LAO Film Festival 2017: A Visit with Dr. Alexandra Hildago

By: Emily Hanson

Three things that you need to know about Alexandra Hildago:

#1: She speaks three languages: English, Spanish, and French. She used to speak a little bit of Russian too.

#2: She publishes an online publication that she co-founded, Agnés Films, which supports women’s work with reviews, interviews, narratives and essays.

#3: She identifies as a feminist.

All this goes to say is that Dr. Hildago is an amazing woman with an intriguing life. I was able to talk to her before the showing of her film, Vanishing Borders, was shown at the LAO Film Festival, and the conversation I had with her was enlightening to me as a writer, and as a person who is part of American society.

The conversation with Dr. Hildago started on a Google Docs. I was looking forward to seeing her think as she typed on a shared document. There is something about a thought process that can never be replicated because it is an experience different to each individual. The questions I asked her, concerned her movie, her experiences during the movie, and about feminism. The film was made after her own experience of emigrating from Venezuela when she was 16 years old. Vanishing Borders features four women from different backgrounds in order to “[provide] a more holistic account of what immigration looks like for women from around the globe” commented Dr. Hildago. The misrepresentation of immigrant women concerned Dr. Hildgao, causing her to make the film. The film was made to “humanize immigrants” and as Dr. Hildago had shown Vanishing Borders for three years, the film is doing what it was made to do. While on the topic of the film’s purpose, she commented, “I hope it reminds those watch it that immigrants are not abstract threats but complex humans who often bring richness and nuance to the country that hosts them.” In a world where “immigrant” holds a bad connotation, the reminder that immigrants offer more diversity to the country they come to carries an important message, as Dr. Hildago said.

Dr. Hildago’s lecture on campus the night that I interviewed her was just as interesting as speaking with her that morning. While not many of the same topics from our conversation came up, it was clear to me that her life is lived through film and stories. In coordination with family across the globe and at home, she made a film Desaparacido about the disappearance of her father while in the Amazon. The lecture was about the making of the film and the making of memoirs in general. Creating a memoir using Cultural Rhetoric and utilizing the culture to create something as a community was at the forefront of the lecture. “Creating Together” was at the center during the making of the documentary Desaparacido. Dr. Hildago talked to family and friends and anybody who knew her father in order create a documentary that showed many different aspects of her life. What was interesting to me during the lecture was that in the making of Desaparacido, there was a time when things were not turning out like she had planned and the film was a danger of digging into her father’s life.

Alexandra Hildago’s visit to campus was a learning experience for everybody involved. Vanishing Borders and her lecture about memoirs offered new insights to subjects both new and old. The experiences that Dr. Hildago shared and the lessons she taught are ones that are invaluable to those who were present or for those who watch her films.

Emily Hanson is one of our freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.

Welcoming Dr. D.B Emerson to Whitworth

By: Emily Hanson

This past fall, Whitworth welcomed Dr. Bert Emerson to the English Department. For those of you who were fortunate enough to take a class from him — either his Survey of American Literature Before 1865, British Women’s Writers, Novels of the Upper 19th Century , or Hamilton — you know him as an enthusiastic professor with a grudge against the dark and the cold. For those of you who haven’t gotten the chance to interact with him yet, I was able to ask Bert ten questions so that you might get to know him as well.

dr-emerson

Where have you taught before Whitworth?

I have taught at Pomona College and at Cal Poly Pomona.

 What about Whitworth made you want to come teach here?

I was drawn to Whitworth because it is a liberal arts college,that has the small school experience. The community was a big part of it as well. I was really interested in the faith and learning aspect of Whitworth because it was different from the other schools that I have taught at.

What exactly do you specialize in?

19th century American Literature and Political Culture.

What has been your favorite class to teach at Whitworth?

They have all been wonderful. The Survey was a challenge because it covered such a vast time period. The Novels of the Upper 19th Century was amazing because of the depth and trajectory with which we explored the novels with. With British Women Writers, I was able to explore and read books that I haven’t in a long time while thinking about how much the culture of Britain and America were intertwined and affecting each other. With Hamilton, I was able to immerse myself in Jan Term and think about the founding of America and explore the literature there.

What work of literature has influenced you the most?

That’s a really broad question, I don’t know how to answer that, there are so many different possibilities and different literatures that affect the present day — but it has to be provocative and innovative; like a cliché destroying and imaginative work.

Being from Alabama and California, what about Spokane is different, aside from the weather?

The weather is a big part of it, but it is interesting to see that there are good people in different places, along with different attitudes. The local culture is also something that is always different from place to place and something that I want to explore. I want to experience the world, and I believe in the inherent goodness of people and it is amazing to see the different manifestations of that.

What are you looking forward to most at Whitworth? What are your goals?

I’m excited to craft my way of teaching as well as working with the student’s getting to know them, as well as the community. Getting to know Spokane — when it’s warm and in the light. Writing as well, I get to finish my book. My goals are to get to know and work with every student, help them learn culture and knowledge and writing skills. I hope to make sure that everybody improves.

What research are you working on right now?

I am writing an introduction to a book on democracy in America which is also connected to my book project about democratic thinking before the Civil War.

What book do you seem to come back to?

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

Fun fact?

No fun facts, I’m a pretty boring person.

As I quickly learned after getting the initial answer to question #10, that it was a lie, he just told me not to write about it in the article. But, as I hope you are all interested in getting to know Bert better, as he is a delightful person and is great at having thoughtful and deep conversations, I hope that you swing by his office, get to know him better, and ask about that fun fact — I promise that it will be worth it.

Dr. Emerson has also recently published an article for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Check it out here.

Emily Hanson is one of our freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.

 

Alumni Search: Coffee with Kris

By: Emily Hanson

My Dad used to be a teacher. In the 10 years he was a teacher, he made many friends and connections. Because of this, my Dad was able to put me in contact with Kris Dinnison: Whitworth alumni, local business woman, former teacher, and published author.

Meeting with Kris was an extremely interesting. The conversation took place in one of her downtown businesses, Atticus Coffee and Gifts. Based off of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, it was an environment begging for literary discussion. The discussion began with talking about her schooling, how she herself was an English Major like myself. During her undergrad, she had a dream of getting her pH. D. That dream however, didn’t work out and it constituted a need for modification; she became a teacher.

Ms. Dinnison’s teaching career was focused on English and the Humanities. This started to create a love of writing that carried over into her authorship. Her book, Me and You and Him is a touching,  Young Adult novel in which two friends squabble over the same guy. When asked about the book, she said that getting it published is an amazing experience, and that being able to reach teens that way makes her feel accomplished, and she is working on more stories. I was able to talk to her more about reading, and what inspired her, and what she is currently into. I was pleased — and more than a little surprised to hear — that she reads YA fiction (Young Adult). As a young reader who is interested in studying YA novels for a pH. D., this was a push in the right direction and highly affirming for my own interests.

Being able to share a coffee with Whitworth Alum Kris Dinnison was an experience to remember. Not only is she a Pirate like the rest of us, but she is also a successful writer who followed her dreams, and as a college student who can’t see past finals, it was a much needed interaction; one that has kept me in touch with my own dreams.

kris-coffee-1

Emily Hanson is one of our new freshman writers and is a lively addition to the team.