Dear Michelle Obama,
Admittedly, you and I don’t talk much (read: never). Even so, I’m a big fan of your work and I hope you’re doing well. I don’t expect you to reply to this post but I did have one question for you: Did you know that you recently starred in a film?
You really should.
Because you’d be proud of it.
Written and directed by 13-year-old Kalia Love Jones, The Power of Hope is an animated short that tells the story of a young woman who has big dreams of becoming an architect. When her mother becomes ill, she feels overwhelmed and helpless. However, after hearing a powerful speech by former First Lady Michelle Obama, she is inspired to find the strength to persevere and bring her dreams to life.
Beautifully written and animated, Jones’ short is both charming and challenging. Though brief in length, her desire to empower young girls to overcome the trials that they face shines through, providing encouragement to everyone who watches. Considering her young age, there’s a maturity within the story-telling and visuals that makes this short film an impressive debut for Jones. Gradually moving from shadow to light, the film’s images emphasize the importance of looking for hope in the midst of life’s moments of deepest darkness. From having to care for a sick parent to struggling financially, Jones’ short is willing to stare down the most difficult of circumstances and prove that they need not define or defeat you. For Jones, the message is clear.
No matter what you’re going through, you can do it.
What’s most interesting about the film though is how Jones uses Obama’s (your?) speech within the film. Sitting broken in her living room, the young girl overhears the former First Lady’s voice on the television and is instantly transfixed by it. Then, as her hero’s words of hope sink in, she decides to fight for her future. From there, the voiceover takes over the remainder of the film, walking with her through each stage of life. Though leading the narrative component, its true importance lies in the way that it gives the young girl something to cling to and points to the impact that people of influence can have on a generation. Never once does Jones’ character meet Obama or receive any direct help from her yet she owes a great deal to her words. For this young girl, Obama’s message of confidence gives her courage in the face of the overwhelming odds against her.
This sentiment is also echoed throughout the film’s closing credits, as Jones chooses to highlight other women who have inspired her in her young life. From Ava DuVernay to Ellen DeGeneres to Awkwafina, Jones highlights women of different ethnicities who have become trailblazers in their diverse fields yet have also provided an example of succeeding in the face of adversity to young women everywhere. Although Jones may have never met or spoken to any of these particular women, it’s clear that she holds them in high esteem and views them as people who matter.
Their example has provided an example for her to follow.
So Mrs. Obama, I hope that you get a chance to see Kalia’s film. Not only because it’s enjoyable and effective but because I believe that it’s a testament to the voice that you have given to the next generation.
And, like Jones herself, that voice has proven incredibly powerful.
For audio of our interview with Kalia Love Jones, click here.
The Power of Hope premieres at the Shorts by the Sea Festival in September.