What does it really look like when mothers are responsible for doing both professional work and the labor of raising kids and overseeing their education during the pandemic–all while confined to the four walls of their own homes? New Orleans filmmaker Kiyoko McCrae has turned her lens on these deeply personal moments in her short documentary We Stay in the House, which premieres online on Thursday, August 12 as part of Hindsight.
The film follows four mothers of color, including McCrae, as they navigate COVID, job loss and transitions, and remote work and school. She says, “I feel like I really made it for the moms, fellow mothers, and wanting to feel less invisible.”
The idea grew out of an online discussion last summer with CAAM fellows and CAAM Talent Development and Special Projects Manager Sapana Sakya. “It was great to connect with other filmmakers. I think I had said in that meeting, ‘How are y’all doing this?’, because it’s just overwhelming, trying to be an artist, be a parent. And just make everything work and also just keep financially afloat,” McCrae recalls.
A few months later, when she learned of the opportunity to apply for the Hindsight project, a collaboration supporting BIPOC filmmakers in the American South documenting the pandemic, she knew exactly what she would document. “This is the only thing that I could really speak to right now is my lived experience of being a mother and trying to, you know, just stay afloat. Take care of my family and myself through this craziness.”
She immediately thought of her friend Tiffany, who was hospitalized for COVID in the spring of 2020, and whose social media videos countered the common perception at the time that young, healthy people would not become seriously ill from the coronavirus. “I was really wanting to make a film about what happens when the media is not focused on what happens to everyday people in their everyday struggles of just taking care of their families through this.”
The other subjects included Ashleigh–a comedian turned teacher, and Lauren, a theater maker whose livelihood was dashed by the pandemic. McCrae even turns the camera on herself, showing her children looking over her shoulder as she attempts to edit video on a computer in her kitchen.
“It was kind of an exercise in madness. But it was also therapeutic,” McCrae explains. “It felt really good to be able to make something that felt meaningful to me that spoke to my experience, also be a way to kind of reclaim who I am. But it also came at a cost. It was very, very stressful to be juggling all those things.”
All of the mothers in the film have partners, but for the most part, they remain off-screen. “Everybody had different circumstances,” she explains. “But the thing that I kept noticing, I was like, it was remarkable how much was falling on women for whatever reason.”
We Stay in the House premieres online on Thursday, August 12. It is one of six films by BIPOC Southern filmmakers as part of Hindsight, a collaboration between Firelight Media, Reel South, and the Center for Asian American Media.
Watch We Stay in the House and all of the Hindsight films on the WORLD Channel’s YouTube channel.