METROFOCUS: March 19, 2021

Asian Americans across the nation are on edge as hate crimes against them surge. As of Sunday, NYPD report they’ve investigated almost a dozen hate crimes this year fueled by racism over the pandemic. Now New York Congresswoman Grace Meng is sounding an alarm to stop the scourge and protect her community. She joins us tonight to discuss her tearful testimony to House Republicans at a hearing on anti-Asian discrimination to end the use of divisive language and cautions that speech doesn’t have to be achieved “by putting a bull’s-eye on the back of Asian Americans across the county, on our grandparents, on our kids.”

COVID Diaries NYC chronicles the lives of five young filmmakers, ranging from ages 17 to 21, who turn their cameras on themselves to tell the stories of their families during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.  The short documentary shines a light on the plight of essential workers and their families during the early days of the crisis as they navigated the deadly virus and social upheaval. Tonight, three of the filmmakers and directors Aracelie Colón, Shane Fleming, and Arlet Guallpa discuss the deeply personal film and share their stories of life and death, challenges with mental health and the financial fears, that have become a part of growing up in New York City during a pandemic.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL P. ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METRSH ♪

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP LITTLE MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE PATTI ASKWITH KENNER.

> I WANT TO GO BACK TO SOMETHING MR. ROY SAID EARLIER.

YOUR PRESIDENT, YOUR PARTY AND YOUR COLLEAGUES CAN TALK ABOUT ISSUES, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO IT BY PUTTING A BULLSYSE SEYE O BACK OF ASIAN AMERICANS ACROSS THIS COUNTRY.

THIS HEARING WAS TO ADDRESS THE HURT AND PAIN OF OUR COMMUNITY AND TO FIND SOLUTIONS.

WE WILL NOT LET YOU TAKE OUR VOICE AWAY FROM US.

THANK YOU.

I YIELD BACK.

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THE CLIP YOU JUST SAW WAS NEW YORK CITY CONGRESSMAN GRACE MANK GIVING EMOTIONAL TESTIMONY IN THE HEARING ON ANTI-ASIAN DISCRIMINATION, THE FIRST IN THREE DECADES.

THE HEARING CAME IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE TRAGIC SHOOTINGS AT THREE ASIAN SPAS IN THE ATLANTA AREA, WHICH LEFT EIGHT DEAD, SIX OF WHOM WERE ASIAN WOMEN AND STOKED FEAR IN THE HEARTS OF ASIAN AMERICANS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

NOW AS HATE CRIMES AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS CONTINUE TO BE REPORTED IN RECORD NUMBERS, NEW MEASURES ARE BEING PROPOSED BY CONGRESS TO COMBAT DISCRIMINATION AND BIGOTRY AND HOPEFULLY PREVENT FUTURE TRAGEDIES LIKE THE ONE THAT OCCURRED IN THE ATLANTA AREA FROM OCCURRING AGAIN.

AS PART OF OUR EXPLORING HATE INITIATIVE, I'M JOINED TONIGHT BY CONGRESSWOMAN GRACE MENG TO DISCUSS HER EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH RACISM AND WHAT SHE HOPES CONGRESS CAN DO ABOUT IT.

CONGRESSWOMAN, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

FIRST, I JUST WANT TO START WITH THAT INCREDIBLY EMOTIONAL CLIP THAT'S BEEN MAKING THE ROUNDS ON NEWS PACKAGES AND SOCIAL MEDIA, ET CETERA.

WHAT WAS IT THAT JUST, AGAIN, TO MAKE SURE EVERYBODY HAS THE FULL CONTEXT, WHAT WAS IT SPECIFICALLY THAT YOU WERE REACTING TO THAT GOT YOU SO EMOTIONALLY WORKED UP?

SO WHAT YOU HAVE PROBABLY SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT SOMETHING THAT I INTENDED TO SAY.

THIS CONGRESS MEMBER, A REPUBLICAN FROM TEXAS, MR. CHIP ROY, STARTED OUT HIS SPEECH AND HIS OPENING STATEMENT BY TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE SPEECH.

