USA Media Panel for 2011

Susan Stone

Sound Artist, Producer, and USA Rasmuson Fellow, San Francisco, CA

Sky Sitney

Festival Director, Silverdocs: AFI/Discovery, Channel Documentary Festival, Silver Spring, MD

Miguel Alvarez

Filmmaker, Austin, TX

Rose Kuo

Executive Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York, NY

Kenneth Turan

Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA

Statement by Miguel Alvarez.

Look. Look at the way the young boy’s eyes dart around, constantly alive, glinting in the war-torn alley. Or at the solitary memorials sitting silently on Chicago street corners displaying youthful portraits of their charges. Watch the inner-city girl change her clothes, change her hair, change her self, silently wishing it was okay to like other girls without being an outcast. Let your eyes dance along with the calacas, singing twisted agit-prop songs in an animated, gleeful opera of the dead. Listen to the howl of the desert wind, the migrants’ haunted voices, the eerie commentator of the Southwest. Feel the plaintive, silent desperation of a woman who has not only lost her dog, but control of her life, stranded in a small, grey Oregon town. These are the stories of a group of talented individuals who refuse not to be heard. These are the stories of artists, both burgeoning and established, with something to say and a gift for saying it.

Isn’t that what we want? As a community, as a collective, as a nation? Voices to rise above the din of our reality-obsessed, politically posturing media (medium, really). Beautiful, lyrical voices that sing the stories that we forgot to hear, should hear, need to hear.

Isn’t that the role of an artist, especially in a field so diverse that it encompasses experiential documentaries, video sculptures, and interactive web-based experiences, as well as the traditional narrative films and documentary radio? At a point where the medium is bursting at the seams with chaotic, technological potential, where it seems anything is truly possible and everything is being tried, these fine artists have determined how to make their voices heard. They reflect our collective dreams, hopes, fears, aspirations, anxieties, musings, loves. They reflect us. They are us.

And isn’t it our duty to support them? Tell them yes, we want to hear what they have to say. Yes, we believe in their talent and craft at a time when it seems like less and less are doing so. Yes, it is possible to be an artist in the United States. A true artist, supported by patrons for the love of art, the love of film, the love of radio, the love of this amorphous, ever-changing thing called media.

Charles Bukowski once said, “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” So I’ll just say this:

Look. Watch. Listen. Feel. These are the voices of our artists. Our United States Artists.