I found Jared to be a very inspirational speaker. He displayed great humility when speaking about his role portraying others through film. He spoke about the importance of honoring a person and their story and being true to who they are to make the audience love the person. He used this philosophy to portray Sommer and Jannie, two subjects in his work. He mentioned that how you relate to your subject is very important because they trust you to tell their story “truthfully” and with “honor.” What a responsibility for a filmmaker to have! I think the line between telling a story, making a story, and being honorable is blurry and even with this guiding philosophy can present challenges at times. What if your subject isn’t lovable? Take Adam and his wife in Homemade. Arguably at many times throughout the film we cannot love them. Are we still expected to show empathy towards these characters? What if the subject’s believe they are being presented inaccurately? These are some really important ethical and moral questions that need to be grappled with as a filmmaker.
Additionally, Jared presented the idea that an individual and a concept cannot be separated. Sommer for example, by the nature of her identity as a disabled woman, carries the weight of disability, a concept that comes with prejudice, economic, and social problems. I think this is fascinating. With the film, Homemade, we questioned whether the concept of Veteran substance abuse and medical neglect was conveyed through a such a small window. Jared would argue, I believe that it was. In his mind, telling a large story through an individual is effective and perhaps preferable. I don’t think I agree with this completely because I feel like this could risk complacency from the audience who believe this is a “one-off” or rare case. This should be cautioned against. The connection to a broader issue, I believe should be explicitly stated or demonstrated. Ultimately, however, Jared reminds us that we are obligated to tell the story of the people and build a case for empathy and challenge the status quo.
Jared’s films Jannie Makes a Play and The Many Friends of Sommer remind us that seemingly small stories are still worth being told. They reflect more than we realize about the culture and world as well as the individual. I feel if we are able to elicit engagement through empathy, compassion, and love through visual anthropology and film, the journey has been worthwhile. These accomplishments, Jared says, are baby steps to changing the world.