HE STARTED TALKING ABOUT THE USE OF LYNCHING IN AMERICAN HISTORY AND MAYBE WE SHOULD BRING THAT BACK TO THIS COUNTRY.

THIS JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, A HEARING WAS MEANT TO TALK ABOUT THE HURT THAT THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY HAS BEEN FACING AND EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY TO TALK ABOUT REAL SOLUTIONS, EVEN ON OUR PANEL OF WITNESSES WE HAVE BOTH REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS TESTIFYING.

HE TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT OF THE MEETING.

SO I GOT REALLY UPSET BECAUSE IT'S NOT OFTEN WHERE WE CAN HAVE A HEARING IN CONGRESS ABOUT ISSUES THAT ARE AFFECTING ASIAN AMERICANS.

I JUST DID NOT WANT TO YIELD ONE SECOND TO HIM AND HIS IRRESPONSIBLE RHETORIC WHEN WE HAD SO MANY MORE IMPORTANT THINGS TO DISCUSS.

SO THAT'S ACTUALLY, I THINK, ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT POINTS ABOUT THIS, IS THAT ON ONE SIDE HERE WE ARE HAVING, FIRST OF ALL, THIS FIRST IN 30 YEARS CONVERSATION IN CONGRESS ABOUT ANTI-ASIAN DISCRIMINATION.

ON ONE SIDE YOU HAVE SOME PEOPLE SAYING, WELL, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE DON'T INFRINGE ON PEOPLE'S FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THAT SPEECH SHOULD NOT BE POLICED, IS SOMETHING THAT YOU HEAR A LOT OF RIGHT NOW.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME WE'RE HEARING FROM A LOT OF ACTIVISTS, SPECIFICALLY IN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY THAT ACTUALLY DANGEROUS LANGUAGE AND RHETORIC IS PART OF WHAT LED TO THE RAMPING UP OF THESE ACTS OF DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AND IN SOME CASES ACTUAL HATE CRIMES.

I'M JUST WONDERING WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THOSE TWO SIDES SEEMING TO BE SET UP AGAINST EACH OTHER RIGHT NOW?

SO THIS IS A FALSE DICHOTOMY.

WE ALL BELIEVE AND TREASURE FREE SPEECH IN THIS COUNTRY.

WE ALSO KNOW, AS ONE OF THE WITNESSES, JOHN YANG FROM AAJC DESCRIBED, WE KNOW WE CAN'T GO INTO A CROWDED MOVIE THEATER AND YELL 'FIRE.'

HE APTLY DESCRIBED ASIAN AMERICANS AS BEING THE ONES IN THAT CROWDED MOVIE THEATER RIGHT NOW.

LET'S BE CLEAR, WE ALL BELIEVE IN FREE SPEECH, BUT WHEN SPEECH IS LEADING TO PEOPLE GETTING SPAT ON AND HURT AND KILLED EVEN, THAT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT TOOK 30 YEARS FOR CONGRESS TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE AGAIN?

BECAUSE I'M SURE THAT EVEN THOUGH WE'VE SEEN AN INCREASE IN CRIMES HAPPENING IN ANTI-ASIAN DISCRIMINATION, PERHAPS SOME PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN PART OF THE COMMUNITY AND NOT PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION MIGHT HAVE BEEN SAYING, BUT EVERYTHING WAS FINE.

SO WHY DO YOU THINK IT TOOK 30 YEARS FOR THIS TO GET ADDRESSED AGAIN?

WELL, THERE HAS ACTUALLY BEEN A HISTORY OF ASIAN-AMERICANS BEING TARGETED AND BEING EXCLUDED LITERALLY OUT OF IGNORANT FEAR IN THIS COUNTRY.

WE'VE SEEN THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT, CONGRESS LITERALLY PASSING LAWS PREVENTING CHINESE AMERICANS FROM BECOMING CITIZENS.

WE SAW JAPANESE AMERICAN CITIZENS GETTING LOCKED UP IN INCARCERATION CAMPS, THE MUSLIM BAN, THE MURDER OF VINCENT CHEN.

THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF PARTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY THAT DON'T SUFFICIENTLY COVER WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

THAT'S ALSO TRUE OF THE BLACK, LATINO AND NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

SO WHEN OUR HISTORY BOOKS DON'T EVEN INCLUDE OUR HISTORY AND BASICALLY RENDER US INVISIBLE, IF WE AS A PEOPLE ARE INVISIBLE, THEN THE HURT AND INEQUITY THAT WE FACE WILL ALSO BE INVISIBLE.

I DON'T WANT TO, YOU KNOW, BELABOR THIS POINT TOO MUCH, BUT I DO JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU'RE CRYSTAL CLEAR HERE.

AGAIN, ONE OF THE CRITICISMS YOU MIGHT HEAR FROM PEOPLE IS, ALL THOSE THINGS YOU JUST MENTIONED, THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT OR THE WORLD WAR II INTERNMENT OF JAPANESE AMERICANS, ALL OF THOSE WERE THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE PAST, AND AREN'T YOU THE ONE WHO'S LIVING IN THE PAST.

SO I JUST WANT YOU TO BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT WHY ADDRESSING THESE PAST ISSUES IS CRITICAL TO OUR PRESENT AND OF COURSE OUR FUTURE.

WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING OUR HISTORY.

AND AS WE ARE GOING THROUGH THIS TIME RIGHT NOW, WE ARE SEEING SKYROCKETING NUMBERS OF INCIDENTS THAT ASIAN AMERICANS ARE FACING, VIOLENT ASSAULTS, VIOLENT ATTACKS EVEN TO THE POINT, AS WE SAW IN ATLANTA TRAGICALLY OF MURDER.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT WE HAVE THE STATISTICS.

AND WHAT WAS PART OF THE REASON FOR THE HEARING WAS THAT WE WOULD GATHER TODAY AND IN WEEKS AFTER THIS TO DISCUSS POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS, LEGISLATIVE SOLUTIONS THAT CONGRESS COULD WORK ON HAND IN HAND WITH THE COMMUNITY TO MAKE SURE THAT THESE INCIDENTS AREN'T HAPPENING ANYMORE.

SPEAKING OF SOLUTIONS, I UNDERSTAND THAT THE HOUSE DID PASS YOUR NON-BINDING RESOLUTION CONDEMNING ANTI-ASIAN HATE AND DISCRIMINATION, BUT OF COURSE THAT BILL WASN'T SIGNED INTO LAW AS IT WAS A RESOLUTION.

BUT THERE ARE TWO PIECES OF LEGISLATION THAT HAVE BEEN PROPOSED.

I BELIEVE ONE IS THE NO HATE ACT AND THE OTHER IS THE COVID-19 HATE CRIMES ACT.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT EACH OF THESE PIECES OF LEGISLATION COULD POSSIBLY DO IF THEY ARE PASSED AND ENACTED INTO LAW?

SURE.

WE PASSED A SYMBOLIC RESOLUTION LAST YEAR IN CONGRESS REALLY JUST WANTING CONGRESS TO TAKE A UNITED AND PUBLIC STANCE CONDEMNING BIGOTRY TOWARDS ASIAN AMERICANS.

WHILE THAT'S SYMBOLIC AND IMPORTANT AS THE NUMBER OF INCIDENTS CONTINUE TO RISE ACROSS THE COUNTRY, WE NEED LEGISLATION WITH MORE TEETH.

SO WE'RE SUPPORTING THESE TWO BILLS.

ONE, AS YOU MENTIONED IS THE NO HATE ACT.

THIS WOULD BASICALLY PROVIDE MORE FUNDING FOR A LOT OF THE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE WORKING ON THE GROUND, HELPING PEOPLE FROM THOSE KEEPING TRACK TO THOSE PROVIEDING RESOURCES I DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

MY BILL WITH SENATOR HIRONO, THE COVID-19 ACT WOULD MAKE IT EASIER TO WORK WITH SKMCOMMUNIT TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO REPORT THESE HATE CRIMES AND INCIDENTS.

A LOT OF TIMES WE TELL PEOPLE TO REPORT IT, BUT IT'S NOT ALWAYS SO EASY.

