A Film by Victoria Jeon, Yuqing Wan, and Daniela Weinstein
Synopsis: A young Polish-American woman experiences studying flamenco guitar in Madrid to pursue a career as a musician as she deals with cultural and identity barriers.
I believe that there is an artist in everyone. When embarking on my journey as a novice filmmaker, I was hungry with curiosity and driven with a need to learn as much as I can about filmmaking. However, the glamour of filmmaking quickly wore off as I struggled to create my vision into reality.
I knew what I wanted in theory, but lacked the technical skills to produce it. Most of all, the greatest challenge with filmmaking was collaboration. I don’t think I’ve ever underwent a project where collaboration determined the success of the outcome. I trudged through, despite my failures. At first, it was purely out of superficial reasons. Yet, after facing massive creative differences with my team members, I realized that I had passion and a duty as a creator to produce a film to the best of my artistic abilities.
So by week 5, I was working towards more than a pretty letter. I, along with my team members, each shared a responsibility to use our artistic abilities to convey a message about flamenco female guitarists in Spain. We were documenting an important social movement in Spain for women in flamenco. Kati is one of the few female guitarists in the Spanish flamenco community who continues to rise above the male-dominated art of flamenco. We couldn’t have asked for a more charismatic subject for our film. I believe we have grown significantly as artists and creators.
Ever since I was little, I’ve been in love with films. All of the films I’ve watched taught me that a good story is more important than having a beautiful frame or a great special effect. I started my Madrid Stories class knowing nothing about making a documentary. At the time I had no idea how to tell a good story if I couldn’t write my own story.
For our project, we had Kati, an American female flamenco guitar player who lives in Madrid, as the subject of our film. For our first time shooting, we only filmed her playing the guitar and didn’t know what else to film. Fortunately she is natural and comfortable in front of the camera, and she is a really nice and charming character. We’re so lucky to have her as our character.
As we filmed more of her, I personally learned more about her, and with the professors’ help in how to develop a story in class every week, the storyline of the film became clearer and clearer. I’ve learned many things about filming and editing through the making process, and I tried my best to present the Kati I knew up there in the screen.
I appreciate all of the contributions from my teammates, the help from professors and friends, and in particular Kati’s kindness to be the subject of the film, giving us the chance to have this film presented here in Madrid.
When we first embarked on creating a film we had no idea where our vision would take us. Trusting the uncertain process was terrifying. There we were, three girls randomly teamed together in a new country, with limited knowledge of Spanish and a blank slate of filmmaking experience to boot.
The hardest and most foreign language of all seemed to be the language of documentary. Like riding a bicycle for the first time, it was a bumpy and rocky start. We stumbled, we struggled, and sometimes we even failed. There were moments when it seemed easier just to give up. Through it all, we persevered.
All of the challenges presented to us only made us grow stronger as artists and individuals. The comfort zone was officially shattered. Countless hours were spent shooting, editing, and interviewing. We poured our heart and soul into tweaking and refining, keeping our nose to the grindstone with nothing but our blood, sweat, and tears. We were Goldilocks in action — we wouldn’t stop until it was just right, and our knowledge continuously deepened with the help of our professors. With patience, humility, and a little bit of humor, the puzzle pieces slowly came together in assembling our footage until soon enough it started to fit.
It’s obvious that Kati is talented and getting to know her has been amazing. However, Kati’s story is incredibly inspiring for anyone. It takes guts to move to a new country and pursue your dreams as a musician knowing full well the risks involved and doing it anyway.
Through such fearlessness and fervent passion, the film illuminates the complexity of Kati’s identity as a foreigner, the gender inequality persisting in flamenco guitar albeit progress, and that there is a lot more to flamenco than what meets the eye. Most of all, we hope this film communicates Kati’s warm spirit.