Cranes, Mafiosas and a Polaroid Camera
Poem by Natalie Diaz
Kearney, Nebraska Crane Trust
I had a few days left of my stay at the crane sanctuary
in Kearney, Nebraska, when my brother called. It was 3:24 a.m.
It’s me, he said. It’s your brother. He had taken apart
another Polaroid camera and needed me to explain how
to put it back together. His voice was a snare drum, knocking
and quick. He was crying. I didn’t want to wake the other visitors,
and I knew he’d keep calling, hour after hour, day after day,
lifetime after miserable lifetime, until I answered. I slid out of bed.
Just tell me what to do.You know what to do, he pleaded.
I should know how to help my brother by now. He and I
have had this exact conversation before—if I love him,
if I really love him, why haven’t I learned to reassemble
a Polaroid camera? Instead, I told him about the sandhill cranes,
the way they dance—moving into and giving way to one another,
bowing down, cresting and collapsing their wings,
necks and shoulders silver curls of smoky rhythm—
but he didn’t believe me. My brother believes the mafia
placed a transmitter deep within his Polaroid camera,
but he can’t believe in dancing cranes. You think this is a joke?
he whispers. These are fucking Mafiosos I’m talking about.
You’re probably next. He hung up on me.
That dawn, I aimed my digital camera at the sky
until the last of an island of late rising cranes lifted into the metallic
air—I couldn’t take my eyes from the barrel of lens, my finger,
fast trigger against the black skeleton of the camera. I wondered
what it would look like cracked open to its upside down mirrors
and shiny levers, how many screws there were, how many lantern-lit
cranes might come unfurling out of that cage. I wondered
what I would look like if the darkened chambers of my body
were unlocked. What streams of light might escape me and reveal
about the things I collect and hide, and is there a difference
between aperture and wound. Mostly, I wondered where
my brother keeps getting those goddamned Polaroid cameras.
BASED ON A POEM BY
A FILM BY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
KODAK FILM LAB
FILM SCANNED AT METROPOLIS POST
SOUND DESIGN & MIX
“Sundays” Performed by Spymob. Courtesy of Spymob.
“Cutting Into Flesh” Performed by Gazelle Twin. Composed by Elizabeth Bernholz. Courtesy of Anti-Ghost Moon Ray. © Elizabeth Bernholz.
Diana & Tom Elsey
All Seed & Spark contributors
MADE POSSIBLE BY
Believe Media, The Quarry, The Mill, Youngster, Crane Trust, Rowe Sanctuary
“Cranes, Mafiosas and a Polaroid Camera,” a poem by Natalie Diaz. ©2012 Nomi Stone. Used by permission.
This film is dedicated to Crystal Lieb, who passed away less than a year after filming. Crystal was a compassionate, generous, fearless collaborator, a leader in her community and a bright, brilliant life.
Crystal was street-cast and told me she wanted to be a part of the film because the poem spoke so closely to her personal experience. In many ways, the film became a portrait of her.
After filming, Crystal decided to train for a Children's Native American reading program so she could read to children and families, and she founded a group called 'Women Advocating and Uniting Nations,' in her hometown of Omaha. Crystal was at the beginning of a new juncture in her life with the aim to share and celebrate Native culture, and although she has gone too soon, she leaves a strong, inspiring legacy.
This photo is of Crystal watching her daughter and Powwow Princess, Naomi Lieb, as we filmed her dancing. RIP.
- Tash Tung, Director
Aesthetica Short Film Festival
BOOTH: Salon Presents Rising Female Filmmakers
Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg
Motionpoems New York City Premiere
Motionpoems LA Premiere
London Short Film Festival
Motionpoems Dublin Premiere
Omaha Film Festival