Calgary filmmaker explores race, identity in experimental film
'The less empathy that you are raised with, the more a society might plunge into fascism or racism'
For Melanee Murray-Hunt, screening her short movie is about much more than a single event — she hopes by stirring up empathy, those who've watched the film will change their perspective on race.
In Race Anonymous, a white Albertan construction worker discovers his seemingly secretive co-workers are not who he thinks they are.
The film reveals surprising ways in which race overlaps and influence life.
In her conversation with Daybreak Alberta this week, she explained why discussions about culture and identity can be so challenging.
"The reason why race is so potent and problematic is because it's based on hierarchy," she said.
Murray-Hunt further explained categorization based on race allows people to block an innate sense of morality, justifying the use of stereotypes and discriminatory behaviour.
However, she says empathy can break down those barriers.
"I totally believe that the less empathy that you are raised with, the more a society might plunge into fascism or racism," she said.
Race Anonymous experiment
The protagonist in the film experiences personal trauma, realizes hierarchies, and finds scapegoats for his issues.
"An unresolved personal wound can stop us from achieving empathy with somebody who's an other or seen as weak," said Murray-Hunt.
She considers the film an experiment, to see if audiences can identify with someone they consider the "other" and have empathy.
Audiences will be invited to fill out a psychological survey after the screening, and Murray-Hunt hopes opinions will change.
"We have comedians there too, so it's going to be lighter atmosphere," she said.
The screening takes place at Loco Lou's Grill and Bar in northwest Calgary on the afternoon of May 20.
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With files from Daybreak Alberta