WE'RE ALSO ASKING IN THAT BILL TO HAVE DEDICATED PERSONNEL OR RESOURCES AT THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE TO EVEN FOCUS ON HATE CRIMES IN GENERAL, NOT JUST TOWARDS ASIAN AMERICANS, BUT FOR ANYONE.

I ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE HAS BEEN AN IDEA PUT FORWARD TO HAVE A NATIONAL DAY TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST ASIAN HATE.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE GENESIS OF THAT IDEA AND REALLY WHAT WOULD BE THE PURPOSE OF THIS NATIONAL DAY?

SURE.

THIS IDEA IS SOMEWHAT ORGANIC.

IT LITERALLY WAS SOMEONE WHO CONTACTED ME VIA SOCIAL MEDIA.

HE HAD THIS GREAT IDEA.

HE WANTED EVERYONE TO SORT OF PICK ONE DAY TO BE ABLE TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT WAS HAPPENING AROUND THE COUNTRY.

AND THE DATE THAT HE SUGGESTED WAS MARCH 26th.

MARCH 26th IN 1790 WAS ACTUALLY THE DATE OF THE FIRST IMMIGRATION LAWS.

AND THAT LAW BASICALLY SAID THAT ALL WHITE PERSONS COULD BECOME NATURALIZED CITIZENS, BUT NOT BLACKS, NOT ASIANS, NOT NATIVE AMERICANS, ET CETERA.

THAT IS, I THINK, A UNIQUE PIECE OF HISTORY THAT I THINK A LOT OF AMERICANS PROBABLY AREN'T AWARE OF.

I DO WANT TO MAKE SURE WE INCLUDE YOUR PERSONAL NARRATIVE.

AGAIN, IN THAT INITIAL CLIP WE SAW AT THE TOP OF THE INTERVIEW YOU WERE VERY EMOTIONAL AND YOU SHARED SOME OF THE STORIES OF SOME OF THE ANTI-ASIAN RHETORIC AND HATE THAT'S BEEN DIRECTED TOWARD YOU.

WE HAVE ABOUT A MINUTE AND A HALF LEFT.

I'M WONDERING WHAT YOU'D FEEL COMFORTABLE SHARING WITH THE AUDIENCE.

SURE.

I GOT NASTY VOICEMAILS SOON AFTER WE APPROACH THE RESOLUTION.

I'M IN POLITICS.

I'VE DEVELOPED PRETTY THICK SKIN AND I DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.

WHAT I REALLY THINK ABOUT ARE OUR GRANDPARENTS, OUR ELDERLY WHO ARE LITERALLY FEARFUL FOR THEIR LIVES TO LEAVE HOME OR THE KID BEING TOLD THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUTSIDE BECAUSE THEY MIGHT BE BULLIED SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE WAY THEY LOOK.

SO I THINK ABOUT THESE STORIES AND SO MANY OF THE STORIES THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN UNDERREPORTED OOR NOT REPORTED AT ALL AND JUST THE FEAR THAT HAS BEEN EXISTING IN THE COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY IN THIS PAST YEAR, HAS BEEN REALLY HEARTBREAKING.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO YOUR NEW YORK CITY CONSTITUENTS WHO ARE FEELING THAT FEAR AND ANGER RIGHT NOW?

WELL, OBVIOUSLY I WANT MY CONSTITUENTS TO BE SAFE, TO BE EXTRA CAREFUL, TAKE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES, BUT ALSO REMAIN HOPEFUL IN THE FACT THAT WE HAVE NOW SEEN DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES BANDING TOGETHER EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY.

I AM REALLY HOPEFUL THAT UPRIGHUPRIGHT BRIGHTER DAYS ARE AHEAD AND THROUGH THESE TRAGEDIES AND INCIDENTS, STRONGER, MORE IMPACT F IMPACTFUL RELATIONSHIPS WILL BE FORMED.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE ABOUT OF COURSE ABOUT THIS CONTENTIOUS HEARING AND THINGS WE CAN EXPECT TO SEE COMING FORWARD AS WE ADDRESS THE SCOURGE OF ANTI-ASIAN DISCRIMINATION.

