Women Filmmakers Forum: tiona.m. – The Feminist Wire

Women Filmmakers Forum: tiona.m.

tiona.m. is a multi-media artist whose mission is to make the invisible, visible and to humanize her subjects. She believes that her work as a filmmaker and visual artist can inspire various communities by affirming their existence in contemporary society and culture. Her last film, black./womyn.: conversations with lesbians of African descent, provides a platform for Black lesbians to speak for themselves and to confront the hyper-sexualized image of the Black lesbian. black./womyn.was awarded the Audience Award for Best Documentary by the Philadelphia International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival {now QFest} in 2008. Tiona continues to develop and create films on progressive topics with the hope of directing a narrative feature-length project in the near future. She is currently in production with her next feature length documentary, The Untitled Black Lesbian Elder Projecta short narrative film Bumming Cigarettesand an experimental short series called Be Alarmed: The Black Americana Epic, which is a magical realism themed take on the Black American experience. See

TFW: Could you respond to one or more of the following: What are your thoughts on the plight of women filmmakers in a male-dominated industry? Could you say a bit about feminist approaches taken up in filmmaking or filmmaking as art and a modality for social change? What is your process?

TIONA: I think filmmaking is one of the most important mediums to use to generate social change. In regards to documentary work, I think there is nothing more powerful than showing someone the truth. Not telling them, but literally showing them truth with images. Whether this truth is about their community or other communities, etc.

With fictional work, I think that there is real power in presenting something, whether fictional or based on something real, to folks in a way that is stylized and not so heavy handed. I enjoy the idea of dealing with tough issues within narrative fiction in order to allow the viewer to step out of themselves and identify with someone else. I also strongly think that art or filmmaking which comes from a place of social change or activism should be at the highest quality possible to carry the message to the audience. My process at its core revolves around subjects and ideas that I personally find interesting. If I’m not into it, I can’t dedicate my time to it. I think that I learned early on that I can not give the amount of time that it takes to make a strong piece of work if I do not have a true and deep feeling for the subject matter. I have to care, and truly feel moved by the work or I lose interest during the production process.

I have placed a few obstructions within my work that keep me grounded and focused. I primarily focus on subject matter within my work that focuses on black women – subjects that I feel need to be explored in order to fill a void and work that is progressive. I tend to hold things in my head for a long while before writing them. This goes for both fiction and nonfiction work. I try to work out things before I put them to paper, film, or video. That’s when the editing part starts for me, and it continues until the project is finished.