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Madison-based Bravebird threads line between art and activism

Madison-based Bravebird threads line between art and activism

trace the line panelists

Panelists Greg Hatton (pictured top left), Alejandro Miranda Cruz (top right), Mark Fraire (bottom left) and Zach Brandon (bottom right) discuss Bravebird's latest feature film "Trace the Line" and the intersection of arts, activism, and social inequity.

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Bravebird, an Indigenous and woman-owned video production company based in Madison, hosted a virtual panel Thursday afternoon addressing the intersection of arts, activism and social inequity within Wisconsin arts and beyond.

Tying in themes from the company’s most recent feature film, “Trace the Line,” Trace the Line Community Conversations featured the voices of director, screenwriter, and Bravebird co-founder Alejandro Miranda Cruz, cinematographer Greg Hatton, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon, and Dane Arts Director Mark Fraire.

The hour-long virtual event was the second in a series of conversations that will continue throughout the rest of the year. Panelists discussed topics ranging from representation onscreen and the impact of COVID to the ways community leaders are working to support creative people of color.

“I think the biggest thing that came out of this experience was kind of a call to action, to really engage with people,” Hatton said of his time filming with Bravebird.

Hatton noted that despite the many uncertainties that the pandemic brought to freelancers like himself, his time working on the film galvanized his craft as a photographer and a storyteller.

“Trace the Line” follows two independent Wisconsin artists — a Black poet named Asa and a white painter named Eva — who process the social upheaval created in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and last summer’s nationwide demonstrations against police brutality.

Filmed over 21 days, the coming-of-age tale sought to portray its subjects onscreen with dignity, as well as provide their crew behind-the-scenes with equitable opportunities.

That’s the philosophy of Cruz and his co-founder and spouse Noel Miranda’s video company. Dubbed “Cinema Dignité,” the production company strives to focus on gender and racial equity within their production crew, inspired by Cruz’s 17 years working in Hollywood in front of and behind the camera.

“I kept getting cast typed into delinquent roles,” said Cruz. His onscreen work began when he was eight years old, starring in television series’ like “Walker, Texas Ranger” and Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster sequel “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.”

“I couldn’t quite articulate what I was feeling as a kid, but it just didn’t feel right,” Cruz said.

It wasn’t until Cruz was a bit older that he could articulate his dissatisfaction with the myriad of stereotypical roles he was thrust into.

“I want to evolve the narrative; I want to evolve the industry. Things are shifting little by little, and I hope that our team will be another drop in the bucket,” said Cruz.

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