Every family leaves hidden legacies.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer/Animator Krissy Mahan
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
My Aunt Mame is an autobiographical film in which time is woven between past and present. The film’s playfulness in composition juxtaposes its seriousness in content, mirroring my experience of caring for my very ill mother while I was creating this film. My Aunt Mame is a personal and vulnerable story for me to tell.
This short is about generations of working-class women getting older, and how precarious having eldercare was and remains. Aunt Mame exists solely in flashbacks as a forgotten relative, ostracized from our family for being queer. Each visit marks a holiday and a different girlfriend to introduce to the family.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
My Aunt Mame tells a universal story. Almost every family has a relative that only exists in shadow and memory, for many different kinds of reasons. This is a funny/sad movie that makes audiences laugh, and also exposes the stark reality of elderly years with no one to help. The setting of this film - the last 50 years, have seen a rupture of familial systems of caretaking, and this intersectional tale touches on many aspects of that.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The intersectional themes raised in this animated short have been the defining features of my life; eldercare, aging, rising health costs with shrinking insurance coverage, the AIDS years, working-class women’s lives. None of these exist in isolation, and telling this story meant I had to figure out how to edit down the themes because so many issues interlock.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I've been telling this story about my aunt since I came out in the 1980s. I was afraid to make a movie about her because I wasn't sure I was skillful enough to tell the story without making Aunt Mame an object of ridicule. Finally, I was confident enough to make the film. Friends told that if I made the film like I told the story to friends, it would be fine. My family's stories are never told in a linear way, and I think that works in the movie.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I am so humbled and happy that the film has resonated so positively with a wide variety of audiences! In the theaters, people laugh at the right times and grow very silent at the end. Originally I sent the film out to festivals, but lately, festivals have contacted me to ask if they could show it. Many people are concerned these days about what eldercare they will have, so my aunt's, my mother's and my story turned out to be a topic that festivals are thinking about.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I think the challenge I've picked up from the audience responses is that people are hungry for stories about the realities of life, and also that they like to laugh. I thought a scene where the doctor says my mother can't have emergency surgery until it is approved by the business office was just showing my own aggravation, but so many viewers want to tell me their own outrageous stories of trying to get care for loved ones. It seems these little details that I thought were specific to my experience are what the audiences find in their own memories.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Many more filmmakers from marginalized communities! I believe in the revolutionary possibilities of film. My film is a simple story made on a kitchen table with iMovie and a phone. I believe there is a movement for justice in the world, but we all are made to feel isolated. Maybe film and collective viewing opportunities will help us find each other and strengthen our resolve for healing. I hope We Are Moving Stories can also be a way for us to learn about and support each other.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I would like this film to be shown in more festivals and community settings, like libraries, rec centers, and senior citizen centers. So journalists, distributors, festival directors and community organizers would all be welcome. I would love it to be in bigger festivals, so more people could see where this kind of story would be useful and help get it shown there.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I want more kinds of people telling about the realities of their lives, and for those films to be available to wider audiences. I hope this film's warm reception will encourage people to consider finding creative ways to tell their own stories and share them. I want all films to be made with universal design - open captions and subtitles, with good audio description available.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Who are the people in our own families who have been forgotten or nudged out? Are the reasons they've been left out the same reasons that wider groups of people have been marginalized in society? Let's look at our families and see what needs to soften in our hearts, and apply those lessons in our communities.
Would you like to add anything else?
Let's work harder to make films and film venues accessible to all audiences.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am helping produce an Afro-futurist film written by a Black blind woman, about a dystopian future (or present?) where blind people are forced to have their eyesight "corrected" against their will.
Interview: May 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
My Aunt Mame
Every family leaves hidden legacies.
Director: Krissy Mahan
Producer: Krissy Mahan
Writer: Krissy Mahan
About the writer, director and producer:
KRISSY MAHAN has been making movies using humor as a feminist tool for 25 years. Mahan’s movies center social issues such as accessibility, gender identity, mental health, immigration, and working-class post-industrial cities. Mahan teaches in public elementary schools and modifies homes for elderly, toddlers and disabled people. My Aunt Mame is an autobiographical film in which time is woven between past and present. Mahan wrote this screenplay after years of thinking about it. My Aunt Mame exists solely in flashbacks as a forgotten relative, ostracized from her family for being queer. Krissy Mahan self-produces no-budget animated movies that have been screened internationally. Mahan's production company, Dykeumentary, produces films that attempt to expose barriers to access and to record the joys of working-class lives.
Looking for: film festival directors, journalists, distributors
Hashtags used: #my_aunt_mame #queerancestors
Funders: Self-funded ($0 budget)
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Queer Bee Film Festival/London, June 6, 2019. Splice Film Festival/Brooklyn, NY, June 20 and 22, 2019.