Today was the third day of the Hunt Fellowship, and brought a different set of experiences and sources of learning.
Two sessions filled the morning. The first was fellow Hunt Fellow Sarah Kliff presenting with law professor Brie Clark and advocate Martha King about the perils and promises of health care reform.
Each of the women focused on the relationship between the states and the federal government. Clark focused on the legal challenges to health care reform, taking us through a constitutional primer that included clauses and amendments dealing with interstate commerce, the power to tax and the supremacy of the federal government over the states.
Both Martha and Sarah had a dizzying grasp of the myriad details in the 2,000-page bill, concentrating their remarks and the ensuing discussion on key provisions like the health exchanges, the individual mandates and the Medicaid expansion.
Emily Ramshaw, assistant managing editor of Texas Tribune, followed this session with one of her own that was equally impressive and engaging.
A National Fellow last year, she shared her project about Texas’ colonias, a group of more than 2,300 unincorporated areas in the state.
The residents in many of these areas live in Third World-like conditions, with cockroaches, vermin and dirt floors, but without running water, paved roads and streets.
It was wrenching material indeed, and Emily also included information about one of the colonias where residents refused to accept their poor treatment and fought a lengthy but ultimately successful battle to have the paved roads, sidewalks, street lights and running water that so many of us never even consider.
After lunch, the Hunt Fellows and our editors met with Senior Fellow Martha Shirk to get input on our projects.
Out of respect for my colleagues’ confidentiality, I am not at liberty to share what I learned, and I can say confidently that the projects have much potential.
And tonight we saw The Blue Hour, Eric Nazarian’s haunting paean to the Los Angeles River, where, he told us, he smoked his first cigarette and stole his first kiss.
The film is divided into four vignettes that show the city’s ethnic and racial diversity, people at different points in the life cycle and residents’ disconnection from each other.
Nazarian, who spoke about the film before the screening and answered questions about it afterward, called it a “quiet” film, and it’s true that there is little dialogue in the work.
But there is plenty of emotion and action, if not the type that one typically sees in a Transformers film. Each vignette contains elements of death, touch, alienation, drinking, and smoking while touching on the youth, adulthood, middle age and old age the main characters experience. As opposed to Crash, another Los Angeles film where the characters are all interconnected, in The Blue Hour, the connections are far more fleeting and indirect.
The Blue Hour is not easy watching, but that is different from saying it’s not worth seeing. The film was only the latest in a variety of resources that have in different ways pushed and educated and inspired us.
Tomorrow, we go in person to the River Nazarian portrayed to meet activists seeking to restore the water’s concrete reality to its former glory. In the afternoon, another panel.
We will learn from both.