LLFF Speaks With Filmmaker Mercedes Kane

October 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today We Saw the Face of God tells the story of a Chicagoland medical team who were first responders to one of the only standing hospitals in Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

Mercedes Kane (above left), Today We Saw the Face of God filmmaker, took a few minutes to answer our off-the-cuff interview questions so that we may get to know her a wee bit better.  Here’s what Mercedes had to say …

LL: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a filmmaker? Describe your moment.

MK
: When I was very little, I would always tell people I wanted to be a singer and a writer when I grew up. I ended up studying Broadcast Journalism and then getting an MFA in Independent Filmmaking. I have no idea where the crazy notion of becoming a singer was born, as I have no vocal talents whatsoever (perhaps my fascination with Madonna at the time??), but I do know where my passion for writing, and eventually journalism, came from. First, it came from an inert curiosity about people – what all different types of people care about, work towards, are driven by, whom and what they love and why, what they dream of, where they’ve been and where they’re headed. I think we can learn and grow tremendously from taking the time to better understand the millions of people we share the planet with. It also stemmed from my appreciation of storytelling in all its many forms. From an early age I loved to read, and in the fourth grade I even wrote and directed a play that some friends and I performed for the entire school, which was based off C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” I guess you could say that was my directorial debut!

LL: What is currently your favorite movie of all time?  Why?

MK
: My favorite documentary film of all time is “Born Into Brothels” directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. Documenting the lives of kids living in the red light district of Calcutta, the filmmakers let the children’s photography illustrate their stories. By teaching the children photography and helping them find a way out of their difficult lives, the directors also crossed the thin line between filmmaker and friend, but this film is ultimately so well-made and moving it’s not only forgivable, it’s commendable. It touches me deeply every time I watch it. 

LL: How did you decide on the title for your film? 

MK:
The title of my film, “Today We Saw the Face of God” came from the real-life story in the book its inspired by, “Walking In Broken Shoes” by Susan Walsh. The book is a memoir about Sue’s experience in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake. In it she describes how the medical team she was with continually and successfully tried to see the “Face of God” in all the people they worked to save on that fateful night, and the days that followed. As they were leaving Haiti, one of the members wrote the following words on the wall of the medical clinic where they had worked: “Today We Saw the Face of God. Team 7. January 12, 2010.” 
To me, that was such a powerful part of the story, and in a way it’s how the team coped with the devastation they were witnessing. It’s not about religion, or even God, really. It’s about humanity and humility; about letting go of trying to reason the unimaginable suffering before them, and instead embracing the connection that bonds us all as human beings – at our best, and most certainly, worst times. Yes, the team was able to medically assist hundreds, maybe thousands, of people following the earthquake, but they also had the opportunity to experience the Haitians’ pain and hardships with them and right next to them. What they went through and learned can teach us all a lot about life and looking at things in a different way – trying to see your own symbol of hope when you look into the face of adversity or despair. 

LL: If you were to “label” your genre of film, what would that be? And what draws and/or inspires you to make this type of film?

MK:
I would say my film is a human interest documentary. I am compelled to share the plights of ordinary people in the midst of extraordinary situations. The resiliency people have when faced with unimaginably difficult circumstances always amazes me. I believe it’s in telling these stories with a broader audience that we can expand our horizons and make the world a smaller place. When you are given an intimate look into another person’s struggles, it enables you to relate to him/her fundamentally. And when you realize that person – whether she lives down the block or on the other side of the world – feels or acts exactly as you would in a certain situation, you have connected with her on a real level. It bridges the gap between “us” and “them” and forces you to recognize there’s really only “us” – the human species. 

LL: If you could work with anyone in “Hollywood”, who would it be?  and why?

MK:
To be honest, I am not very interested in working in Hollywood. I would rather work with a documentary team like those at Kartemquin in Chicago. They have continued to tell the stories of real people all over the world in bold and meaningful ways for over 45 years. It’s not an easy feat, but they’ve not only succeeded, they’ve raised the bar for the rest of the documentary filmmaking world and are making a living doing what they love. It’s definitely a dream of mine to work with them someday on a project. 

Thank you, Mercedes!

Today We Saw the Face of God
will be showing on Friday, October 26th at 7pm at the Bijou Cinema on the U of I Campus.  Mercedes and several members of her team will be on hand during the screening and will be available afterwards for a little Q&A facilitated by the friends of LLFF.
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