I was surrounded by mouths moving with familiar-unfamiliar tongues, words I had always heard, but never understood. Back then, it was easier to tune their voices out, easier to choose nothingness than to hear it by default. But the language was inescapable. I found myself wanting to reply, wanting to strengthen the connections frayed by an earlier unwillingness to listen. So I began to do just that. I listened to rhythms and inflections and tones and emotions, and soon enough the words came too.
I don’t know what to say is the manifestation of this process. It is a collection of stories and reflections told in multiple languages and translated through voice and body. It was the phrase every story began with, the response all interpreters gave upon hearing them, and the feeling I felt as a child and as the one behind the camera.
With our every-increasing proximity to various cultures, peoples and languages, it became clearer to me the role a project like this could have within our society. In moving to Bennington College, I found that this was especially the case. Here, stories of grappling with languages rarely spoken at home, of learning to carve a space for oneself in a new place, and of questioning the very nature of boundaries we were taught to maintain, are found at the very core of the college’s student body. It was not until the filming of this project, however, that these snippets of stories emerged as complex reflections that serve to complicate the narratives I grew up hearing.
More than anything, I don’t know what to say was a collaboration. I could not be more grateful for the honesty, vulnerability, and heart both the storytellers and interpreters showed, and were willing to share with all of you. This project has brought people closer to one another in ways words can’t explain, in ways only listening and feeling could. It is my hope that in moments of speechlessness, we will realise just what to say, even if we are not saying anything at all.