Finding My Authentic Voice Thru Film by Ines Melo
When I first started working in film, I wanted to be a screenwriter. I was convinced that I wanted to write new stories and help fiction movies come to life. There's certainly a great deal of work and passion that goes into working in the narrative film world, but it has been in documentary, or non-fiction cinema, that I have found my true calling. As I started making films and talking to people, looking for subjects and stories in the world that surrounded me, I realized that there were so many stories out there. Every story that has probably ever been written, acted out, performed in some way... it exists somewhere in the world. There is no need to make up something new, when there is so much out there to mine and discover.
People's life stories fascinate me. I am intrigued by the little details that they consider minor but that make lives extraordinary. I like to see symbols and beauty in the little moments of life. There is nothing more beautiful than talking to a person, just a normal person in the street, maybe someone I see at a coffee shop or at a store where I get my groceries, or on the subway - somewhere! - and asking them to tell me where they've been and where they're going. They often ask me why I care, and why it matters. They tell me of things that they find banal, but I find the banal extraordinary: The banalities of their lives is where I find the beauty of their existence. And that is what I want to share with the world.
So my films have often focused in these little slices of life that go unnoticed by our eyes but that still exist. In my film "Notes on living", I captured the beauty of Colma, a small town in California that is a modern day necropolis: a town of the dead, of many graves and cemeteries; there, I met people who live and work among death, and asked them to tell me what it's like to live among the dead, and discovered that life does go on in a town of the dead. In "Hair burdens", I watched women purchase fake hair (hair extensions, wigs) in a wig shop in San Jose, and watched how their banal conversations of beauty and vanity transformed into bigger meditations on femininity and identity. in "Variations", a group of young aspiring dancers of the San Francisco Ballet School struggle with growing pains and anxieties as they attempt to go pro. Different contexts, different settings, but very real stories.
Reality is often better than fiction. The world is full of stories for us to excavate and get to, and I'm happy to have the chance to tell these stories.