Above All Else Premier: SXSW (2014)

Above All Else PosterI have been anticipating the premier of director John Fiege’s documentary, Above All Else, ever since I first agreed to participate in the film back in 2012 during my days as an organizer and videographer with the Tar Sands Blockade.

My friends and I were interviewed and recorded during some of the scariest and most stressful moments of our lives blockading the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Now, almost two years later, the story has made it to the big screen and I am heading to SWSW 2014 to attend the world premier on Monday, March 10th at the Paramount Theater in Austin.

As a graduate student of documentary filmmaking at the University of North Texas, this is my first time attending a real film festival premier and I expect it to be as educational and exciting as my experiences assisting the filmmakers behind Above All Else and producing my first documentary film, Blockadia Rising: Voices of the Tar Sands Blockade

Above All Else SXSW

I plan to write more about my experiences after the premier on Monday. My goal is to reflect on the entire experience of organizing the Tar Sands Blockade, deciding to participate in a documentary about it and then producing a short documentary of my own while simultaneously assisting the filmmakers on their feature length documentary. All of these events coincided with my entry into graduate school to study documentary film and it has stimulated a great deal of curiosity and speculation in my mind about the nature of documentary production in the twenty first century.

The entire experience has been invaluable to my education as a filmmaker. From my point of view, I have experienced what it feels like to be interviewed on camera and what it feels like to interview someone from behind the camera. I have taken action in front of the lens and I have recorded action with my own.

I have worked all alone, in collaboration with autonomous individuals and in collaboration with a professional crew. I have personally facilitated the journey of images from recorded reality to internet distribution, television broadcast, alternative media and now a feature-length documentary. I have seen the same pieces of footage that I shot appear on multiple platforms in front of many different audiences in many different contexts. It’s been dizzying and fascinating.

However, the process has not been without it’s ups and downs. There are definitely negative sides to the way in which these images that we have created proliferate through the media. In many ways we have traded our creative control for more widespread distribution and visibility. We wanted the story heard by as many people as possible, but not everyone agreed to cooperate with the filmmakers or even with me at times, and that is there prerogative. It is a complex issue that I believe is at the core of our new media environment. I would love to write and reflect more about it in the future.

Until then, I just can’t wait to see Above All Else and see some of my old friends again.

Solidarity Forever & Viva Cinema

-Garrett Graham

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