The director and producer, Chico Colvard, who is situated in Boston, USA, has made a fascinating and important film about family issues. He is the son of a German-Jewish mother and an African-American father.
Colvard is also a lawyer and teaches "race, law and media" related courses at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Claus Friede spoke with Chico Colvard in Berlin, Germany about his film.
Driving the story forward is Colvard's sensitive probing of a complex dynamic: the way his three sisters survived severe childhood abuse by their father and, as adults, manage to muster loyalty to him. These unforgettable, invincible women paint a picture of their harrowing girlhoods as they resiliently struggle with present-day fallout. The distance time gives them from their trauma yields piercing insights about the legacy of abuse, the nature of forgiveness, and eternal longing for family and love. These truths may be too searing to bear, but they reverberate powerfully within each of us.
Claus Friede (CF): There are people who write poetry, paint or compose. You have chosen the genre of film. What motivated you to this decision?
Chico David Colvard (CDC): I think three things: First and most obvious is my personal commitment to the story.
Secondly, what brought me to the film was my legal background and ability to pay attention to details - to the writing. Writing was very important to the film, both in terms of applying for grants, trying to raise money around the project, but also to take me deeper into an understanding of answering the question: "Why am I making this film?"
And then, thirdly, I think was a creative writing piece which I think really helped to drive the narrative structure of the film, because for me if you can visualize the editing system, you have your visual tracks, you have your soundtracks on the bottom, your music and your special effects. For me, it always begins with the story, always about being true to the story, with the language, with the dialogue, with the narrative. And then I built everything else up around it. So there would be these major holes, visually, but I knew that the story really had to hold up and the visuals came second to me.
So I think my personal relationship to the film, coupled with my legal background and commitment to story telling are what motivated me to choose film.
CF: Have you always had a preference for film as a media? Do you have any childhood memories regarding film?
CDC: The first film I saw was “Blazing Saddles” by Mel Brooks, with my dad in Germany, in Bad Tölz. Growing up in Germany on a lot of military bases we would get one or two channels, this is late 1960s or 70s. And it would be “The Honeymooners”, “I love Lucy”, “Night Gallery” or “Alfred Hitchcock presents”, but it would all be German voice over dubbed. But because we weren’t allowed to speak German in the house we were solely relying on my mother to tell us what was happening. So late at night these great shows would come on and we kids were all supposed to go to bed. And I always sneaked out into the living room where my mom and dad were watching Alfred Hitchcock or something and I just was always mesmerized by these images and my mother was sort of story telling. I was never sure if it was an exact translation or if she was making things up, but I remember when they first got films in English. I guess it was a satellite feed... it was a big thing! Everyone around was like: “Oh yeah, Alfred Hitchcock is in English tonight” and getting the permission to stay up to watch that. I just love images and I think in images, I problem solve in images. Moving images has also very much informed what I teach. I teach race, law and media related courses; for me it has always been an intimate part of my identity.
CF: Is “Family Affair” your first film?
CDC: It’s my first documentary that I have been working on for nearly 9 years. I hear other people at a workshops talking about their filmmaking war stories, saying: “I have been working on this film for three years…” I guess It's relative. But yes, this is my first film, it has been quite an education. The people who have got involved in this project are better accomplished filmmakers, decision makers and players in the film business. So I learned a lot from them, but I still have a lot more to learn.