American Resilience

Veterans Who Stepped Outside the Fold

We get to define our commemoration, so let's make it count.

This week we honor the veterans who believe in a country that stands for everyone. That is something we are still working towards.

The US continues to tout ‘endless victory’ and ‘freedom for all’, so on the weekend of Veteran’s Day we take a moment to show respect for those who may have been forgotten, those in service who didn’t come home, and those who one day won’t return.

We honor many who fought, and are still fighting, to make the military a more inclusive place for women, LGBTQ, and people of color. We honor those who worked to end the draft. We honor the veteran who sat during the anthem because he understood that the protest was not about a flag or military, but about very real issues that our country is choosing to ignore. We honor the caregivers who help veterans cope with PTSD.

Here are a few of our stories about vets who remind us that everyone’s journey is unique, complex, and worth honoring.

First African-American Women to Join US Navy

Former Joint Chief-of-Staff Mike Mullen Says NO to Trans Military Ban

Shakespeare Unites War Vets

Coco pixar animation American Resilience

Pixar’s Coco Performs Rare Feat For Hollywood, Intelligently Portrays Non-White Culture in Film

This calls for a celebration!

Pixar’s latest film Coco follows the misadventures of a musically-inclined boy who gets stuck in the land of the dead during Mexico’s celebration of Dia de los Muertos. There, he meets his great-great-grandfather, a talented musician himself, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery amid colorful, Mexican holiday-themed imagery.

The film is a hit among critics and fans, and for good reason: it’s not just cleverly written and thoughtfully told, but culturally appropriate to boot. Coco portrays a culture that is authentic and nuanced, a collaboration by people of many backgrounds and talents.

One of the film’s directors, Lee Unkrich – a filmmaker from Cleveland, Ohio responsible for Toy Story 2 – knew he needed to acknowledge his own inescapable biases and cultural blind spots if Coco was to be a true success. He was worried Mexicans would find his ‘outsider’ portrayal of their culture unacceptable and realized this was a film that had to literally transcend borders.

“I’m not Latino myself, so I knew this was going to be a huge responsibility on my shoulders to tell this story authentically and respectfully. From the very beginning that was paramount,” Unkrich told NPR’s Latino Voices. “There was a lot of adjustment along the way when people would talk about their abuelas (…) And that slowly shaped the story and slowly brought it to this more truthful place.”

 

Anderson (producer), Lee Unkrich (co-director) Adrian Molina (co-director
Left to right: Darla K. Anderson (producer), Lee Unkrich (co-director) Adrian Molina (co-director).

 

Unkrich asked for immense amounts of input from both cultural experts and friends, like Adrian Molina. Molina, a Mexican-American, wrote, unprompted, a scene for Unkrich to use in Coco. Unkrich was so impressed by the script that he brought Molina on as co-director.

“I couldn’t let this film not exist. I wanted so badly for it to happen,” Molina told Latino Voices.

The team left the confines of Pixar and traveled to rural areas outside of Oaxaca, spending days with families that became the inspiration for the film’s own family. They visited cobblers, mezcal distillers, mole chefs, and Papel Picado makers to understand their connections to family and Dia de los Muertos.

The film – like many who went to see it – is bilingual, dancing effortlessly between English and Spanish. And there are elements of Coco that anyone can identify with – family, life passions, and the care-free spirit of just being a kid.

“We’re just honored and grateful that we can bring something positive and hopeful into the world that can maybe do its own small part to dissolve and erode some of the barriers that there are between us,” Unkrich told the New York Times.

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