THANK YOU.

MILESTONE SUCH AS GRADUATIONS TO BE ENFORCED TO SOCIALLY ISOLATE, A TIME WHEN THEY SHOULD BE SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS, IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY TO GROW UP IN THE TIME OF COVID.

A GROUP OF YOUNG FILMMAKERS RANGING IN AGE FROM 17-21 HAS DECIDED TO SHOW US WHAT THEIR COVID-19 EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN LIKE THROUGH A COLLECTION OF EXTREMELY PERSONAL SHORT FILMS.

COVID DIARIES NYC IS A NEW DOCUMENTARY AVAILABLE ON HBO AND HBO MAX THAT SHOWCASES FIVE SHORT FILMS PORTRAYING THE FEAR, THE SADNESS, THE BOREDOM THAT HAS COME WITH GROWING UP IN NEW YORK CITY DURING THE PANDEMIC.

HERE'S A QUICK PREVIEW OF THE DOCUMENTARY.

MY DAD WORKED AT THE BLUE RIBBON.

HE STARTED AS BUSBOY AND WORKED HIS WAY UP TO MANAGER.

I'VE LIVED MY WHOLE LIFE HERE.

I'M A LITTLE SHOCK ED.

I DON'T WANT TO TALK LIKE IT'S OVER.

WHO KNEW AN ENTIRE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY WOULD SHUT DOWN?

EVENTUALLY IF YOU'RE NOT WORKING, IT WILL BECOME A SITUATION THAT WE COULD NEVER DIG OURSELVES OUT OF.

AND JOINING US NOW TO DISCUSS THEIR FILMS AND HOW THEY GOT THROUGH THE PANDEMIC ARE FILMMAKERS AND DIRECTORS OF COVID DIARIES NYC.

ARCELIE COLON, SHANE FLEMING AND ARLET GUALLPA.

SO WELCOME TO ALL OF YOU AND THANK YOU FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

I WILL TELL YOU I WATCHED YOUR FILMS.

THEY'RE ALL VERY POWERFUL AND VERY EMOTIONAL AND ALL VERY PERSONAL.

I WANT TO ASK THIS OF ALL OF YOU, SO YOU CAN ALL JUMP IN.

ARLET, YOU FIRST.

THESE ARE VERY POWERFUL AND REVEALING FILMS THAT YOU DO HERE FOR BOTH YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILIES AND YOUR FRIENDS AND YOUR GUARDIANS.

WHY DID YOU WANT TO SHARE SUCH VERY DEEPLY PERSONAL STORIES WITH THE PUBLIC.

ARLET, YOU FIRST.

THAT'S A DIFFICULT QUESTION.

I THINK AT FIRST IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT FOR ME JUST BECAUSE IT IS MY FAMILY AND THIS IS MY STORY AND IT CAN BE I FELT LIKE AT TIMES A LITTLE EXPOSED.

I HAD THAT THOUGHT IN MY HEAD, BUT I FELT LIKE IT WAS NECESSARY TO TELL MY STORY BECAUSE THESE STORIES AREN'T TOLD ALL THE TIME.

AND I THINK TO SHOW MY PERSPECTIVE, A LATINO PERSPECTIVE IT'S VERY RARE AND I THOUGHT IT'S IMPORTANT TO SHOW THAT.

ARACELIE, HOW ABOUT YOU?

YOUR FILM STARTS WITH YOU AND YOUR FATHER SORT OF JOKING ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING.

HE'S WORKING AT THE POST OFFICE.

AS WE MOVE THROUGH THIS PANDEMIC, THERE'S VERY POWERFUL SCENES OF YOU BEING VERY EMOTIONAL AND CRYING.

YOU HAVE A LINE AT ONE POINT THAT STRUCK ME WHERE YOU SAID, I WON THE LOTTERY OF BAD LUCK.

SO WE'RE SEEING THIS WHOLE RANGE OF EMOTIONS FROM YOU.

WHY DID YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE SHARING ALL OF THOSE WITH THE PUBLIC?

