I Am Another You is filmmaker Nanfu Wang’s follow up to the gripping Hooligan Sparrow, named after the rebel activist Le Haiyan who leads a group of protesters seeking justice for six elementary school girls sexually assaulted by their school principal. In that film, Wang embarked on a harrowing journey to film Le, and both were eventually were targeted by Chinese officials for Le’s feminist activism. The film concludes with Wang recording how she was forced to smuggle her raw footage out of China in order to produce Hooligan Sparrow.
This time, however, Wang doesn’t become an enemy of the state while filming I Am Another You. Instead, she finds herself living on the streets with a free spirit named Dylan who has chosen a life as a drifter. I Am Another You makes us rethink social issues such as homelessness and mental illness, as well as what personal freedom feels and looks like. Wang’s storytelling compels us to think about our lives, through Dylan’s as he lives on the street.
Winner of the SXSW LUNA Chicken & Egg Award for Best Documentary Feature directed by a woman and the SXSW Special Jury Award for Excellence in Documentary Storytelling for I Am Another You, Wang was recently named one of Variety’s 2017’s Ten Documakers to Watch. I Am Another You is currently streaming on Independent Lens on PBS until February 15th. Watch it here.
Wang took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her passion for documentary filmmaking and I Am Another You.
Perpetual Foreigner stereotype alert: shortly after US figure skater Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in an Olympic competition, New York Times Opinion section editor Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) tweeted “Immigrants: they get the job done,” a line from Hamilton.
The implication from Weiss’ tweet was obvious: Nagasu should be celebrated as an American immigrant. One problem, though: Nagasu was born in Montebello, California. And yet, for Weiss, the place of Nagasu’s birth doesn’t seem to matter: instead, the colour of her skin appears to have marked Nagasu as foreign.
I have some probably unpopular opinions about the Aziz Ansari misconduct story. And I’m calling it misconduct because – at least for me – what Aziz did doesn’t fall under the category of a sexual assault. Maybe I’m blinded by my love for Master of None, but I can’t put him in the same category as Harvey Weinstein or Larry Nassar. In particular, Nassar’s horrifying abuse of generations of Olympic athletes shows that even our country’s greatest champions couldn’t escape all of this; never mind, then, the countless working women whose faces will never grace CNN cameras, Time magazine covers, or red carpets.
I believe Grace. I believe her pain; and, I believe she was overwhelmed; and, I believe Aziz crossed a line. And, when I look at the story — which I think Babe.net handled irresponsibly — it seems like the whole encounter likely brought up prior trauma from Grace. So, she froze. This is really common and it is something we – all of us — have to consider when we’re in the bedroom. Aziz should have stopped. Even if the story is more complicated, I can’t with these editorials calling Grace a weak woman for not ‘resisting harder,’ especially when a lot of times ‘resisting harder’ escalates to full-on violence. Grace isn’t just a hapless victim or a snowflake, but Aziz doesn’t get off scot-free either.
I’ve been chewing onBabe’s Aziz Ansari story for the last couple of days. The story, detailing a 23-year-old photographer’s sexual encounter with the comedian, has caused a splinter in the #MeToo movement, which I expected. Ansari is generally regarded as a male ally to the feminist movement. So just as people came to the immediate defense of George Takei, I knew there would be an army of Aziz defenders. However, I didn’t realize female journalists would join in on the chorus of victim-shaming and, essentially, defend “Grace” and Ansari’s interaction as “normal.”
The interaction that took place between the two felt familiar: a sexual cat and mouse game between a horny male and his female date. The overly aggressive persistence of a guy trying to get laid, regardless of what his partner wants. Grace gave him non-verbal (and even verbal) cues that she didn’t want to fool around, but Ansari ignored them. Since none of us were in the room, we’ll never know if he noticed these cues and willfully ignored them, or if he felt like he was getting a green light to try and try again.
Much of the ensuing conversation around Babe’s article has been predictable. “Why didn’t she leave?” “Why would she perform oral sex if she didn’t want to?” “He’s not a mind-reader.” A lot of this Twitter commentary came from seemingly male-identifying people. Much to my surprise, there was a cacophony of self-proclaimed #MeToo supporters who echoed these sentiments.