Shamira Raphaëla is a half-Aruban, half-Dutch television director living in Amsterdam. From the outside, her world seems structured and ordered. She spends her days traveling the world and telling stories from behind her camera lens. However Raphaëla’s 60-year old father, Pempy, and older brother, Andy, live almost parallel lives. Pempy has been addicted to heroine and crack for more than thirty years, and is constantly in and out of jail. Andy has seemingly followed in his footsteps. One would assume that Raphaëla’s story would be one of destruction and pain. And yet, her debut film “Deal With It” about her father and brother, shows something radically different. It is a film about strength, acceptance, and unconditional love.
Raphaëla screened “Deal With It” at this year’s Aruba International Film Festival. She even took time out of her hectic schedule to show me around the island. We stopped at a snack hut for a traditional Aruban breakfast of pastechis; a pastry similar to a empanada or a turnover that’s filled with meat and cheese. From there, saw a group of donkeys, stopped to see the Balashi Gold Mill Ruins, and we ended our morning by hitting up the sunning Baby Beach in San Nicolas for a swim.
We chatted about “Deal With It”, destructive cycles, and telling our stories.
Aramide Tinubu: To start off, I just wanted to commend you on your film. I’ve never seen a film dealing with theses same themes that has had the amount of warmth and love throughout the story. It was wonderful.
Shamira Raphaela: Oh thank you. It was so important to me for people to see the love. I wanted people to see the good, and not just be focused on the bad.
AT: Oh, yes that’s incredibly important. So, what inspired you to become a filmmaker? Was there a particular moment in your childhood that sparked your interest in storytelling?
SR: I guess I was always drawn to injustice, so I always wanted to like change the world. So I was like, I can either become a doctor, or I can become a storyteller and the storyteller is what I ended up going with. I’ve always been interested in people and in their perspectives. I think it’s important to tell stories to each other, because it is the only way we can better ourselves.
AT: Yes, I think that so often what ails many disenfranchised and minorities communities across the globe is the fact we don’t talk about things, and we don’t tell our stories. It becomes a cycle, and we continue these same patterns over and over again.
SR: Right, and we all have the same story, that’s the strange thing about it. Now that I’ve screened “Deal With it” all over the world, it’s like oh my God, this is the same situation that someone in Havana, Cuba is dealing with.
AT: That’s why film and mediums like it are so important, because you can touch so many people.
SR: Yes. (Laughing) But sometimes I think that if I was a doctor, I could have saved so many more people.
AT: (Laughing) Yes, but you would probably still be in school.
SR: And in debt.
AT: (Laughing) Well to move on to you father Pempy, one of the main things that stood out to me in the film, was the Tupac poster your father has hanging on his wall. What did his admiration of Tupac symbolize for you?
SR: Tupac, is his hero. He’s got Che Guevara, Scarface, and Bob Marley of course, these are all men who were rebels and anarchist against the system, and my dad identities with them because he is also against the system. He just wants to live his life unbothered and never surrender. So for him, these are really like his role models. I chose to put them in the film because it gives the audience context to see where he’s coming from. But at the same, time Tupac is critical of my dad sometimes. I got that shot of Tupac looking over at my dad like, “What are you doing?” (Laughing)
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