have helped us along the way and especially to our Director, Maria Victoria Ponce who helped make the film a reality. Mina Wilson, Susan Rosner, Joan Blades, Gwen Mok and the Engage Her team have made this a “family event”.  We have much to do but now the baby is about ready to run. I think she’s going to skip the crawling and walking part…she’s just raring to go!

Thanks and we hope you’ll all be able to see the film in your community, purchase a copy and share it with your friends and please let us know what you think about it. Hope you’ll become a member of our Engageher.org community and keep talking to us. We want to know what you’re thinking!

Take care,   Mable


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