Review of Passionate Politics: The Life and Times of Charlotte Bunch
By Mary Hawkesworth

An Interview with Sharon La Cruise
By Anne Keefe

Review of Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock
By Zoë Burkholder


Daisy Bates. Image courtesy of Gertrude Samuels Collection.

  issue 4.2 |  

Journal Issue 4.2


An Interview with Sharon La Cruise

Interview by Anne Keefe

Anne Keefe: Thanks so much for being here, and for sharing your insights with Films for the Feminist Classroom. What inspired you to make this film and tell Daisy Bates's story?

Sharon La Cruise: I went to a photography exhibit based on the book I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America [photos by Brian Lanker]. When I saw Daisy Bates's photo in the book with Little Rock Central High behind her, I wondered why I never heard of her. I had studied black history and the Civil Rights movement, but she had never been mentioned. And so I decided to write to her. And in my letter I expressed my disappointment that I had never heard of her. She wrote back and agreed to meet me.

AK: One of the things I love most about this film is how you've allowed the camera to include your film-making process in the frame--showing us the letter you wrote to Bates, and discussing your own learning process as you got to know more about her as a real person. Can you talk a little bit about your process for this film?

SLC: I didn't even know how to make a film, like I had studied journalism when I got my Masters, but my film was like 20 minutes or so, but beyond that I hadn't made a full-fledged film. I wasn't in the documentary world. At the time I was actually, when I wrote her, I had just finished working on the Olympics and I was working in advertising so I was totally not in the field, and I hadn't been to Arkansas. So I was kind of hemming and hawing, like oh, I'm gonna have to go and meet her. And eventually, I wasted two years, and she died. And then I felt so bad, and I was like oh my god I really should have met her when I had the chance to meet her, and then a few years went by. Then in 2004 I was like--I'm gonna do it. And I just, that's when I really take the plunge and I go to Arkansas. I gathered as many books and sources, you know, I called people and set up these pre-interviews, and I went there. And once I went there, I was committed. But I had no idea it would take seven years! You know, you go in, and then year after year, things happen, these roadblocks. And the process of making a film, it's tortuous because of funding. If you can have all your money up front, fully funded, then you're good, but most people it doesn't work that way. You get like $50,000 here and $100,000 there and the money goes like that and then you have look for more. Then you have to stop cause people who work for you have to go find jobs and it's this constant uphill climb to get to finish the film. And a film like mine, when you see it in the short version, it has almost 400 images and over 200 archival footage clips and so it's a very expensive film to make. It's over $600,000 to make this film. And so the fundraising is on-going because even when you think you have enough money, by the time you get to the end and you have to clear rights, it's never enough. You always come up short. Hence, you know, why I took so long.

AK: And so how did you stay committed, when you ran up against roadblocks like the funding running out?

SLC: It was a weird thing. It was like I felt like I owed her, like I had promised her this film. And the more involved I got with people in Arkansas, I started becoming friends with people who were her friends, and even my own friends--I had sucked them all in! They were all helping me and so then I felt like I couldn't just walk away; they had all put in so much time. And then in Arkansas, there was so much expectation for the film. There were times that I was just like "I don't know if this is ever gonna be finished!" but I just felt like I have to do it. I can't not finish this film because all these people have these expectations and I couldn't let them down. And I couldn't let her down cause she deserved that film.

AK: And did you find that they all were hopeful expectations? Because it seemed like people had mixed feelings and I was wondering--how did you negotiate that? How did you get people to trust and open up to you?

SLC: You know, people, they either loved her or hated her in some ways, a mix in between. She's a complicated woman. I think most of the people I contacted felt that she deserved the recognition. There are people among the Little Rock Nine who definitely have mixed feelings about her, and I was very honest with them, that I wanted an honest film about her. I wasn't doing a film about a saint. The funny thing is, when I started on the journey, I was doing a film about a saint because I didn't know any other way to do a film. All the other films I worked on a lot of them were very historical. In all the films I watched and grew up watching, the person is really elevated to this iconic level and basically untouchable. And so I went to Arkansas on that first trip in 2004 with these expectations that I was going to do this film on Saint Daisy. And I was talking to people and I went back to my hotel room the first few days with this huge massive headache, because the stories they were telling me, they're like, "And, I don't think she was ever married to her husband, and she never wrote that book." Some of the Little Rock Nine really have mixed feelings about her because they really feel like she was a publicity hog, and they were going to school getting beat up every day and she's in front of the camera. So I was like, oh God. I had bought in to this mystique about her. There wasn't that much written about her, but what was written was pretty much all the same stuff, and it came out of her own biography. She was her husband's mistress for like ten years. She broke up his marriage, took him away from his kid. I mean, it was crazy. And then I had this revelation: why would I want to do a film about a saint anyway? Because I don't know anything about Rosa Parks. I feel that's a disservice. I didn't know anything about her really, besides that Angela Bassett played her in a movie, that's the most insight I've gotten into who she is. She's been treated like this iconic figure in the civil rights movement, that most people don't really know anything personal about her beyond that moment on the bus when she was tired and she was a seamstress or something like that. So I was like, why would I want to do that film? Because we really should get beyond that. Because part of the problem we have now is that we have expectations of our leaders that they were so perfect and now we're devastated.


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