Amar Wala

A year in, my feelings as director...

Posted by Amar Wala on Friday, January 13, 2012.

Well, it's been over a year since our launch event last December. It may sound cliched but the time really has flown by. When I look back at the last year I see that we've accomplished quite a bit. We've raised over $25,000 to help make the film, we've spread awareness about this and other important issues, and garnered respect and credibility from within the film community itself. So do I consider Secret Trial 5 to be a success so far? Honestly, no...(but keep reading)

Some of you might be surprised to here me say that. After garnering much praise, and building a small but active community around this project you'd think I'd be feeling pretty good about what we've done so far. Well I'm not, and the reason is pretty simple. Our goal is and always has been to make a film about security certificates; to visually articulate the sheer injustice at play in our own country. And the truth is, we're still a long way away from doing that.

While I am incredibly proud of our whole team, I can't help but see the uphill climb we have ahead of us. I'm grateful for Catherine Lathwell, whose hard work at reaching out to community organizations yielded our biggest donation to date ($5000 from Inter Pares, thank you!). I'm grateful for Mike Boers and Julian Brown, whose artistry gives us immediate credibility as filmmakers and artists (as indicated by our selection into Applied Arts Magazine's "Year's Best" issue). And I'm especially grateful for Noah Bingham, he is essentially the glue that holds this whole thing together. Crowdfunding is extremely hard, and you constantly hear that most crowdfunding campaigns fail miserably. I can honestly say that if it weren't for Noah, I would've folded long ago.

When you make a documentary, especially one on an issue like this, you are constantly surrounded by darkness. Our research constantly reveals injustice, both here and abroad. We spend many hours sitting in on unfair, downright comedic court proceedings that in turn determine a man’s fate. We see firsthand the pain and devastation that comes from living under the strictest house arrest conditions in Canadian history. But what’s most frustrating, what’s most difficult to deal with, is people’s blind acceptance of these problems and our seeming inability to affect any change. I decided to make this film because I hoped or believed it could make a difference. I’m not naïve, but you don’t devote yourself to something for so many years unless you think it can make a difference. It is for this reason that I can’t feel good about ST5 just yet. $25,000 is a lot of money to raise and I thank all our supporters from the bottom of my heart but let’s be honest, it’s only about ¼ of what we need to finish the film. It’s a great start, but we can’t get complacent or comfortable.

The end of 2011 was remarkably productive for us, and not just in fundraising. Because of your support, we finished second in the Cuban Hat Pitch at RIDM in Montreal, and now have a chance to attend Hot Docs this spring and promote the film at North America’s biggest documentary festival. What’s most exciting is the possibility of working with Jan Rofekamp of Films Transit International. Jan is perhaps this country’s most respected doc distributor. I’ve admired him for a long time and for him to be interested in working with us is incredibly humbling. He has kindly agreed to join us in our attempt to pitch at this year’s Hot Docs Forum, which wouldn’t be possible without his support. Let’s hope we get in, because I promise you we will blow them away.

I apologize for this long entry, but I felt compelled to share my honest feelings with all of you. You are afterall, my producers, and I assure you that even with the difficulties we continue to face, I don’t for a second doubt my crew or myself. We will make you proud.

I want to close with something Noah wrote me the other day. I was pretty pissed after Obama signed a Bill that made it legal to hold American citizens indefinitely without charging them, after he promised not to. It felt a long way from his promise to close Guantanamo, and I mentioned to Noah that I felt like I was losing my mind. He wrote back…

“I’m happy losing my mind trying to make the film. Figure losing your mind is a good thing when the world is crazy. Might mean you’re a little sane.”

I leave you with that. Thanks.