Whitewashed Film

I was recently featured in a documentary on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

Now that the dusts has settled on it I can finally call out all the bullshit that occurred while filming this documentary and why I really dislike the end result.


During

  1. In August of 2021, the film's director, producer and camera man came to my home and filmed the documentary. I remember being asked to smile and immediately being made aware of what this documentary was trying to display. They were filming me walking and kept asking me to redo the walk. I was confused until finally the director asked if I could smile and seem as if "walking makes me happy". This is problematic AF because "happy" people still have Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), the appearance of "happiness" looks different on everyone and SMILING literally means nothing in regards to mental health.

  2. I shared with the film's director that I grew up in Hawai'i and as usual he began sharing stories of vacations there. He also reassured me that I was still an American even though I grew up in Hawai'i. This actually lead me to writing an article on this topic for The Inclusion Solution of the Winters Group.

  3. Lastly, this film crew had no training on trauma or mental health and it was clear. The director gave no time in between conversations for pause which left me completely drained by the end of filming. I was interrupted often during the interview and asked to repeat things often in order to have a certain phrase put together. After our day together I almost immediately received an email from the liaison organization asking if I had a good time because they had already received a call from the movie's director.

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Releasing

The release of this film was so confusing.

  1. In November 2021, I was invited to speak about the trailer of this film at a summit held by the film's sponsors. I was sent the trailer from the summit organizers and then told I was not allowed to share it with anyone else even after the summit.

  2. In January 2022, I was sent the trailer again by the film's director before it was played at a film festival in Austin and again was told not to share it with anyone until the organization shared it publicly. Finally, I was able to share the trailer after I saw it posted to Youtube.

  3. I was only made aware of the actual film's release date when I was featured on a live show with the organization's CEO. The film was released February 1st. Now, I could go into why that date really rubs me the wrong way but I'll just.....

The Film

If y'all have seen the film you can see that I'm the only one of a lot of things.

  • Only Black person

  • Only young person

  • Only veteran

  • Only a lot of things

This was hard on me to wrap my head around because honestly the other people featured seemed so similar and I so different. I feel like they really capitalized on that which is why my story was used last. Tokenism seemed to describe this perfectly.


What really validated my feelings towards this film was the ending.


Towards the end of the film I share words while introducing Absolutely Not! like I do in every episode. The words I shared while filming included RACISM. In the released film, it cuts to my hands before I say it and a voiceover of me saying abuse instead.

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I cannot help but laugh at it now. To not even include the word racism in the film on top of erasing any of my identities (except the ones they deemed worthy) and how they effected my journey. I mean that's what they do right? I also shared often during filming how finding a Black female therapist was crucial to me feeling whole and validated in my mental health journey, none of that made it in.


Lessons Learned

I cannot turn back time and this was one of my very first speaking engagements but I did take away a lot lessons from this experience.

Here are a few:

  1. Know the intentions of people you are working with

  2. Trust your gut

  3. If you are the only one in the room, believe there's a reason

  4. Always ensure time is made to set up a safe space for you

  5. Be exactly who the fuck you are because they gon' do what they gon' do anyway

I've reached out to the film director and producer asking for the rest of the footage of me so that it can be shared elsewhere.

*crickets*

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