A lot of my work is about recentering our humanity. Christ makes me more human and reminds me of humanity’s value...
Alejandro Miranda Cruz, director, artist, and co-founder of the Bravebird production company based in Madison, Wisconsin, just submitted his first full-length feature film to the 74th Cannes Film Festival. Trace the Line captures the personal struggles of two creative artists trying to deal with the numerous crises of 2020. Alejandro relates that the struggles captured in the film echo his own, fueling his prayers for the healing and transformation needed in our communities for a shared sense of humanity.
In discussing his work as an artist, Alejandro reflects that he sees his work as “an act of worship…Prayer is a form of communication with the Creator—with God—and prayer is a constant in my worship of God.”
Becoming an artist in part grew out of Alejandro’s struggle with dyslexia growing up; he was drawn toward visual channels to communicate. “I gravitate so much to film because it’s a way for me to express myself, my thoughts and feelings, because doing so through writing was difficult for a long time.”
An expressive youth, Alejandro was a child actor and script reader. In the industry, he learned early that films could—at their best—bring forward authentic truths about people or propagate stereotypes and harmful tropes. He was typecast many times as a delinquent. These experiences foreground his commitment to craft truth-full stories.
Throughout a project, Alejandro asks “How might my depiction of certain people groups influence the viewer’s perception of those people in real life? I want to portray real people, not a strawman or a trope who could easily be demonized or hated. I really want to bring the viewer into a place of seeing or hearing truth…Like the Bible says, ‘Blessed are the ones that see and hear.’” That New Testament quote of Jesus relates to people missing or catching the point of Jesus’ sometimes cryptic parables; similarly film can be a form of storytelling that illuminates critical truths about human existence, sometimes cryptically, sometimes obviously.
Thinking about film as craft also brings to Alejandro’s mind the craftsmen who carried out God’s detailed designs for the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant during the Exodus. “I see myself, Alejandro says, “in the light of the Old Testament when I work on projects. The original crafters brought reverence to their work. They were making things that were given to them by God.”
Entering into the space of ‘creating’ is both a reverential and responsible act. “You bear responsibility as an artist for what you put out into the world. It is very important that I understand as much as I can ‘why I am doing this.’ I know my work will impact and influence viewers.”
Seeing film as a form of prayer is not a reach. Alejandro says, “The actual films I create are very contemplative and meditative – they are visual prayers. When viewers enter into that space, they are sharing that prayer with me. They may engage with my work from different backgrounds or belief systems, but they are stepping into a visual prayer. A lot of my work is about recentering our humanity. Christ makes me more human and reminds me of humanity’s value and the responsibility I bear to serve and love and be and have kinship with those around me.”