Pratibha Parmar talks Alice Walker and “Beauty in Truth”

AE: Your documentary concludes with Walker’s experiences in Rwanda, the Congo, and Palestine. Interest in Palestine has reached a fever pitch these days within the queer community; how would you describe Walker’s involvement or interest in Palestine?
Right now, Alice is under intense attacks yet again for her views on Palestine and Israel. In Beauty In Truth we feature footage of her in Gaza and on the Freedom Flotilla, which was stopped from going to Gaza. What guides Alice is the belief that one of the ways we can change the world is to bear witness to the suffering of people wherever they are. Her support for the Palestinian people has made her a controversial figure because yet again she has put herself in the firing line. While we were fundraising for our film, we experienced the fall out of this controversy by being rejected time and time again for funding from several foundations and even ones that purport to support women filmmakers. When we showed the film to a woman film festival programmer, she basically put us on alert and said, “be prepared not to be selected by several progressive film festivals because of Alice’s views on Palestine,” which actually shocked me but then we saw it unfold in time. In the U.K there is a much more of an open climate to talk about the conflict between Palestine and Israel but it has been an eye opener that here in the U.S. it seems to be a no-go area for so many people which is a shame.

AE: You spent over two years working on the production of Beauty in Truth. What is next for you?
Actually it was four very long years. Long because we had a very challenging time finding the funding for the film. Many people are shocked when I tell them that, but it really wasn’t easy. I couldn’t have made this film without the incredible talents of producer Shaheen Haq who is a brilliant architect and now a superb producer.

As for future projects, there are a number of scripts and ideas I would love to get into but first I need to pay off my debts. It isn’t sustainable to be just an indie filmmaker so my priority right now is to become sustainable. I am looking forward to teaching part time at Stanford University for a semester in the Fall and of course taking the film around the U.S to different Universities, colleges and schools and sharing it with audiences.

Beauty in Truth will appear at Outfest in LA on July 18 and at QFest in Philadelphia on July 20. The film will be broadcast on the PBS Emmy award-winning series American Masters in early 2014.

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