On injustice, awareness and social change. An interview with Yehuda Sharim

Yehuda Sharim is a filmmaker and a poet. His films, which appeared in various film festivals and universities across the world, provide an intimate study of immigration and displacement, shedding light on the changing constructions of home and belonging. His most recent film, Songs that Never End , is concerned with the experiences of refugee youth; and he is currently at his work on his next film project, Letters2Maybe; and his book manuscript, We Are In It: An Anthology of Border Crossing, presents personal histories and accounts by refugees and those who seek refuge without documentation. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, both projects reveal the fear, trauma, and resilience of immigrants and refugees. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Global Art Studies Program, University of California, Merced. He holds a Ph.D in Culture and Performance from UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures program.

Red Line Lullaby is a strong emotionally and existential video poem. What is that that makes it so honest and dynamic?
We have been deeply intrenched as a society in that red river and the deep suffering and agony as we witness such years of sorrow. When beginning working with the exquisite poet who wrote the text of Red Line Lullaby, Lorena Alvarado, I was immediately struck by the deep ways that her poetry unfolds our truths in America.
Her writing goes to the heart of our histories of injustice, bigotry, viciousness, stinginess. It is her text and reading that makes one feel bare, able to face the poisonous arrows that hit our hearts, and then taking them out, one by one.

Fear and Sadness exist in our lives as also happiness. Do you think that there is a social change which can disappear the misery, the injustice, the inequality that face today?

First, we need to be aware and distinguish between misery and man-made injustice. The poem and the film do talk about the world that we create and the suffering that we inflict upon one another. And history reminds us that man-man structures of violence does not simply disappear but needs to be confronted and even resisted.
Racism, fascist politics, or anti-immigrant sentiments (and policies) are not a matter of trickery: one day it is here, another day it is gone.
And yes, social change is critical in reimagining more compassionate societies, and reimagination cannot take place without healing, facing our sorrow and anger.

What does the train symbolize in Red Line Lullaby?

When talking with Lorena about her poem, the metaphor of the train to connect histories and people seemed to be critical in reading the poem. The train, or the train of our souls, looks into this country, the people, the land, the isolation that have become part of our lives.
The train is a reminder of ability to travel and meet one another in the face of devastation (COVID, dictators, wildfires, injustice, and more) – allowing us to question what is it that we are here for? Are we here only to hurt and dominate one another?

social change is critical in reimagining more compassionate societies, and reimagination cannot take place without healing, facing our sorrow and anger

What is an aesthetics of activism?
What a beautiful and mysterious question!
I want to believe that a great clarity must descend depending on the different challenges that we are facing.
Each moment asks for different actions. And each action carries with different histories and ruminations, which, eventually, will carry on different aesthetics and colors.

What is the relationship between the artwork and the response? Is the response necessary? What is the benefit of art to the society at large?Last week, I began looking again into the work of Juan Miro, the marvelous Catalan painter. I was watching the terrible and bleeding news from Israel-Palestine, yet another merciless war, now turning into lynching and more cynical politics.
I turned to art and artists – Miro, in this case, and his ability to dream and create as fascist politics took over his beloved Spain – because we all know (or need know) that the news and politicians will not create our songs for the future. It is we who need to do it. Art is an action when we decide that we create the agenda, we are the news, we sing our songs and we are not going to waste our time on what Hollywood (or any other cooperation) think that is good for us. Now more than before, we begin to realize that our existence as a specie on this earth is in danger.

How to transform awareness into evolvement?

Rumi, recommends wine – wine to the heart and soul.
We don’t have time to waste – wasting lives in being who we are not, wasting lives in escaping, wasting lives in playing in famous, wasting time in hiding and living in timidity.
Shall we drink? Now?
We have no other now.
Now!

THANK YOU very much for our conversation!

Art is an action when we decide that we create the agenda, we are the news, we sing our songs and we are not going to waste our time on what Hollywood (or any other cooperation) think that is good for us

YOU CAN WATCH “Red Line Lullaby”- the video poem participation of Yehuda Sharim to 9th International Video Poetry Festival

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