Interview with Former TVbyGIRLS Core Girl Hannah Nemer
Hannah Nemer was a member of the original group of core girls who helped to shape TVbyGIRLS. She joined TVbyGIRLS 10 years ago and participated in the program for 7 years, creating films about subjects that mattered to her. Now, she is doing dissertation research and on her way to completing a masters degree in visual anthropology from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. We checked in with her about what she is doing now and how her time with TVbyGIRLS has shaped her life and her filmmaking.
Studying visual anthropology at the University of Manchester, Hannah learned about documentary filmmaking and photography and also learned how to use “sensory media to convey stories about people.” During and before her time at the University of Manchester, Hannah has created a variety of projects, some based in photography, some in film, and some in sound. One project that stands out to her is a photo and video project she worked on in Uganda about Uganda’s minority Jewish community, where she explored how “their memories of conflict shape their communal identity.”
Right now Hannah is in Rochester, New York, working on her dissertation research about Civil War Reenactments. She is meeting, interviewing, and photographing participants in the Reenactments. Though the project is still taking shape, right now she is interested in looking into the authenticity of historical images of the Civil War. Hannah says, “Civil War photographs were manipulated and paired with grandiose captions. I would like to pair reenactment images with historical captions to question the truth value we place on historical images.”
Though Hannah doesn’t know exactly how she wants to use visual anthropology after completing the University of Manchester program, she does know that she wants to make documentary projects that deal with social issues that are important to her, especially about race and gender. In creating films about social issues, Hannah says that it is vital that filmmakers are aware of the deep-rooted history of significant topics. It is important, she says, to avoid being reductionist or portraying documentary subjects as caricatures. Hannah also finds that having self-awareness about one’s own identity is key to being a thoughtful documentary filmmaker. Working on one particular video with TVbyGIRLS, called “Undercover,” a video in which Hannah and other teen girls discussed their varying religious backgrounds, helped Hannah start thinking about how to respectfully represent the subjects of her documentaries.
When a project fulfills this responsibility, Hannah finds that documentary filmmaking, photography, and sound projects can connect with people in ways that the written word can’t always. “When you hear someone’s voice there is something deeply intimate and personal to that, which brings you closer to the person whose story you are hearing. Even if you don’t hear their voice, if you see their face, if you see their expression it adds a different layer of understanding to the words they are saying,” she says.
Hannah now has experience with a variety of documentary projects, but it was TVbyGIRLS that first sparked her interest in filmmaking. She says that despite her great experience with TVbyGIRLS, for a long time growing up she didn’t think she wanted to become a filmmaker. She went to college at the University of North Carolina, majoring in Peace, War, and Defense, and American Studies, exploring interests outside of filmmaking. During her time at the University of North Carolina, she realized that filmmaking was a tool she could use to keep exploring interests she had found in college. Hannah says she “honestly doesn’t know” what she would be doing or what she “would be interested in right now if not for having had the supportive mentors” from TVbyGIRLS.
TVbyGIRLS fostered a way of thinking for Hannah about herself in connection to other people. The program also helped her consider the way her stories and the stories of others all connect together. She credits TVbyGIRLS with teaching her how to tell other peoples’ stories in a way that resonates with an audience. Her ultimate goal for her projects is to tell stories in a meaningful way to the subjects of the documentary, to the audience, and for herself.
Thinking about advice she would give to future teenage members of TVbyGIRLS, Hannah reflects on feeling lucky that she was given tools at a young age in TVbyGIRLS that helped her deal with the pressures to “be and act as a woman in society” in a certain, prescribed way. Even though she says she handled these pressure fairly well when she was young, as she grew up into a young adult she was happy she had tools from TVbyGIRLS to rely on. TVbyGIRLS also taught her that everyone has a story to tell and that what she had to say and what was on her mind mattered. That is a belief she carries through her work not only for herself, but also for the subjects of her documentaries.
Learn more about Hannah’s work and view more of her projects at http://www.hannahnemer.com