Sundance Film Festival Panel: “Editing History”

Lauren Pabst, Senior Program Officer, Journalism and Media, shares insights on how we shape history and tell stories from a panel at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

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In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, we are told we are living in historic times. While this phrase may conjure a sense of inevitability — we must remember that history is not inevitable — in fact, we are editing it every day.

Back in January, MacArthur’s Journalism and Media program and Fellows program joined forces to present a panel called “Editing History” at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

We wanted to have a conversation across disciplines about how we can look to the past to examine the way our collective histories have been told, misrepresented, redacted, or not told at all. Our goal with this big idea was to reclaim and reframe how we understand our collective context.

We invited Violeta Ayala, Assia Boundaoui, Aymar Jean Christian, Eve L. Ewing, and Gene Luen Yang (2016 MacArthur Fellow), five extraordinary storytellers whose work spans the disciplines of journalism, scholarship, documentary filmmaking, historical fiction, graphic novels, comics, virtual reality, interactive media, open television production, sociology, poetry, K-12 education, activism, and more.

The panelists talked about how their work both reframes what happened in the past and how we can collectively use that same energy to build a more equitable future. I had the honor of moderating the conversation.

We talked about uprooting destructive and restrictive patterns that have dictated who has controlled the narrative, history, and the official story. We talked about power, decolonization, objectivity, collective imagination, and the concept of time (something we may all be pondering now). We also talked about superheroes.

It was a powerful conversation — and we are fortunate to be able to share with you a video of the panel in its entirety, filmed by the Sundance Institute Content Team and introduced by Tabitha Jackson, Director of the Sundance Film Festival. You can find the full-length video here:

This piece first appeared on the MacArthur Foundation website.

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