by Lauren Festa
A surge of peaceful political protests has swept through nationwide and globally, in response to what we feel is unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. Signs Of The Times, directed by ADC Member Ivan Cash and produced by M ss ng P eces, explores the art of protest and why people choose the messages they do. It’s part one of a potential series its creators hope will bring awareness to everyone, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they fall on. It also poses the question: ‘what if our signs said everything about us?’ Purposefully devoid of faces to quell inherent bias, the focus falls on the creativity behind these signs; big and small, image based and glue gunned. Because in the wake of injustice, our actions are speaking as loud as our words.
On Saturday, Feb 4th, Ivan and his crew went to the Muslim Ban protest in San Francisco and asked people to share the stories behind their signs. We asked Ivan to share with us a bit of his experience.
Tell us the idea behind the project and how it came about.
In these adversarial times, protest signs have become works of art. They have come to represent the single idea people want to share with the world. And they’re being held up by all types of people—children, men, women, transgendered folks. From Jews and Christians to Muslims and atheists—all connected by having an important message to voice to the world.
Michael Reiner and I wondered what it would look like to document a diverse collection of protest signs from all types of people and cultures, interviewing the ‘sign holders’ amidst the passion and chaos of the protest, to learn the story behind the sign. We specifically sought out signs that felt personal rather than coming from internet memes.
We thought an added twist of never seeing the person’s face (only their sign) could be powerful and allow viewers to focus on their single message they wanted to get across, without inherent bias or judgement based on appearance.
We’re hoping this San Francisco version is just episode 1 and that we’ll be able to make (either on our own or with partners) a larger series of films documenting the art of protest both nationally and worldwide. And while we certainly have strong options about the current state of affairs in America, we tried our best to walk a find link of simply capturing people’s stories, rather than serving an agenda. We’re currently looking for a pro-Trump rally to to a companion piece, which we hope to make in an equally compassionate way.
Tell us a little bit about the people who helped put this together.
This was a collaborative piece with writer Michael Reiner. We had help from Janice Echevarria on the day of filming. We worked with editor Blake Bogosian. And we had the encouragement from M ss ng P eces (who represents me as a director).
Protests are trending right now. I myself attended the Women’s March here in New York City and I can say that my favorite thing besides the feeling of solidarity was seeing the creativity behind everyone’s unique signs. Can you tell us about some of your favorites?
My favorite signs were those that had personal touches and felt homemade. There are a number of these in our film, including a pink airplane with colorful poof balls, a sign that had memorabilia from a woman’s German mother and a colorful hand-written sign from a child of two immigrant parents.
There’s nothing quite like a crowd to motivate one another and speak out against what we believe is wrong. How do you hope for this series to bring awareness?
I hope this series brings awareness to everyone, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they fall on. To reminds us that behind a big group of people rallying together are individuals with their own hopes, dreams, struggles and histories. ON BOTH SIDES. We hope this piece creates empathy for protesters, but I’d also hope to create a series of a pro-Trump rally that can do the same. I think we can be too quick to dismiss others with differing opinions, which leads to divisive and ultimately toxic mentalities antithetical to progress and peace.
I feel like the most difficult work comes after the protest is over. Answering “what comes next?” Do you think this series could help to keep us moving forward and continue these important conversations?
I think every action anyone takes helps move the conversation. As for “what comes next”? I have no clue. Uncertainty is a big part of life, even times that seem settled and calm are still uncertain. Let’s see…
Any stories ‘behind the signs’ that stood out for you? Maybe a story you heard from the February 4th protest that you can share an anecdote of?
One question we asked that didn’t make the cut was “what gives you hope?” and it was inspiring to hear people talk about how meaningful it’s been for them to find community through social action. There’s a sense of unity and belonging.
This weekend, the team heads out to a conservative rally. Get the details.