Pro Moviemaker Spring 2019


Empathising with the other person My latest film involved me heading to America for six to seven months to meet the neo-Nazis who have been on the rise since the election of Trump. In the summer of 2016, the BBC interviewed me about living in a multicultural society and, to my shock, this interview went viral and I received a deluge of hate emails from people across Europe and America. I decided not to hide and I set out to meet the people who sent me this abuse. I’ve long been interested in what their thought processes are and my filmwas an attempt to find their humanity – and for them perhaps to find mine. I always knew that we would never end up agreeing or seeing things in the same way, but it was an opportunity to understand each other’s background. I started off by contacting endless amounts of groups and activists to try and set up meetings and, obviously, the majority were not interested in speaking to me – or even being in the same room as me. But there were a few who agreed to be involved, since they are looking for whatever platform they can to say what they want to say. And, if they encounter a journalist who gives them a hard time, they can come across as the victim and they win: they can say they’re speaking the truth that others are trying to prevent them from saying. They’re not used to someone not getting aggressive or reacting. It slightly disarms them. It’s difficult for me not to take it personally, however, when they’re saying such awful things. I have to remind myself that I’m there for a reason. They’re trying to scare me and I won’t ever let them do that. They want me to react in a certain way – to become angry and shout and lose it. They’re looking for confrontation. If it doesn’t come, it confuses them. I disarm them by not responding to the things they say

ABOVE For her documentary, White Right: Meeting the Enemy, Khan interviewed the chairman of the National Socialist Movement

I set up an interview with Jeff Schoep, who is the leader of the biggest neo-Nazi organisation in America: the National Socialist Movement. The group reveres Hitler and until recently its symbol was the swastika. He hates the idea of multiculturalism and thinks it’s part of a plot against the white race. About two- and-a-half hours into the interview, I asked him to consider: what if everything he thought turned out to be wrong? He fell silent for a while and struggled to compose an answer. It was one of the most telling and vulnerable moments in the film. How could he not have an answer to one of the biggest turning points in his life? I start off by agreeing a time for the interview and then, as the subject relaxes, I try to extend this for as long as I can. I want them to be themselves as much as possible. My approach is to try to softly extract more candid and revealing answers from people, and these tend to come over an extended period of time. With Schoep, it was a case of asking for an extra 30 minutes every now and then – and he was happy to oblige. I also set out to meet people at events and rallies. We went to Charlottesville, where there was a demonstration (the now infamous Unite the Right) by the Klu Klux Klan against the removal of a statue of Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. We marched alongside them to get the footage we needed, which was a surreal experience for me, and it’s dangerous because people on both sides distrust the camera. We were also invited along to a neo- Nazi training camp. There were just two of us and we decided that pulling out a camera might be dangerous, so we thought we’d check it out first and then come back for the camera if it felt safe enough. As we walked down this dirt road in the middle of nowhere, people were I found myself alongside the Neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville

coming down to us – threatening, asking if we were from the media and pulling out weapons. It was all very intimidating. I happened to look at my phone at that point and noticed we had no signal. That’s when I wondered whether someone might put a bullet in our heads and no one would ever find us. I’d been ringing my mother and brother every couple of days to tell them how things were going, but I hadn’t mentioned this trip to them, since they wouldn’t have let me go. No one knew where we were. Just as I was wondering how we were going to get out of this, one of the guys who had invited us found us and we were able to get back to our hotel. People like me would not have been able to make films were it not for the advancement of technology, which has had a liberating effect. I usually work with a Sony FS5, because it’s lightweight to carry around and intuitive to use. I’ll have more than one, since the BTS footage we achieve is crucial to the final edit. When I’m filming an interview, I’ll also have three cameras running. That then gives us the option to change our angle in the edit. What happens on the face is often just as important as what someone is saying – it can reveal their tension and discomfort. On White Right , I also worked with the Sony FS7 and the Canon EOS C300, as well as a Sony A series camera. Because it was so crucial to keep the footage safe, it was backed up in three different places: two in the US and one in the UK. Cameras such as these are capable of producing footage that is accepted by major TV companies, and White Right was broadcast by ITV at the end of 2017. Modern cameras make things so much easier

“What happens on the face is often just as important as what someone is saying”

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