Credit: Courtesy

Diane Mackenzie comes from documentary film royalty, yet she has arrived at the helm of her first feature the hardest way imaginable. Her father, Kent Mackenzie, made The Exiles in 1961, a haunting docudrama that chronicles one night in the life of a group of young Native Americans living in the Bunker Hill neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. It ranks with Lionel Rogosin’s 1956 On the Bowery as one of the greatest examples of urban neorealism in American cinema, and growing up with it shaped Diane Mackenzie’s vision, which she has since pursued as a film archivist at UCSB. It was not, however, the impetus for Are You Hearing Me?, the important new project that she is working on today. That story begins with an incident much darker than anything portrayed in The Exiles.

Are You Hearing Me? will celebrate the work of female artists who have experienced sexual and physical trauma. After being raped and beaten here in Santa Barbara in 2010, Mackenzie traveled a long and difficult road to recovery, both physical and emotional, and art was an important part of that healing process. By reaching out to other artists who have made similar journeys of healing through their work, Mackenzie intends to start conversations that will lead society to a better understanding of sexual violence, and to a more loving acceptance of women’s stories of damage and abuse. There’s already a team in place, including the activist/artist Barbara Parmet, and a beautiful website featuring rotating profiles of the women who will be the subjects of the film, which is now in progress.

“I’m looking to take my story and move toward something more universal,” Mackenzie told me in a recent conversation. “I started shooting in March, and I’ve kept going even though much of what has been done since then has taken place on Zoom.”

With the help of a crowdfunding campaign that can be accessed through the aforementioned website, Mackenzie hopes to complete principal photography by May. Interested parties are invited to get involved in any number of ways by contacting her. There’s always room for more when the work is about taking back one’s life through the healing power of art.

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