The Knockturnal spoke with Kristina Motwani about her work as both an editor and story consultant. She has been influenced by the Bay Area which has been in the background of her documentaries. The Knockturnal spoke to the editor about the Bay area, including Women of color in storytelling, and more.
The Knockturnal: How has San Francisco and the Bay Area influenced your work as an editor and story consultant?
Kristina Motwani: I love the Bay Area and since I been here for over 13 years consider this place home. I have found a great documentary film community here, when I first moved here I knew I wanted to edit but I had no idea what, and I was kind of embraced by the Documentary filmmaking community here and it really made all the difference. This place is also endlessly inspiring, it is this kind of ever-changing organism and goes through these ebbs and flows of change but underneath all of that, it has always seemed like a magical place.
The Knockturnal: What advice would you give to young girls and women of color who might be interested in editing but don’t necessarily see themselves represented in the field?
Kristina Motwani: This is for sure a male-dominated field but I think there is a sea change happening. I don’t think it’s as fast as it needs to be but it does feel like we are on the precipice of change. My advice for young girls and women of color who are interested in becoming an editor is to work on your storytelling chops, they will always translate despite the ever-changing technology, and also don’t let the tools get in your way! That’s all they are, tools, and you will eventually get to a place where they work for you, but don’t be afraid of them, just get in there. Also, find people who are good collaborators, that is key! The biggest piece of advice though is to know your worth and remind yourself of that often, and don’t take any less.
The Knockturnal: What is it like being a part of Brown Girls Doc Mafia?
Kristina Motwani: I happen to be part of a lot of different filmmaking groups but Brown Girls Doc Mafia is my favorite of those groups! They are so supportive, I have made incredible friends and found the best collaborators through BGDM. I really love the group because there are filmmakers of all levels, from emerging to very experienced, but there is a real feeling of lifting each other up and support. Also, a lot of the members have been instrumental in helping move along this sea-change I talked about earlier, being brave and putting themselves and careers on the line for what is right. I am very proud to be a member of this group.
The Knockturnal: HOMEROOM premiered at Sundance this year, what was it like being able to contribute to telling the stories of the Oakland High School, 2020 senior class?
Kristina Motwani: Telling the story of the Oakland High School 2020 senior class was an honor, heartbreaking but also so hopeful! I love stories about young people, I find them so inspiring and I love how they aren’t bound by the same things we are as adults. When they want to do something, they just dive headfirst in even if it seems impossible. This was a historic year with the pandemic and social uprising happening and so this film is a great time capsule and also a record of the resilience of the youth. They lost so much but managed to still find joy in life and rise ready to move forward, they never lost sight of the future and for me, that was the biggest takeaway of chronicling this year of their lives.
The Knockturnal: FRUITS OF LABOR shows the life of a Mexican American teen dealing with the threat of ICE raids in her community. What was the rewarding part of showing a different reality California teens are experiencing?
Kristina Motwani: On the surface, the lives of teens around the country seem very different depending on circumstance and location, be it urban or rural, middle of the country or one of the coasts, but what I actually find the most interesting is despite the differences of these experiences there are some universal experiences and concerns of young people. They are still consumed by the same things we all are, their friends and family, the teen milestones we all know, and also equality. Fruits of Labor shows Ashley’s experience as a teen helping to support her family financially and facing the fear of ICE raids in her community while grappling with these other kinds of universal experiences, which is showing the audience that despite how different we might be we are at the core we all want the same things, to be with our friends and family, to have a home and feel safe, to be given the chance to reach for our dreams. For me, that is the most rewarding part, showing people these stories they might not otherwise hear and being able to relate them themselves. I believe at its core that is the way to build empathy.
The Knockturnal: The film presents the question what does it mean to come into one’s power as a working young woman of color in the wealthiest nation in the world?
Kristina Motwani: Fruits of Labor at its core is a coming of age story and we see Ashley come into her own as a young woman facing many obstacles and emerging from her cocoon of being overwhelmed with her situation into a place of power, being a high school graduate and having the resolve to continue her education to help secure a better future for herself and her family. On a more meta-level, the film itself is a product of Ashley coming into her own power. She was a co-writer of the film, instrumental in working with the Director of the film Emily Cohen Ibanez in writing the narration in the film that tells her own story.
The Knockturnal: What is the significance of including women of color in the storytelling process?
Kristina Motwani: Women of color’s voices have long been silenced, overlooked, and undervalued. I believe storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to use your voice. That is the significance for me of having women of color involving women of color in the storytelling process, bringing our collective experiences and voices to a story and having that resonate with people, building bridges and creating not only understanding but empathy, that is real power.