WELL, I WOULD DEFINITELY SAY THAT I DEBATED ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT I SHOULD CONTINUE TO SHARE MY STORY WHEN WE WERE FIRST STARTING THIS PROJECT, BECAUSE I KNEW WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH, I KNEW WHAT CONSISTED OF THE SHOWS THAT I HAD.

AT FIRST BECAUSE WE THOUGHT THE PROJECT WAS JUST GOING TO STAY IN HOUSE, I FELT A LITTLE MORE INCLINED TO SHARE CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT JUST BCTV AND THE FILMMAKERS AND EVERYONE FEEL LIKE FAMILY.

SO THAT WAS ONE.

AND THEN I WAS HESITANT AT FIRST, OF COURSE, BUT I ALSO KNOW THAT A PERSONAL STORY IS A UNIVERSAL STORY AND THAT BY SHARING MY STORY IT COULD RESONATE WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

SHANE, HOW ABOUT YOU?

YOU START OFF WITH YOUR FILM SHOWING YOUR DAD HAVING LOST HIS JOB AS A MANAGER OF A RESTAURANT, YOUR MOM AND HER TEACHING AND WHERE THAT WAS GOING.

SO THIS WAS PERSONAL NOT JUST FOR YOU BUT ALSO THEIR LOSSES.

WHY WERE YOU COMFORTABLE SHARING THOSE PERSONAL STORIES?

WELL, I MEAN, I THINK AT FIRST FOR A LOT OF US WE WEREN'T COMFORTABLE.

IT DEFINITELY TOOK SOME WARMING UP TO GET USED TO IT.

ESPECIALLY AT THE BEGINNING FILMING WHEN MY PARENTS WERE IN DISTRESS, IT WASN'T EASY TO DO.

YOU HAVE TO SORT OF EMOTIONALLY DETACH FROM THE MOMENT HAPPENING SO YOU CAN BECOME A FILMMAKER AND NOT PART OF THE FAMILY, LOOK AT IT FROM A THIRD PERSON PERSPECTIVE ALMOST.

IT WAS DIFFICULT TO GET TO CAPTURE THESE MOMENTS ON FILM, BUT I THINK IN MY HEAD I JUSTIFIED THAT THIS IS WORTH WHAT PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO SEE THIS AND RELATE TO THIS IS GOING TO BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THIS STRESS AND ANXIETY I'M HAVING ABOUT SHARING IT.

I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE WORTH IT IN THE END FOR PEOPLE TO SEE IT VERSUS HAVING THIS TEMPORARY ANXIETY.

YOU'RE FILMMAKERS AND USED TO PUTTING YOUR CAMERA, YOUR LENS ON OTHER THINGS AND OTHER PEOPLE.

NOW YOU TURNED YOUR LENS AROUND AND NOW IT'S ON NOT JUST YOU, BUT AGAIN THOSE CLOSE TO YOU.

ARLET, YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT FAMILY AND CLOSE MEMBERS HAVING TO WORK DURING THE COURSE OF THIS.

THEY WERE PROVIDING ESSENTIAL SERVICES.

YOU TALK ABOUT THEM WALKING OUT THE DOOR AND YOU WONDERING ABOUT THEM COMING BACK.

SO HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT?

YOU SAID WHY YOU WANTED TO TELL THE STORY, BUT TO TURN THE LENS ON YOURSELF AND THOSE CLOSE TO YOU.

THAT WAS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO FOLLOW MY PARENTS AROUND.

I SAW THE DANGERS.

I SAW MY DAD DRIVING A BUS.

I SAW SOME PEOPLE NOT WEARING MASKS AND THAT WAS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT.

I THOUGHT THAT WAS VERY SELFISH BECAUSE HE'S DOING HIS JOB AND PEOPLE ARE JUST IGNORING HIS LIFE AND HIS JOB.

HE HAS UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS AND THAT WAS REALLY DIFFICULT.

ALSO MY MOM, FOLLOWING HER TO WORK, SHE HAS TO TAKE THREE BUSES TO GO TO WORK.

THERE'S SO MANY PEOPLE ON THE BUS WITHOUT MASKS ON AND GOING TO THESE HOMES AND NOT ALWAYS BEEN SANITARY IN THESE HOMES, IT WAS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT.

