Right after presenting the award for Best Social Impact Film at the 2017 Greenwich International Film Festival on Friday, June 2nd. Actress, activist, philanthropist and storyteller Sophia Bush had an exclusive sit down with The Knockturnal.
Sophia Bush passionately and genuinely spoke about the importance of storytelling, film, representation and topics that many may shy away from discussing. She so openly spoke and intricately intertwined the role that film and stories play not just in politics, but in our everyday lives.
Q: What made you want to be a part of the Greenwich International Film Festival?
Sophia Bush: I was just so excited when they called to ask if I wanted to head the Social Impact Jury and that a film festival had a social impact vertical, in all of the awards that it was giving out. I think it’s so important to shed a light on stories that are about real people, that are about real issues and it was very cool to see the films that we have nominated in our category be so many amazing documentaries, and then also some narrative films that chose to tackle really intense topics that almost were shot in a documentary style.
There was a film in our category called ‘Dayveon’. The actors were so amazing in, and it was shot in such a way that it took me 15 minutes to realize it wasn’t a documentary. I was like wait a minute, we’ve just moved into a scene, but we’re shooting coverage, so this is not a doc. I had to go back and I started over and I was like this movie is so real that I’m freaked out, and I loved that. I loved all of the conversations that were being spurred.
There’s a film in our category called ‘Big Sonia’, that’s all about this beautiful little old lady who is a Holocaust survivor, who lives in Kansas city, who heard about skinheads in Kansas that are Holocaust deniers and she said,
Absolutely not. I don’t want to relive what I went through, but I will not let the fact that it happened so long ago, allow in that chasm of time for people to come in and say it didn’t happen.
She now travels all over the State and speaks to kids. She goes to prisons and works with inmates to talk about overcoming adversity, to talk about vulnerability. She rolls her sleeves up and shows the numbers tattooed on her arm. She talks about the day she had to watch her mother walk into a gas chamber, and kids are crying, inmates are crying. Everyone is just like this woman, how did she do it… and you realize that by telling your story, you can literally change and save lives.
I think especially given the state of our world today and how insanely irrational it has become, telling stories that are rational and real and grounded and impactful and thoughtful is so important and it needs to be a major major focus for all of us.
You know we don’t need to talk about what anybody has in their f*cking purse anymore, let’s just be done with it. Let’s bring back some pride and intellectual sophistication.
Q: In regards to today’s political climate and the representation of women and people of color. How important do you think it is to have that representation in film? How important is that showcase especially for younger people, who grow up to be influenced by what they watch and who they see?
Sophia Bush: I think it’s incredibly important for anyone. You don’t know that you can be something, without having an example.
I have a friend and it’s funny to say she’s my friend but she is. She’s a 13 year old kid named Marley Dias who started 1000 Black Girl Books and Marley started a movement. She was 10 years old, maybe 9 when it started and I met her when she was 11. She said:
I am a young black woman and there are no women who look like me, who are the heroes of any of the stories that I read in school. Why?
So, she started this campaign to change that.
I think about how important it is for young women to have seen Hillary Clinton run for President and for young women to see Sheryl Sandberg be the COO of Facebook. To see women in these leadership roles, it’s so important. Regardless of what we are trying to tackle, getting to know each other is really the first step and I think we have a government that really doesn’t care about any of us. It really cares about the bottom line and knows that the biggest way to make money is through oil and war. So our government goes…
Cool, we are going to eradicate climate deals, and we are going to go sign 200 billion dollars worth of deals in Saudi and we’re going to make sure we have oil taken care of and then we’re going to commit illegal acts of war.
I mean Donald Trump had no sign off from congress to drop bombs on Syria, none, no approval. That’s against the law and he did it anyway. Every economist, every social theorist is saying this administration is prepping for war, because that’s how people make lots and lots of money.
For us, I think it’s incredibly important to separate ourselves from their psychoses and the prescription of fear that they’re writing to every American citizen everyday, and look at the data. Math, unlike human emotion is perfect and it never lies.
When you look at this infographic, it came about maybe 2 years ago, I’d be curious to see what the numbers are now, but over the years I’ve sent it to a lot of people. It’s this massive sea foam green bubble and it says for one vertical “there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world” huge green bubble right, and a tiny little red dot and it says “currently we are aware of 36,000 active members of the Taliban”.
I was like, interesting, wouldn’t this be a nice ratio to give to people. When you look at any kind of homegrown terrorism. When you look at Dylan Roof, when you look at Timothy McVeigh, when you look at the people who committed the assault most recently in London. People are homegrown and/or converted at home because of poverty, because of disparate circumstance, because of the disenfranchisement of women.
There are not societies that empower and educate women, that grow terrorist organizations, that just doesn’t happen. So, it’s up to us to say ‘cool administration, you can tell us whatever you want’ whether it be that we’re supposed to demonize our neighbors, who are lovely people, who don’t deserve to be demonized. They deserve to be celebrated, protected and we will protect them. You can tell us that climate change isn’t real but we trust math and science and we know that it is. So, as of this morning there were 37 cities whose mayors had said – we are signing on to the paris agreement whether Donald Trump does or not.
I really think that the point of all of it, is that it’s on us. It’s up to us. Because if we can’t trust the government to do it. If we can’t trust the government to remind us that everyone in this country is an equal. That this country was built on immigrants. My father is an immigrant. My mother’s mother is an immigrant. You want to get in a fight with me about immigrants, I will go toe-to-toe with you all day.
When you really start looking at the facts, you realize that it’s up to personal passion and it’s up to community responsibility. It’s up to a neighborly extending of a hand. That’s how we fix it.
And yes, it’s up to us to tell stories about people, to remind people that we’re the same. It’s why I don’t just do humanitarian work from home. I travel to the places that I work. I travel to Guatemala, I travel all over Africa. I travel to sit in front of people and hear their stories and let them know that I see them. And I can speak to who they are from personal experience. That’s how you negate any ludicrous, racist, bigoted argument.
We have to continue doing more and more of that work. We have to continue making films that open minds and also just opening our doors to our neighbors, that’s how we do this stuff.