From Alexi: Storytellers in My Family

After months of outreach, planning and story collection, we are less than a week
away from Story Vault. Liz and I are busy and excited. So far it has been a wild and
exhilarating ride through the amazingly varied world of family history. When Liz and I
started this campaign, we hoped to raise enough money to move forward with our films,
but, more importantly, we wanted this process to help us understand our own fascination
with our past and family lore. Through conducting interviews and hearing other people’s
endlessly interesting ancestor stories, I have been amazed by our interconnected yet
varied histories and how they have been shaped by colonialism and migration. It is
amazing that we all live in the same communities, right next door to each other, yet we
don’ t know the rich and unique stories that have brought us here.

I was lucky to have two storytellers in my life growing up: my mother and my paternal
grandfather. Obviously my mother’s stories of a far away land had a huge impact on
my creativity, but my grandfather’s stories of growing up in San Francisco and his
Irish family were also wonderful. Unlike my mother’s stories of an exotic world, my
grandfather’s stories helped me to feel connected to the familiar, to San Francisco
and the American immigrant experience. I felt particularly lucky to be a filmmaker
when Grandpa Joe passed away five years ago. My father and uncle had spent several
afternoons with an old VHS camera documenting his stories and I offered to edit the
footage into a tribute film. The audio and image were grainy, but his spirit shined
through anyway. I created an hour-long video with these tapes and felt particularly lucky
to be able to spend precious and intimate hours with my grandfather in this way after his
passing. During these hours he told me many stories and I learned a lot about who he
was as a man, not just as a grandfather. I was then able to shape these stories and share
them with my family, which was an honor. Here’s an excerpt from the video:

One of these stories about Grampa Joe’s childhood inspired me so much that I’m working on a short narrative film based on it!

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to document and share these amazing life stories and I
really hope that the Great Grandfather Club and Story Vault will inspire everyone to
document and keep alive all of their own unique and fascinating family stories and share
them with the rest of us, so that we can all be reminded of what a rich history of life
experiences and personal struggles we possess and how connected we are.

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