BUT I THOUGHT AGAIN IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT FOR ME TO SHOW THAT BECAUSE THESE STORIES ARE NOT SHOWN ALL THE TIME.

ARACELIE, WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART?

I TALK ABOUT THE RANGE OF EMOTIONS THE EMOTIONAL DISTRESS THAT YOU WERE GOING THROUGH.

LOOKING AT THE FINISHED PRODUCT, WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF IT FOR YOU TO LOOK AT NOW OF YOUR OWN FILM?

EVEN NOW THE MOST DIFFICULT PART IS THAT ENDING SCENE WHERE I'M JUST KIND OF CRYING AND JUST HAVING THIS BREAKDOWN AND THIS MOMENT TO MYSELF BECAUSE ALTHOUGH I'M PAST IT AND I'M DOING MUCH BETTER MENTALLY, IT'S STILL DIFFICULT TO HAVE LET'S SAY MY PARENTS SEE THAT MOMENT.

I MEAN, ULTIMATELY I DID OPEN UP TO THEM ABOUT WHAT WAS GOING ON AND, YOU KNOW, THINGS THAT THEY COULD DO TO HELP ME, BUT IT'S STILL DIFFICULT TO SEE THAT, BECAUSE KNOWING THE MIND SET IN WHERE I WAS, KNOWING THAT I DIDN'T REALLY VALUE MY LIFE AND HONESTLY I WASN'T ALL THAT GREAT, I GUESS IS A WAY TO PUT IT.

EVEN THEN IT'S STILL REALLY DIFFICULT TO SEE THAT.

SHANE, IN YOUR STORY YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, AS WITH SO MANY FAMILIES IN NEW YORK AT THE TIME, ENDED UP GETTING OUT OF THE CITY.

SO YOUR JOURNEY WAS A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT IN TERMS OF YOUR STORY TELLING.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE IDEA OF WHAT YOU CONFRONTED WITH THE PANDEMIC IN THE CITY AND HOW IT WAS DIFFERENT, IF AT ALL, DEALING WITH THE PANDEMIC AS YOU TRAVELED THE COUNTRY.

IT WAS VERY EYE OPENING.

WHEN WE LEFT, IT WAS VERY DIFFERENT THAN A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO DID LEAVE THE CITY, BECAUSE MOST PEOPLE HAVE SECOND HOMES SOMEWHERE IN NEW ENGLAND.

ALL OUR FAMILY COMES FROM THE MIDWEST, SO WE TRAVELED BACK TO STAY WITH FAMILY.

WE DIDN'T LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.

WE WERE IN THE CITY FOR THREE SOLID MONTHS PLUS UNTIL WE DECIDED TO MAKE THAT JOURNEY ONLY BECAUSE IN NEW YORK THE CASES WERE REALLY AT THE TIME THROUGH THE ROOF, SO WE WANTED TO GET OUT JUST FOR SAFETY REASONS.

WE THOUGHT THAT GOING TO THE MIDWEST AT THE TIME WAS A MUCH SAFER CONDITION THAN IT WAS IN NEW YORK.

SO WE MADE THAT JOURNEY.

IN NEW YORK WE REALLY WENT DOWN WITH THE MASKS AND WE REALLY ALL STARTED COOPERATING PRETTY EARLY WITH THE MASKS.

AS WE WERE DRIVING ACROSS THE COUNTRY, A 15-HOUR DRIVE, WE REALIZED NOT EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING THAT.

AS SOON AS WE GOT TO THE MIDWEST, CASES IN NEW YORK STARTED TO GO DOWN AND CASES EVERYWHERE ELSE STARTED TO GO UP.

WE REALLY PICKED THE WORST TIME.

THAT WAS PART OF THE ANXIETY.

WE THINK WE'RE HERE, WE'RE DOING SO MUCH BETTER, THIS WILL BE BETTER FOR US, BUT IN THE END IT REALLY WASN'T.

I ASK THIS OFTEN OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS.

THAT IS THIS.

