This is how I sum up 2011. I am sitting in the People’s Library at Zucotti Park.
My dog, Thurston, is in my arms and my friend Zach, a fellow filmmaker, is talking to me about his film tour. My throat is raw from the listening and repeating, listening and repeating.
I wanted to stay. I wanted to avoid that heavy heart that inevitably came every time I left. I wanted to protect this park. This white noise bath of mic checks.
This hazy fever dream for those who had been sitting on their hands, afraid to say anything, unsure if they were the only ones seeing what they were seeing, feeling what they were feeling.
I was one of those people, stunned by hundreds mic checking the name of a lost child until it found its mother. My friend Sara mimed across the crowd a tear rolling down her cheek as real ones poured down my face.
It was like falling in love. Falling in love with the world again. But with that love also realizing how close we were to losing it forever.
People kept asking me why I never brought my camera. I did once, but it made everyone suspicious.
The point was not to separate from this experience so I didn’t bring one again until after the raid.
This was simply not my film to make.
But I needed these moments. It brought it all to the surface.
Two years ago, I moved back to New York, unsure about how to crack back in.
To occupy myself, I wrote a script without any realistic notion for how it could be made. I simply had to get it out of me.
And when it was done, it sat because there was starting over that had to be done. But in the back, there was always this subtext of feeling isolated, the state of the country narrowing options for myself and those around me.
The tides revealing that everyone around me was struggling with the same narrative.
By 2011, it was becoming clear that unknowing had become the new knowing.
Then the raid inevitably happened. Circling the park was like bearing witness to the gutting of where you felt you could only feel love. It was inevitable that this street corner would become another reminder of what it feels like to lose but part of losing is learning how to go forward.
So, 2012 has to be the year of acting on that, but how was what I kept asking myself and also seemed to be the perpetual question in every thread I read about the state of the occupation.
Then, I went to see the Pina Bausch/Wim Wenders film Pina.
One of the dancers talks about what it was like when she was new to the company and how Bausch’s process, more intuitive than dictate, left the dancer flailing. She couldn’t figure out how to connect, to the company, to the work.
Her portrait closes with the admission that she realized that when she learned how to pull herself up by her hair it all came together, and then the film cuts to the dancer performing one of her signature pieces.
A few movements in and then she does exactly that, grabbing her hair and pulling it up, elongating not only her long hair as high as it can go but her entire body into a perfect line with both ends pushing to their extreme limits.
Besides the thrill that Wenders’ symmetry of literalness and metaphor produced, another realization presented itself because for days, I had been trying to find the words to describe how this year was going to be different.
There had to be a new approach, the sense of urgency born from what I witnessed in Zucotti this past fall beg for something else.
This reverberates one day when I am trying to decipher notes I had taken on my phone and found a note I had typed out while sitting at Angela Davis’s feet in Washington Square as she spoke last October.
The note is a definite paraphrase but goes: ‘We have to be fluent in each other’s stories. We turn occupation into something beautiful. There are no guarantees but we have to act as if there will be a future ‘ and then a line of question marks.
So this year I promise myself to pull myself up by my own hair, to open up that script, to do my part.