Who is Chris Mason?
I am an independent documentary and experimental filmmaker, who also works as a museum assistant, and volunteers as an anti-oppression educator and trainer.
What is spinning goat?
Spinning Goat Productions is the name of my filmmaking and production entity, which is basically just me right now. I just got started in filmmaking in 2012, and produce on a very low budget, so no steady crew yet.
Why the name spinning goat?
I got the name because I am a Capricorn (goat), and I have studied Turkish and eastern European fusion dance, and I tend to spin A LOT while dancing. So I put the two together. 🙂
What projects have you worked on?
I’ve actually produced about 50 films and videos, but my main works are Machete Kisumontao el Documental, a documentary short about a Pittsburgh Puerto-Rican band, which screened in Puerto Rico and New York; quite a few experimental works including licht ex, grafik, and grafik II, tunnel, Command Performance – dub edit, and States Past as well as music videos for local artists and promotional and educational videos for nonprofits and grassroots organizations.
What projects are you working on now?
3 Rivers to Cuba, a music and social issue documentary and photo project that traces the African influence on Cuban music and culture. I’m finishing a feature length piece and a photo project from my trip to Cuba; and TRANS: a documentary featuring two Transgender individuals who discuss their Trans identity, triumphs and challenges, and creative performances.
Did growing up in Pittsburg and being aware of social injustice there influence your work?
Since I was a child, I did not understand racism and treating others badly just based on the way they look. In high school, I was also drawn to international organizations that supported political prisoners and I was active around environmental issues. So, I was kind of an outcast, lol.
As I grew older, I found I was unable to accept the racism and xenophobia that persisted in my hometown, so I gradually learned about race, privilege and oppression, and I now share information about these issues of injustice and inequity, and I facilitate workshops to train people – mainly white people – to understand oppression and white supremacy in order to dismantle the systems that support it. Basically, I think it is very wrong for anyone to suffer from injustice and violence based on their skin color, gender identity, ability, age, religion, etc. As humans, I know we can do much better than we currently are.
Do you think that music plays a crucial role in activism?
I think that music plays a huge role in activism, but over the years we have seen government and private sector suppression of music with a message in order to market music that may be fun, but doesn’t have the substance – that isn’t going to lead to any change or rebellion. But the artists are still out there, all over the world, sharing their struggles and waking up the young, if not the old, to the issues that affect them. Every revolution has music! 😉
Do women have an important role in your projects?
As a woman director and producer, I value the importance of women and transwomen becoming even more prominent and prevalent in the film and other industries. C’mon, it’s 2017!!!
As far as participants in my films, I have a mixture of genders and identities, so I have not been solely focused on women/trasnwomen. But on the production side, I always reach out to women and transwomen to serve on the crew and for other things like graphic design and research, etc.
Would you call yourself a feminist?
I don’t call myself one, though I suppose I am. But I include transwomen in my version of feminism, and some don’t. I believe in women and transwomen being empowered to make their own choices, and I’m tired of myself and others being minimized, our contributions and voices being ignored, and laws being passed restricting what we can and cannot do with our own bodies – by men who are old and white. That shit is OLD.
Tell us about the project you filmed in Cuba?
3 Rivers to Cuba is a documentary and photo project that shows ties between some people in Pittsburgh to the people and culture in Cuba. A photo exhibit is being developed that shows Cuban life and its diversity. The film is a hybrid film that I’m still editing, though a 40 minute version is available to watch online. The film includes music and dance performances and history, and interviews with two Afro-Cuban activists in Havana, and much more.
The underlying theme is to show the African influence on music, culture and society in Cuba, and highlights work by activists in Havana to restore Afro-Cuban identity, acknowledge their historical and present day contributions, and to increase their economic opportunities and political participation. Racism and inequality is not a topic the Cuban government allows to be discussed in public spaces, but Afro-Cuban activists, artists, and musicians are expressing themselves and taking action in order to educate and create a more equitable society in Cuba. I traveled and filmed primarily in Santiago de Cuba and Havana in June 2016. I hope to return to Cuba to focus on underground hip hop musicians and artists, in a follow up film.
How do you express your activism?
I focus my activism and advocacy through my filmmaking and trainings. Many people suffer violence on a daily basis, while many of us look the other way. Too many children of color are being killed by police in the streets in the U.S. Too many innocent people are being bombed or attacked by the U.S. or extremist entities. Too many people fight for basic survival needs while others waste the surpluses that they have.
It is our duty to protect the innocent and the planet we live on. We have to reweave our humanity together with everyone from around the world. To quote Alice Walker: “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”