Christian Vasquez was downtown with his camera on July 7, documenting a peaceful protest against the police killings of black men in cities around the country.
“When shots rang out and it all went haywire, I continued to film into the night, and every single day until President Obama came to town,” Vasquez, a Dallas filmmaker, says in an email.
Divided Together Again, Vasquez’s short film made from that footage, is not a comprehensive documentary. It’s more of a mood piece, movingly capturing the emotions — fear, sadness, hope, resolve — of those harrowing days. The film also challenges us to consider how we remember the events of July 7, to reject any easy narratives that conform to our existing views.
Vasquez decided to release Divided Together Again online after last week’s presidential election. He writes this in an email:
In my mind this election is yet another moment in our national history, in which we must ask ourselves the question that President Obama poses: “Can we do this?” — In my mind, the implication of that question is: “Can we live up to the ideals we proclaim?”
With the election of this demagogue; there’s a scramble by nearly everyone to construct a narrative around “how this could happen,” and an even more aloof effort around: “what the next four years will be like.” This process is similar to the ways in which there was a race to assign a narrative to the July 7th shooting, when the reality is that it was a singular event (of course supported by centuries of history). To ignore the singularity of these happenings, to try to cram the events into a pre-constructed narrative frame, that rests comfortably in the news cycle, is, in my mind, irresponsible. Another aim of the film, structurally, is to reject that practice.
Ultimately, I think we, as a nation, should consider that perhaps the answer to Obama’s question is a firm: Maybe.
Vasquez says he plans to “continue to observe the ways in which July 7 is remembered, and employed, as time goes on.”