Fighting with Our Whole Hearts

Chanda Chevannes gives an impassioned speech on what women and documentary filmmakers can do to inspire change.

On October 19th 2017, Planet in Focus screened the World Premiere of Unfractured as its Opening Night Gala film. Directed by Chanda Chevannes, the film is a triumphant documentary about resistance, following introspective biologist and mother Sandra Steingraber as she reinvents herself as an outspoken activist to fight for a ban on fracking in New York State. On October 22, Unfractured was awarded the festival’s prize for Best Canadian Feature Film. When Chanda took to the stage, she thanked the festival and her crew, before launching into the spirited remarks below, which have been edited for clarity.—POV

Sandra Steingraber in Unfractured

Unfractured tells the story of the fight over fracking in New York State. And that is a fight that was waged by thousands of New Yorkers. And I couldn’t possibly tell all of their stories. But there were so many people who contributed to the film in one way or another and I’m truly indebted to them all for their hard work over the many, many years it took to win a ban on fracking.

And then there’s my main subject, Sandra Steingraber, who is a biologist and a mother. Sandra allowed me to follow her for a previous film that I did, called Living Downstream. And then she let me follow her again. And so she must have a very stern constitution!

I’m inspired by Sandra Steingraber every day. What she says is that she’s a biologist and she’s a mother. And so, the way that she fought was with her whole heart. And in one hand, she held the science, and in the other hand, she held love. And that’s how you win.

And what I learned making this film is that you can win if you fight. There is power in resistance. I really believe that we are at a crossroads right now—and now is the time we have to come together and really fight. We have to figure out what we can each do. As a filmmaker, I have found that I can help to amplify women’s voices. I’ve been doing it throughout my career.

I’m a filmmaker and a mother, too. So I’m fighting with my camera in my one hand and in my other hand, I have love. But I also have something else. And that’s anger. I am angry. I’m angry about racism. And I’m angry about climate change. And I’m angry at the oil and gas companies who are destroying our planet. And I’m angry at our governments who are letting them do it. And I’m angry about misogyny… I’m angry about it all.

Sandra is a powerful voice in the resistance, but there is another powerful voice in the resistance that I’m listening to a lot right now. Her name is Lauren Duca and she is a writer for Teen Vogue. You should all be reading Teen Vogue, if you aren’t already. They are doing amazing political commentary. I’m learning a lot from it. So I just want to share a quote. Lauren Duca wrote a piece called Donald Trump is Gaslighting America. Here is the last sentence of her piece: “As we spin our newfound rage into action, it is imperative to remember, across identities and across the aisle, as a country and as individuals, we have nothing without the truth.”

That’s what documentary filmmakers can do. That’s what women can do. We bring the truth to people, we use our voices, we speak, and we fight with our whole hearts. I’m looking forward to being there, to being more vocal than I’ve ever been before, to fighting with my whole heart, and really changing where we are going in our country, in our world, and with the environment. And I’m looking forward to seeing you all there.

Thank you so much for this award.