ON THE LIFE OF A DOCUMENTARY (AS INFLUENCED BY THE LIFE OF KINDNESS)
Our movie has a life of its own. Maybe in some way it’s sort of taken over my life (though I think I am comfortable with that). I spend a lot of time working towards this film, for the film. More than that I spend almost all of my time thinking about it. And it’s those thoughts that are creating this life — the thoughts of what sort of impact it might have, could have, if the right people see it. How it could, might, would, affect that way that people look at each other. How people I don’t know could change the way they treat strangers. It’s not the film I am obsessed with, but the idea of kindness, the life of kindness, and the way it ripples.
Our movie started as our adventure – as a way to explore the country, its people; a social experiment about hope.
In the summer of 2010, my boyfriend Greg and I traveled the country relying on the kindness of strangers for a home each night. Every day we were in a new town, meeting new people, and hoping that someone would be generous enough to open their home to us. We were 21, curious, and aching for a great experience, a good story.
And a good story is absolutely what we got – an adventure that expanded out of our experiences and into our everyday lives. A learning experience bigger than we could have imagined.
It all began a year earlier, during another road trip, when Greg spoke out in his sleep, saying, "We have to go to Bear, Colorado!" We were thrilled by the idea of a dream-destiny –- and disappointed when we found out that actually, Bear, CO doesn’t exist. But when we found out that there were 5 other Bears making a perfect horseshoe between Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Arkansas, and Delaware, we realized we had to visit them all! Then later, after a long day of classes, while tromping through the snow back to our dorm – we incorporated this other piece – this strangers piece – which has always been a dream of mine.
And so with two dreams, American Bear: An Adventure in the Kindness of Strangers began.
The film centers on our struggle to find a home each night through the kindness of the individual. But we want it to expand to paint a portrait of Americans as a community and the questions we all have about the people who aren’t us and the places that aren’t our homes. It tells the stories of a few of the most irregular, profound and affected individuals we encounter. From the daughter of the last warrior woman of the Cheyenne mountain tribe whose grandson is still facing bigotry in South Dakota; to the twice married ghost hunters trying to synthesize their experiences in small-town New York; to young friends in Mississippi trying to understand the “country” stereotype, maybe even reclaim it – each character is facing some obstacle that allows us to see a unique side of the multifaceted American lifestyle. It is through these individuals that we are able to see the fabric of the American mentality and the daily choices we make.
It’s about kindness, creativity, connection. I want people to talk to strangers – the bagger at the grocery store deserves your best smile and they deserve to be asked how their day was. The person next to you on the subway will totally talk to you if you are interested. I promise. Bathroom lines, buses, busy hallways at schools, sidewalks, book stores, coffee shops, restaurants – all of these places are great places to meet people! And when we are feeling romantic or lonely we think about that, but how often do we try it?
Our movie has a life of its own. Now American Bear is about our longing to shift the dynamic between everyone around us – so eventually, in this world I imagine, if you are having a not-so-good day, the idea of going outside sounds wonderful, because you never know who you might meet for the first time.
Our goal is to leave the audience feeling optimistic; feeling that there are small things you can do to fight against injustice, to support our human community. We strive to make a documentary that will create a very specific kind of hope. A hope that doesn’t have to work against the odds, but rather one that suggests that in the end the odds are in our favor. A hope that people all around the world can be good and kind, and generous.
From adventure to obsession to longing – our movie has taken on a life of its own. The biggest piece of this life is the learning. Every day I learn something new and exciting from the film, the people we met, the people we are meeting and the people we are going to meet.
I know that sounds ridiculous, and impossible. But I promise you, it’s true.
Our Movie has a life of its own.
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To learn more about American Bear visit www.americanbearfilm.com
American Bear is currently fundraising to finish their film – help them out here.
Follow @RelyonStrangers on twitter.
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