Letting Other Lives Speak

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Letting Other Lives Speak: Two Women and Two Documentaries Point of view shapes everything. No human endeavor is free from it. How a person chooses to tell a story, be it fiction or non-fiction, personal or biographical, affects how an audience receives that story. Documentarians are natural storytellers. They select points of view to relay messages to target audiences. However, the mission of those messages can change from original intentions, and whole new stories emerge when filmmakers form strong, personal relationships with their subjects. In Ruth L. Ozeki’s novel My Year of Meats and in Linda Hattendorf’s film The Cats of Mirikitani (2006), female documentarians encounter people who have shocking true stories to share, and these women must choose how to let these hidden lives speak through their own lenses, both personally and professionally. Jane Takagi-Little in My Year of Meats is a documentarian who lives in an apartment in the East Village of New York City. She is the daughter of an American man and a Japanese woman, which makes her, in her own words, “racially half” and “uniquely suited to the niche [she] was to occupy in the television industry” (9). Her story begins in first person point of view of a tumultuous year that had just ended: January 1991. She comments that it was “…the first month of the first year of the last decade of the millennium” and “President Bush had launched Desert Storm, the most massive air bombardment and land offensive since World War II” (7). Within the maelstrom of those political and economical concerns, she lands a production job with My American Wife, a documentary for Japanese television sponsored by BEEF-EX, which features American women serving up American beef. Jane’s job is to... ... middle of paper ... ...my’s life while also recording his hidden history so others may know. Linda captures Jimmy’s observations on the uncomfortable parallels between what happened to him during WWII and what might happen to others as a result of 9/11. Through intensive research, networking, time, and a heart-driven lens, she helps Jimmy recover his status, his citizenship, and his place in American society. Two cultures. Two New York women. Two American documentaries. It does not matter that one is real and the other is imagined. What matters is how these stories blossom from the documentarians’ original intentions into resonating stories that passionately illuminate dark places in human experience. Who can deny the awesome power of point of view when “community and art” can heal suffering, “…when something rocks your world and nothing is the same after?” (Independent Lens; Ozeki 8)

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