Raven Ancar sheds light on Black student experience in self-directed film

Nile Pierre, News Editor

The Hullabaloo sat down with Tulane freshman Raven Ancar to discuss the inspirations and process behind the making of her first film, “The Veil.” The documentary, based on “the veil” present in W.E.B. Dubois’s “The Souls of Black Folks,” details the experiences of Black students at Tulane.

Nile Pierre: What inspired you to make this documentary?

Raven Ancar: I’ve always wanted to make a film, and when I got to Tulane it wasn’t really on my mind until I took an Intro to Africana Studies class. One of the concepts we talked about was [W. E. B.] Dubois, and we read essays out of “The Souls of Black Folks.” One of the ones we read had the concept of the veil and double consciousness. When I was hearing my professor talk, I was like, “That’s how I feel every day at Tulane.” This veil some type of disconnect between me and my white counterparts.

Dubois got invited to this dinner with other white professors, and he was really excited to go. When he got there, they ate without him and he had to eat in the kitchen with the workers. I was like, “That’s how I feel. I’m here. I got admitted just like everyone else did, yet I’m still not accepted,” and that’s how a lot of my friends felt. So then after that I was like, “You know, I’m gonna try this.”

Photo courtesy of Raven Ancar

P: Did you get any pushback for your first film?

A: I’m just a freshman. I just got here. I don’t know all of the resources that I have. So I was afraid that if they got a whiff of what was spurring, they’d just try to stop this and it’d be like just back in high school. But I took precautions for that. I have a team of three other people, and we did this all by ourselves just four people. We kept it very small. I only asked people I was familiar with and aware of, and I knew what they wanted to happen. I completed this all by myself. I edited this all by myself. The only copies, I have, because I don’t want it to get out. But there’s been pushback. I’ve gotten comments from white students they’ll just say under their breath that it’s dumb. I’ve had my flyers torn and ripped. But I feel like the topic has spread and circulated.

P: So when you were looking for people to be in your documentary and when you were actually making it, what were some of the feelings of the other students? Did they feel the same way as you that there was “a veil?”

A: A lot of the students were saying things like, “I see myself the way I wanna see, but then because we wear these veils over our heads, we see what white people think of us, too. Because ‘the veil’ is the white man’s perspective.” When we’re looking in the mirror, we see ourselves, we want to see ourselves. But we also see the way white people want to look at you dangerous, stupid, athlete all of these things kept coming up. The film is very interesting because it’s individual stories but there’s this one theme that connects all of them together, which I think is the Black experience at Tulane.

P: So who’s your audience for this film? Is it other black students at this school? Is it all of the students? Is it beyond this school? Who do you want to see this?

A: One of my target groups is the Black students because, honestly, even though this is specific to Tulane, I think this experience is at any [predominantly white institution]. One of my really close friends she goes to Yale. She’s an English major, and she was helping me understand all of the paradigms and all of the layers of “the veil” when I was making the film. And she was like, “I’m having the same issues here.” So it doesn’t matter where you go. Even at LSU, you’re going to experience discrimination and prejudice. And I want to reach out to the Black students because it’s making it real. One thing that white kids, personally I’ve experienced, when you call them out on microaggressions, it’s like, “Woah, I’m not racist.” And they try to discard it like it wasn’t an exchange. But the great thing about “The Veil” is that you can touch it. It’s tangible. Your experience is real. Validating that through film is one of the goals that I want people to have when they see the film, especially Black students, but also white students. I did interview white students, and they’re used for comparison. Because I can understand when you see your experience. A white student could never walk into a Black student’s shoes and vice versa. So just being able to see it cut your peers, people you will see walking around here and their experience will make it real. And maybe might change the way they live and some of the things that they say.

P:  Where do you see this going for you? Do you want to make more? Do you want to inspire others to do this same type of thing?

A: I’m going to post it on YouTube. But also there’s a [Black Student Union] at Yale. I have some professors that say they would like to screen it in their classrooms. I just want to spread it out to whoever wants to watch it. So that’s my next thing. I am not a film student, this is my first film. That’s why I’m so excited. I was inspired in high school through an experience, and I was inspired again here. If you have a passion for film or photography, and you’re not familiar with it, that shouldn’t stop you. You don’t have to take a class. You don’t have to do anything now with YouTube. You can learn and do whatever you want, especially if you’re passionate about it. It was a lot of work because a lot of chunk of my time was figuring out how to work the camera and figuring out how to work the editing programs. You have to put in the work, but if you love what you do, it shouldn’t matter.

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