AFI DOCS 2020: Portraits and Dreams Inspires Resilience and Imagination
Everyone has that teacher that could break your dreams or make your dreams. Wendy Ewald was in the dressmaking business. In 1975, Teacher/Photographer Wendy Ewald taught photography to children in four schools in a coal mining Kentucky town. These children unaware of composition or the proper way to take picture were all sent home with cameras to make photographs of what could not be seen..their dreams, desires, fears, and wishes.
Based on Ewald’s book of he same name, Ewald travels back in time 30 years later to catch up with her students ( who around 7 years-old at the time). Did they become photographers? Did their lives take a turn for the worse? Did they want to run as far from those days as possible? Wendy goes back and catches up with Kim and Russell Akeman, Delbert, Dee Davis and Johnny Wilder. Some of those conversations are excruciatingly uncomfortable and others are like a generous and comical walk down memory lane.
The biggest question I found myself asking was why children? The answer was easy. Children don’t know when they’re poor and their imaginations are most vivid and unfiltered. Not to mention that Kentucky, in particular, has a fascination for the preservation of memories. After all, pictures are the one object that allows us to hold onto our memories, especially the good ones.
During a post-screening Q&A with Russell, Kim, Dee, Wendy Ewald and Producer Elizabeth Barrett. When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement Russell stated he understood the frustration of Black people being characterized as something they’re not, “…hillbillies are misrepresented all the time…but we are really heroic and noble.” He encouraged that the protesting youth continue to “…tell your won story and be comfortable with who you are.
Dee Davis, on the subject of whether what Ewald did in 1975 would work today in a COVID-19 – social distancing world, “…I attended a rally and there was a sense of inclusion. A lot of people don’t think of America as an inclusive place fo all the people and places that exists in this country.” He went to say, “…it’s the people that connect us and make us better people if we chose to be.”
Kim Boling hope that when people get a chance to screen Portraits and Dreams on POV/PBS on September 7th that it serves as an inspiration to be passionate, creative, expressive, dream, be proud of who they are, where they come from and most of serves as an inspiration for love and compassion.
Kudos to Wendy Ewald for taking her project worldwide to countries like China, Mexico, Columbia, India, Pakistan and more.