Filmed in Los Angeles & Chicago in 2017, the first in the Belonging series, Belonging in the USA: The Story of Michael D. McCarty shares the journey of a man who, even in the face of the greatest obstacles, spreads joy wherever he goes. The twists and turns of Michael’s life inspire hope, laughter, and serve as a living example of resilience that challenges contemporary American stereotypes and can help build bridges between us in ways we never considered.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Arielle Nobile
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I made this film because I was heartbroken over the ever-widening divisions, prejudices, and lack of connection in U.S. society. I wanted to create something that would offer hope, inspiration, guidance, and light to the world; that would make people laugh, think, and feel inspired to action. I felt that the best way to do this was to share stories of resilient human beings who had faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles but had remained deeply connected to others, their sense of self, and, perhaps most importantly, their sense of humor. In the words of activist Jane Fonda, "Any healthy country, like any healthy individual, should be in perpetual revolution, perpetual change." By sharing this story of one revolutionary, I hope it can be both a wake up call and a call to action for all of us to do our part to make this world a more humane and hospitable place.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch because you might be feeling lost, disconnected, or simply curious about what you can do to make things better. You might be feeling hopeless or insignificant, and by watching this film, you will be moved to recognize that we all play a part in changing our world and uplifting each other, even if it’s only one person. Watch it because you are curious about the Black Panther Party. Watch it because you are seeking answers. Watch it because you recognize there is more to life than being stuck in ‘us’ and ‘them’. Watch it because you want to hear some really great, true stories told by a world renowned storyteller. Watch it because you want to be inspired and uplifted.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
At a time when our social, political, and economic climate focuses and thrives on what divides us, Belonging in the USA offers an opportunity for radical empathy. The Belonging series features individual and family stories that shed light on some of the most crucial human rights issues of our times: racism, immigration, refugees, mass incarceration, and access to quality education. By experiencing the biographical journey of one individual, the door is opened to see one another, and ourselves, as individuals worthy of respect, support, and belonging. The films showcase the experiences of individuals marginalized by our society – women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ+ – offering opportunities for all people to broaden their horizons, learn about another’s journey, and explore the way we, as people, are interconnected.
The first film in the Belonging series, The Story of Michael D. McCarty, illuminates how one man navigates the unknown future without guarantee of success or even survival. His is one unique reflection of an experience shared by all of humanity. Yet Michael’s experience as an African American man uniquely inspires audiences to break down barriers, topple stereotypes, closely examine our personal and collective histories, and consider our role in society at this moment. At a time in our country when systemic and interpersonal racism and hatred have been emboldened, Michael’s story shines a light on today’s civil rights efforts championed by other African Americans and the enduring momentum of the historic leaders from which they emerge, such as the Black Panther Party. Through Michael’s individual story as part of this historical continuity, we see how each of us plays a role to help define our collective future. With his infectious sense of humor and powerful insight, Michael challenges us to consider our human legacy: what are we leaving for future generations? Does this reflect who we truly are or who we truly want to be? What can we do about it – individually and as one society?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
From our first rough cut screening until now we have made some additions and tweaks to the film that helped to shed more light on what belonging means. What also started as a simple idea of spending a few days interviewing someone evolved to include interviews with others, more B-roll than we expected, stop-motion animation, and some Go-Pro and drone footage. All in all, the idea expanded and evolved constantly to where it is today.
