Kindred Spirits: South L.A. and Chernobyl at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival

This is my fourth year attending the Los Angeles Film Festival, produced by Film Independent and hosted by L.A. Live Regal Cinemas in downtown Los Angeles. Each year it's a mecca, a journey and a staycation for me. I always think about how lucky we are to have this festival in Los Angeles.

Though I am not a film critic, I immerse myself in film, mostly documentaries, as a source of inspiration for my own studio practice as a painter. After approximately a week of watching several films per day, I ask myself: what did I learn, what stayed with me as a viewer and how do I process what I've seen?

There are two films that stand out for me and both seem to have somewhat related issues or themes: The Babushkas of Chernobyl, directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart; and Can You Dig This?, director Delila Vallot. Both films won awards at this year's festival. Can You Dig This? won the LA Muse Award and The Babushkas of Chernobyl was awarded a special mention by the Documentary jury.

The Babushkas of Chernobyl. Image: Brigade Marketing.

Can You Dig This? Image: 42West.

Although the films are set in very different environments, one in and around the "Exclusion Zone" of Chernobyl and the other in South L.A., they do, however, explore the same issues and themes of inventiveness, the human spirit, survival, and grassroots change. In both situations, people recount the past and live in the present while they understand something about the future and their position in the long-term notion of change.

Both films sensitively follow their subjects with care and insight. We know them despite their respective situations. There was a crisis, one nuclear and one societal, both political and poignant with long-range impact. Both show humanity's drive to not just survive but to carry on.

Can You Dig This? Image: 42West.

The Babushkas of Chernobyl. Image: Brigade Marketing.

I found myself in awe and tears after watching both films. I left feeling the deepest admiration and understanding for the people depicted. What more can you ask from a film? It makes us understand how connected we are at core and how problem solving, survival and the desire for community are intrinsic to the human being.

Television rights have been sold to Fusion for Can You Dig This?. Both films continue to look for theatrical distribution. I hope that a wider audience has an opportunity to see these two films. Their messages are deeply meaningful, transformative and timely.