Tuesday 12 January 2021

Interview with documentary filmmaker Paul Allen Hunton

Paul Allen Hunton, General Manager of Texas Tech Public Media, and a 3 time Emmy winning nonfiction filmmaker, tells us about his versatile, admirable career and film work.

Hey Paul, can you tell us a bit about Texas Tech Public Media?

Sure, we are a public media hub that broadcasts and streams NPR and PBS throughout West Texas. We focus on serving our communities but also telling stories that connect to all people. We love documentary filmmaking because it helps teach people about the world around them and their place in it. It is important to discover new places, people, thoughts, and ideas, as it helps you empathize with others. That's what we strive for, to create empathy for others through the stories we tell.

How many of the films releasing through the company did you direct?

I've directed lots of shorts, created some TV shows, but have directed 2 feature length documentaries with a few more on the way. Between Earth and Sky is about climate change in the arctic of Alaska and how it effects native people. Narratives of Modern Genocide is about the survivors of modern genocide and what their stories can teach us about the world.

You gravitate towards documentaries but is there a certain type – or subject -  of documentary that you find you gravitate towards?

I've done a lot of didactic, interview based documentary. Lately I've been more interested in art documentaries, or more specifically, documentaries that tell stories through abstract visuals and ideas of image, sound, and perspective.

Can you tell us about some of the research, and researchers conducting it, involved in the film?

We worked with the Baylor genocide oral history project, the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, as well as the researchers in the movie, Ron Milam, Aliza Wong, and other professors. We leaned on their expertise to better understand genocide in history and in the present time.

What do you believe is the film's significance?

The film tells the story of former Ambassador to the UN under President George W. Bush, Sichan Siv, and Gilbert Tuhabonye. Both survived genocides in their home countries of Cambodia and Burundi. Both are strong survivors who succeeded greatly for themselves after an arduous journey to America. They both embody the American dream, to come to this country and work hard and find your place, it is a pretty special thing. They also teach us something about survival, what it means to survive and continue living. I think that's important.  

What happened to Tuhabonye wasn't that long ago. How do you feel he and Siv have recovered since their ordeal?

I wouldn't want to answer for them, but I'd say through my experience working with them that the tragedies and pain they've endured will be with them forever. Yet, somehow they've survived and continue to show strength, hope, love and inspiration.

NARRATIVES OF MODERN GENOCIDE is now available on DVD and Digital