Another key aspect of the evolution is our decision to center our distribution around community screenings where we facilitate open-hearted dialogue in rooms full of strangers to help them process, digest, and think about ways they can take what they learned from the film into their daily lives.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have had incredible feedback that ranges from “This film taught me I need to love myself more” to “This story was an example of love in action.” Because of our emphasis on community screenings, we’ve had amazing discussions with audiences where they really explore their own judgments, biases, and prejudices. Laughter has been a common denominator. Having watched the film so many times during production and afterwards, I sometimes forget the power of humor, and the best part of these screenings is how much laughter there is. I think it makes the heavier, more painful moments easier to digest, and I think it allows people to open their hearts more.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Only in the power of the impact we are having. One can hope but one never knows until there is an audience. I’m so grateful that audiences have been so positively impacted and engaged in the film itself and in the community discussions.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
A wider audience. Our doc series is called Belonging in the USA, but the title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek because the philosophy behind it is: if you exist on this planet, you belong here. Ultimately, we would like to create an expanded doc series called Belonging in the World. This website seems like a great place to begin to attract a more global audience. We’d also love to increase our social media following. It would also be great to connect with additional community leaders and organizers who want to host screenings around the US at this point, but again, hopefully globally eventually.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Journalists and film festival directors.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We hope that the workshops and curriculum created around The Story of Michael D. McCarty will inspire participants to question their own racial biases, prejudices, and assumptions. We hope that people will become more in touch with their own stories and their own purpose through watching his story. We would like people to be inspired to take small and large actions in their own lives and communities after they’ve seen this film.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
The best conversation catalysts around this film are “What does the term “Belonging in the USA” evoke for you?” and “What is freedom?”
Would you like to add anything else?
The Belonging project promotes inter-generational, cross-cultural dialogue and a greater sense of connection. We wish to inspire people of all ages to become powerful change agents. By listening to the stories of those who have and continue to make a difference in the world and their smaller communities, audiences gain new perspectives and insight into what they can do to better themselves and the world around them. Through self-reflection, radical empathy, and curiosity we offer an antidote to the constant barrage of negativity, divisiveness, and conflict that is fed to us on loop by mainstream media.
If you are an open-hearted, curious person; an educator, or community leader, these films are for you. If you want to foster dialogue, understanding, empathy, and social transformation, these films are for you.
Whether we live on the same block, same city, or in the same nation, we are all neighbors. We are interdependent and need to work together for the betterment of all and for our species to survive.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are in post-production on the second film in the Belonging trilogy, Belonging in the USA: The Story of Alicia and Antonio. Filmed in Chicago, LA, & New Jersey in 2018, the film tells the life stories of poet, political activist, and professor Alicia Partnoy and her filmmaker, activist husband, Antonio Leiva, both political refugees forced into exile after being imprisoned and tortured for their social justice work during Argentina's "Dirty War" of the 1970s. Their story is one of the triumph of the human spirit over circumstances, love over hate, and joy over oppression.
We are also in pre-production on the third film in the series, which features a Japanese-American family that was incarcerated at a Japanese Internment Camp during WWII.
Interview: March 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Belonging in the USA: The Story of Michael D. McCarty
Filmed in Los Angeles & Chicago in 2017, the first in the Belonging series, Belonging in the USA: The Story of Michael D. McCarty shares the journey of a man who, even in the face of the greatest obstacles, spreads joy wherever he goes. The award-winning film follows Michael as he evolves from aspiring scientist to Black Panther Party member, from FBI target to soldier, from drug addict to an ashram devotee. The twists and turns of Michael’s life inspire hope, laughter, and serve as a living example of resilience that challenges contemporary American stereotypes and can help build bridges between us in ways we never considered.
Director: Arielle Nobile
Producer: Arielle Nobile
Writer: Arielle Nobile
About the writer, director and producer:
ARIELLE NOBILE received a BFA from NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, and then studied directing and taught at Second City Theatre Chicago. She founded Legacy Connections Films in 2005 where she has directed/produced/filmed over 100 personal documentaries for clients. In 2012, she won a Hugo Television award for a local public television series she produced and directed. ARIELLE was included in The Independent Magazine's "10 to Watch in 2018" list.
Key cast: Michael D. McCarty, Valerie McCarty, Carla McCarty, Eric Cyrs, Barbara Clark
Looking for: journalists, film festival directors
Facebook: Belonging in the USA
Made in association with: Legacy Connections Films
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? FLASHPOINT CHICAGO/CHICAGO, IL--February 25, 2019 6pm; CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER/CHICAGO, IL--May 22, 2019 6:30pm; MYSTIC SOUL FILM FESTIVAL/CHICAGO/IL--June 7-June 9, 2019