Liberty Hill

Director : Karen Graham 

On the 4th November 1979, a group of Iranian college students, in support of the country’s revolution, invaded the US embassy in Tehran. The 52 American diplomats and citizens working inside were taken captive, some for 444 days, making it the longest running hostage crisis in history. At the same time, some 7000 miles away on a farm in Liberty Hill, Texas, Karen Collins was following the story and quilting. It’s a skill she didn’t so much as learn, more, inherited; a family tradition passed down through generations of mothers and daughters. Now, some thirty years later the quilt, a sea of crimson surrounding twelve blank faces united by a black band, lies in front of Katie Graham’s camera. “Maybe I was just working through this, cause it was bothering me something terrible,” she says, “thinking about these hostages.” It serves as premonition of what was to come in Karen’s later life, a hint at a political conscience that was lying dormant, only to be roused into action following the 2016 election. Until the results were announced on that now infamous November night, Karen had been passive to politics. She was aware of course, but relatively unengaged. If you’d asked her to name her congressman, she wouldn’t have been able to. Now she can, now she knows every single person in her government and their phone numbers. In the year or so since Donald Trump took office, there have been reams of voter profiles, of those in support and those opposed to the President. Each one tries to offer a contribution to the understanding of this new world, the one without rules. There’s something about Liberty Hill though, something that feels different to the rest. I watched it over and over, for no other reason than pure enjoyment. Maybe it’s because of Karen. A softly spoken Grandmother, a woman who got her first gun at the age of 11, who was called from her seemingly idyllic retirement to fight for something she vehemently believed in, but something she could have so easily ignored. A woman who didn’t wait to be told what to do. A woman who learnt. Motivated by nothing other than pure passion, she assembled a small army of women to take a stand, to rewrite wrongs and fight for change. Whatever your politics, I defy you not to feel inspired by Karen. Katie Graham cleverly frames and structures the entire nine minutes of this film, initially lulling us into a false sense of serenity, a sense of comfort shown through Karen’s family history, before subtly and quietly letting this story of resistance come to life. Graham somehow manages to keep her distance, and at the same time, get incredibly close making it impossible not to be captivated and impassioned by Karen. From this small film, comes a powerful message. Be your own leader, wait for no one.

Ami Guest