Interview with Award-Winning Film Director Viktoria I.V. King: Black Lives MATTER

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It has been nearly 100 days since the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests, both in outrage of the system that has repeatedly failed to protect the rights of the people and in solidarity with those fighting for their voices to be heard. Although the news coverage for Black Lives Matter has quieted down since June, the movement is still going strong, thanks to the sustained efforts of Black activists and allies.

Last week, I had the privilege of talking with Viktoria I.V. King, an international award-winning film director, whose most recent feature, a 4-minute social documentary titled Black Lives MATTER, is “focused on the revolution of dismantling systemic oppression and changing the narrative”.

When asked what she believed would resonate most with her audience, King responded, “… the unity is the thing that I wanted to resonate the most. The solidarity, how it’s no longer one person’s problem. We always seem to have that as an issue; whenever one country or one specific group of people are going through something, we’re like, ‘oh that’s sad for them’… That’s dehumanizing in a way, that’s invalidating in a way, and I wanted to show… that this is an everybody versus racism issue. And there are no sidelines.

The major factor sustaining Black Lives Matter, now compared to previous years, is the enormous amount of solidarity, attention, and support it has received from around the world. This documentary, which features speakers from over 40 different countries, addresses the idea that you don’t need to be Black in order to realize that this is not just about Black lives — at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement are people simply standing for human lives and human rights. Because the issues that are faced by African Americans and the Black community are multifaceted and complex, the manners in which people express their anguish and protest their oppression have also varied throughout history. Through her documentary, King aims to convey the idea, “… that peace can come out of pain. And I wanted to not just show the peaceful protests, I wanted to show the truth, and the truth is… the truth has duality… I wanted to show the different manifestations of pain and how sometimes it can render into peace. Sometimes it can render into just speaking up or standing up and sometimes it can render into a fire behind you. It’s whatever brings you peace at that moment, in that time, so I just wanted to speak on that.

King also spoke about how her ethnically diverse background allowed her to truly embrace the idea of unity and intersectionality, both of which are prominent themes in Black Lives MATTER and in her other works as well. Although King fully embraces her multi-cultural heritage, it hasn’t always been easy for her to do so: “Ironically, the only time it was difficult for me to grasp who I was, is when it was difficult for others to digest. When they couldn’t understand, ‘How can you be all of these things? What do you feel more like? Can you make a choice to just stay with one thing, because you look Black, so just stay with that’, and I’m like, ‘I am Black, but I’m also all these other things.’”

As someone who grew up in 5 different countries, King opposes the idea of singularity, or the belief that you must only be able to fit into a single, neat category. People are multifaceted, and thus, so are their identities and their struggles. In order to be truly unified and aligned in our fight for human rights, we must all learn to value how our differences can actually bring us closer together by challenging us to have a greater sense of empathy for one another. There cannot be unity without acceptance, and there cannot be true acceptance without first acknowledging the differences between each and every one of us.

King states that her biggest goal regarding her work and this documentary is, “... that it gets exposed… I wanted to create something beyond me. If people never know my name that’s absolutely okay. I want the documentary, the piece, to get out there, because I think it’s an important piece about unity and I think it’s a conversation starter… We’re not starting a race war, we’re trying to end one. But really it’s also like, you have to go beyond race war, this is really a conversation about morality… The negation is no longer about who you like, or dislike, or agree with, it’s more about the fact that you are having the conversation to begin with.

As a filmmaker, King aspires to use her medium in order to constantly challenge traditional narratives that society feeds us about the oppressed and marginalized. By exposing her audience to a new lens through which to view the racial issues of America and the world, she is enabling her viewers to consider a new perspective. Whether her audience is liberal or conservative or somewhere in between, this documentary provides a poignant reminder of how far our society has come and how much farther we still have to go before we can truly claim to be a country of freedom and equality. Progress can’t happen unless and until people are willing to talk about the topics that make them uncomfortable, and by opening up the conversation about why Black Lives Matter transcends politics, about why many allies may be harming the Black community despite their good intentions, about why racial inequality is so deeply rooted in American history, etc. Then, and only then, can we open ourselves to the possibility of growth and change.

According to King, “Some people are beyond conversation, some people are beyond action, and some people are not. You just must have the conversation first. Go in with an open mind and [understand] that changing their perspective is not going to happen in the course of a day. The best you could probably do is plant a seed. If you can plant a seed, fantastic. When that’s going to bloom, who knows?

If you would like to plant a seed, whether in your own mind or someone else’s, the link to Black Lives MATTER can be found right here.

Amy Nguyen

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