Continuing through Sunday, October 11 and a part of HUBweek, The Boston Globe proudly presents their first ever GlobeDocs Film Festival, a collection of gripping documentary films that shed light on the truth by telling important stories. Click here for more information and the full list of films.
Oscar-nominated Executive Producer Abigail Disney discusses her film showcased at the festival, “The Armor of Light,” which offers a hopeful, unique perspective on gun control through the eyes of Reverend Rob Schenck.
Examiner: I feel like you have such a reputation apart from Disney, not so much the filmmaking aspect, but the topics that you deal in. You have made your own name for yourself.
Abigail Disney: I know and that’s a very gratifying feeling. It’s nice to make your own way in the world.
Examiner: The films you create deal with very serious topics. You do a lot of good community service in the fight against poverty. What brought on that passion?
AD: I came to New York City in my 20s to study at Columbia and I eventually got a PhD there. While I was doing that, I loved graduate school but it also felt a little too dry for me. I started volunteering with kids and low income families, anything to feel useful. It was that work that sucked me in to this universe of people who are activists, organizers, and those who run these little social service agencies and foundations. This led to another door until I just found myself up to my eyeballs in work with low income families in New York. I love it! I’m honestly one of the happiest people you will ever meet. My days are arranged around some of the coolest people you will ever meet and the payoff is I get to hang out with them.
Examiner: You have been involved with documentary films for some time and received two Academy Award nominations including one for Best Documentary Short.
AD: I’m relatively new to this because I didn’t take this up until I was 46. That was in 2006. My kids are getting older and I had a little more latitude so I just dove in with both feet. I was the Executive Producer and wasn’t the prime moving force behind it, but I was very proud of that film and it got nominated for an Oscar.
Examiner: That’s great! You have a production company that you and Gini Retiker founded called ‘Fork Films.’ I understand the mission of ‘Fork Films’ is to shed light, evoke compassion, stir action, and build peace. Your latest film ‘The Armor of Light’ fits right into this category.
AD: Gini and I founded it together because we had a great partnership on our first film, work together really well, and now we are all in on ‘Fork Films.’
It was important to me that I do peace building because that’s how I see my work. I learned the word from the Liberian women in my first film and I really respect them and want to be as great as they are. There needs to be peace built here in this country. We’re a violent country, especially in light of the recent shooting in Oregon. I just wanted to see if I can contribute to something that was pushing back in the right direction to a more peaceful place.
Examiner: Was there a particular incident that made you think, I am going to portray this film in this light. What inspired you to pick this topic?
AD: I was pondering in the back of my head, “gun project.” That is the most well developed as it was. I had no idea how I would do it, what I was going to say, and has been in my head for as long as I have been making films. My husband suggested I wait until our last child leaves for college. That seemed sensible and I still have a 15 year old at home. It was Sandy Hook that got me off my duff and I said to my husband, “I can’t be silent anymore.”
I had followed this issue for many years, read about it, researched it, and it is sadly full of facts and figures that nobody wants to hear. I’m very well versed in what the history of the NRA is, but I wanted to make a film that will make a difference. None of those facts and figures or pieces about the NRA was really going to touch people’s hearts, so I needed to find a different angle.
Examiner: Your film really gives off a sense of hope and it is just one of many films that are being shown at the first ever GlobeDocs Film Festival through Sunday, October 11. The films focus on a great deal of important, educational topics. How did you become one of the films at this festival?
AD: We submitted it to the festival and they accepted it. For us, it’s a great thing. Boston is a very important city to us and, in many ways, led the way on thinking about handguns. I think people will find the film really interesting.
When you started making this film, did you have one opinion about the topic and when the film was finished, did your perspective change as well?
My perspective changed on who I think Evangelicals are and my perceptions of them. My perspective didn’t change that much on the gun issue. The more I talked to people that supported gun rights, the less their arguments made sense to me and I got a little hardened in my opinion about what should happen. I did get softened in my perceptions of people who disagree with me. I think that was the most important thing for me.
We filmed a lot in Washington, rural Illinois, rural Ohio, Branson, Missouri, and Santa Barbara. We moved around a lot. I had some interesting times going through rural Ohio and Illinois meeting these people in these very small towns whose political views were very different from mine, but they welcomed me and were warm, kind, wanted to talk, and were sweet. The biscuits and gravy was really, really good.
Examiner: Sounds like a wonderful experience to share bread with everyone. The film gives an enlightened tone though it is a serious topic. What do you hope audiences can take from this film?
AD: Political reconciliation is not as far off as we think it is. It is possible to form friendships and relationships across political lines. More than that, I think we need to understand that there’s an immediate bit of work we need to do with our culture whether it is inside of a religion or on the sidewalk. I don’t care.
We never did our moral homework about guns. We never really made our values explicit and known and so our laws aren’t coming from our values, but from other agendas. I can’t think of a more immoral object than a gun, especially due to the potential it has to take a life, which makes it a very important object. If we don’t have clarity at when and why it should be used, then we’re in trouble.
Examiner: At the festival, what are you most looking forward to?
AD: I really love Boston! It’s one of my favorite cities. I have a few friends there and it will be nice to have them come to the screening and connect with them. I’m also very anxious to know how Boston reacts to it and what they think.
The GlobeDocs Film Festival continues through Sunday, October 11. The films are shown in different theatres around Boston. Click here for film locations and for tickets!