Documentary Filmmakers Become Part of the Team

I’d like to introduce our readers to a phenomenal team of documentary filmmakers who have been following our work this week in Falfurrias, TX. Meet Sarah and Esy.

Team UIndy strikes a pose with Sarah and Esy, the documentary filmmakers.As graduate students working in a forensic anthropology lab, we learn very quickly how to interact with media. Sometimes news stations get the story right, and sometimes they don’t. Often times we are misquoted or taken out of context. And in order to get the story, cameras are often intrusive, getting in the way of forensic analysis and building an annoying stereotype for themselves. These young filmmakers couldn’t have been any farther from this description.

Sarah and Esy were at the scene before we arrived on Sunday, greeting us with smiles and handshakes. The filmmakers told us of their project to create a documentary about the various ways Americans memorialize the deceased, currently entitled MEMORIALS. Arriving at the cemetery before sunrise and leaving only after the last crew has packed up and taken off, Sarah and Esy have seen nearly everything we have at the site. They join us for debriefings and listen to us as we talk through our progress, hoping to capture much of the behind-the-scenes of our work.

But what really impresses me about this duo is their raw style and manner of filming. Neither of them has approached us asking for an interview. Instead, they rely on the sounds and vocals that they capture. They stand from afar and film unobtrusively. No cameras in faces, no mics right next to the grave as we dig. In fact, the filmmakers became a seamless part of the group, moving buckets and supplies for us and sharing lunch with us daily. Esy told me that she often makes sure while filming to dedicate an equal time with the camera off. They aren’t there to just film; they are there to experience, to learn, and to become immersed in our project, which is impossible to do with an eye through the viewfinder. She discussed her annoyance with watching people spending so much time using cell phones to capture awful video footage of an experience that can’t be recreated. The immersion into these rare experiences must be valued.

I talked to Esy during lunch about their film, and I asked her about the competition for topics among independent filmmakers: what if someone else beats them to it with their topic on memorials? Can’t they just change the vocal overdubs and commentary and keep their same footage, allowing them to adapt to the competition? Esy said absolutely not, because they don’t provide any commentary. They let the footage narrate itself, allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions from the footage rather than using commentary to tell the viewer the facts straightforward.

The human rights crisis that the country is facing can’t be fully described  or narrated with facts and commentary because there are so many perspectives to take into account. Instead, each person has their own take on what is happening from their unique perspective. There is no wrong or right solution to the crisis. By presenting our work in such a raw style, Sarah and Esy have safely avoided forcing any bias or perspective on the viewer, which I deeply admire. It is up to each one of us to decide what we can do to help. At Sacred Heart, we are contributing our expertise towards only one angle of the issue, but we have been fortunate to see other angles that broaden our perspective and make us more aware of what can be done to help.

I highly encourage our readers to explore Sarah and Esy’s previous work. I’ve watched their trailers for many of their films and can’t wait to see the full features. Follow their vlog at for information on films such as Jeepney, The Rink, and Thing With No Name that deeply explore important social issues around the world.

Thanks Sarah and Esy for temporarily joining our team, and best of luck in the future with your films!