AS A FILMMAKER, YOU'RE TAKING US AS YOUR AUDIENCE ON A JOURNEY, ESSENTIALLY A JOURNEY WITH YOU IN THESE FILMS, A VERY PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH YOU.

BUT OFTENTIMES FILMMAKERS WILL SAY IT WAS A JOURNEY FOR THEM TOO AND THAT AS THEY TRAVELED ON THAT JOURNEY OF PUTTING THIS FILM TOGETHER, THEY PERHAPS LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT THEMSELVES, ABOUT THEIR SUBJECT MATTER THAT THEY DIDN'T ANTICIPATE OR THEY DIDN'T KNOW OR SURPRISED THEM IN SOME FASHION.

LET ME ASK EACH OF YOU THAT QUESTION IF I CAN.

ARLET, YOU FIRST.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ON YOUR JOURNEY TO PUT THIS FILM TOGETHER?

THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT I LEARNED.

I THINK THE MOST IS JUST BEING PATIENT WITH MYSELF.

I OFTEN OVERTHINK ABOUT TINY DETAILS AND JUST TO KIND OF CAPTURE EVERYTHING.

BUT I THINK TRYING NOT TO OVERTHINK AND HAVE CONFIDENCE IN MYSELF THAT I CAN ACCOMPLISH THE FILM AND I COULDN'T HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT MY SUPPORT SYSTEM AS I CALL THEM ALL THE TIME JUST FOR REASSURANCE, AM I DOING THIS RIGHT.

THEY'VE HELPED ME SO MUCH THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE PROCESS AND I THANK THEM A LOT.

I THINK, YES, JUST NOT SWEATING THE LITTLE THINGS, JUST KEEP ON GOING.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN, ARACELIE?

I LEARNED TO ASK FOR HELP AND I HAVE TO BE REMINDED THAT I DO HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM AND ALTHOUGH MENTAL HEALTH AND JUST IN GENERAL BEING VULNERABLE IS DIFFICULT TO DO AT TIMES, I KNOW THAT IN THE LONG RUN IT'S WORTH IT, SO YEAH.

SHANE, I'LL GIVE YOU THE LAST WORD.

I'VE GOT ABOUT A MINUTE OR SO HERE.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ON THIS JOURNEY?

I LEARNED HOW TO TAKE MYSELF MORE SERIOUSLY AS A FILMMAKER.

I'VE NEVER MADE A FILM THIS HEAVY BEFORE, A DOCUMENTARY DEALING WITH REAL SERIOUS ISSUES, PEOPLE CRYING.

I'VE MADE A LOT OF FILMS IN MY LIFE, BUT MOST OF THEM ARE RELATIVELY GOOFY.

THIS IS QUITE THE OPPOSITE.

I THINK I LEARNED I CAN HANDLE A TOPIC LIKE THAT.

AS AN ARTIST I THINK I GREW A LOT.

WE'VE ALL LEARNED SO MUCH ABOUT JUST HUMAN NATURE IN THIS PAST YEAR.

WHEN WE WERE IN THE MIDWEST, YOU SEE EVERYONE NOT DOING THE PROTOCOLS THAT WE WERE ABLE TO GET DOWN, PEOPLE WEREN'T WEARING MASKS, PEOPLE WEREN'T TAKING IT SERIOUSLY AND IT SORT OF BIT THEM IN THE ASS IN THE END.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WENT THROUGH THAT ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

IT IS DISHEARTENING SORT OF AROUND TO SEE THAT AROUND THE COUNTRY SPECIFICALLY, BUT I THINK WE DID LEARN A LOT AS ARTISTS AND JUST ABOUT THE WORLD.

AS I SAID IN THE BEGINNING, THEY'RE MARVELOUS FILMS THE THREE OF YOU DID.

IT'S CALLED 'COVID DIARIES NYC' AVAILABLE ON HBO AND HBO MAX.

I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORIES.

WONDERFUL WORK AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AS FILMMAKERS IN THE FUTURE.

THANKS SO MUCH.

YOU ALL BE WELL.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND.

BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTIEN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, AND THE DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION, THE JPB FOUNDATION.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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