Experimenting in Freedom: Director's Statement

by Yehuda Sharim

What does lead or force one to the fields of hardship and exploitation?
What is it in that loss of spirit and vision?
What are the social processes and structures that cripple the soul?
What will take for the disenfranchised spirit to speak, resist and even demand liberation?

I kept demanding my father for answers.

I asked him about the reasons that forced a ten-year-old immigrant (from Iran to Israel) to lose a sense of hope and end up in the fields, first picking watermelons and, later, strawberries.

“Don’t film me. People don’t want to see people like me,” he tells me. 
“People are interested in beauty.”

I am the son of people who always
wanted to retire as a way

to imagine our now beyond
miserable but safe decisions
that are made and re-made just like
when you pull you shoe laces so tightly
to the point that you
want your legs to breathe

All this tightening
never ends,
Pulling with so much force
Forcing volcanoes to well-dressed silences

reTiring, an epic of closed eyes with an open heart

You see, my father says to me, a man like me can’t stay all day at home
where the days are always long, unclear, fogged, without instructions
You see, we kidnap ourselves
Tie myself into long days
Work and more work is
All that I know
Don’t look to the sides
Act naturally (naturalize pain)
do as you are told and
You will make it alive until

Film this:
I am the son of a king who was asked to leave,
Just leave work and go, take your stuff, go outside,
Leave, don’t return here,
You hear me: don’t return
all customers saw the king
Getting to his car, bent, silent,
Leaving and never returning

Later, he will call it retirement

After years of feeling unworthy, and thus not believing in the worth of his own experience and surrendering to deep silence, I kept carrying these questions with me. My father, like so many, has been taught not to question his life. Not to face abuse. Not to challenge inequality and racism. Not to speak as a way to feel legitimate. The implications of his ongoing silence have been destructive and imply deep isolation, inability to fully express oneself because of social inhibition, and domestication – in that sense, I keep thinking about the deep relationship between the fields and incarceration.

I was interested in these unrecorded moments - that fragile and at times invisible apprehensions - when one’s world narrows, opportunities become limited, and the soul hunger, that starvation of the spirit, where one’s suffering is constantly invalidated, silenced, disenfranchised, and exiled.

The unrecorded and the unfilmed are at the heart and pulse of the cinematic experiments with in Freedom and liberation:

  • The inability to dream yet the need to see beyond the fields of exploitation
  • The erasure of labor and sweat of communities of color
  • The demystification of “seasonal workers” - a term and definition invented to approve and naturalize the exploitation of migrant labor 
  • The deep relationship between despair and excesses of all sorts

What allows the pulse of Experiments in Freedom to echo so powerfully is the scenery of the almond harvest. I found the aesthetics blend beautifully with the ethics and community work that is the spirit of this work. The soul’s hunger appears in each scene: the wind, the dust, and the agonizing sun lights dominate each scene. Moreover, the scenes in the part, the dialogues between Ana and Marcos, speak directly to the field realities (as well as Marcos’ trajectory).

The film vocabulary is the untold – what is carried within and beyond language and the stories we carry in our bodies. I am talking here about the different borders that appear and reappear throughout the work: from doors to fences and windows, which constantly remind us of events and choices beyond reach.

A clear emphasis on locating the poetic within the mundane, and the mysterious within daily acts, will determine the film’s tone. When thinking about it, the poetic is created through precise and deliberate attention, allowing one to focus on the changing fields of life that shape the lives of so many around the Central Valley and other rural parts of the USA. The poetic, moreover, means an intentional layering – both in terms of time and space – through which workers and migrants can speak and see one another.

Alas, my father could never see himself – a Jewish-Iranian immigrant to Israel in the early 1950s – in relation to Palestinian farmers and agricultural workers. In Experiences in Freedom, however, creating an organic fabric of an alliance is at the heart of this cinematic experiment that demands a renewed sense of liberation amidst (or because) the reality of a compounded crisis.

I set the camera, I press
play and

Around the corner
It’s me with the camera
We did our best to be beautiful and ended up so ugly
Do you still record
Make sure we look good

I record too many people who lose hope
Who doubt whether they are making the right decisions
How are we to trust those who cannot trust themselves
I don’t know if I will make it, but if I will forget about my life then please remind me
Record me
Record us
Make me Pause
Record the violence of our police officers
Record our parents wrinkling with grace 
Record our hours lost in malls 
Record our dogs running wild while we stand behind, hesitant, with the leash
Record us when we are pretending that we are not these dogs
crawling in a frenzy after meat
Record her sad eyes not knowing how to admit the death of her father
Record us finding one another
Record us marching together in parallel streets
Record our eyes open
And I did
I wanted to tell you that I did

I am the son
a king
Who never held a camera in his life
But always filmed and loved YOU