Inspiration can find us at any moment. That’s what happened to Jasilyn Charger, a young Lakota woman suffering through multiple family tragedies and dealing with substance abuse issues. Her brother’s words of encouragement broke through her malaise and she “woke up,” becoming the cofounder of the International Indigenous Youth Council and rallying youth to support the resistance of Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline protest. “There was a moment when I faced my dragon, and I won,” she says in the beautiful short film “Jasilyn: Activist of the Land” by Lina Plioplyte.
“Jasilyn: Activist of the Land” is part of our #IShapeMyWorld film series, launched in the collaboration with Girlgaze, an L.A.-based company that is determined to close the gender gap by creating opportunities for its global community of creators. (Read our interview with Amanda de Cadenet, founder of Girlgaze.)
We spoke with Plioplyte about her film, Jasilyn, Native American media representation, Girlgaze and more.
How did you choose your subject for the #IShapeMyWorld film project?
I first found out about Jasilyn in the “New York Times.” She’s one of the first Water Protectors and spent almost a year in Standing Rock when she started her activism work. Her story is a great example of standing up for what’s right and lifting above her life’s circumstances. She has found her purpose and followed it. I find those kinds of lives the most inspiring and the most important to share.
What message are you hoping it conveys?
We don’t see Native Americans represented as part of American landscape in media. I believe that as the first Americans, they are crucial in understanding these lands and its history. Native American stories should be heard and celebrated. I’m hoping to share Jasilyn’s message of respecting the earth, the importance of spirituality in one’s life and the need to stand up for one’s community.
Did you discover anything unexpected while working with Jasilyn?
I did not realize prior to filming that Jasilyn lives in one of the poorest counties in the United States. The living conditions are harsh, some households don’t have simple utensils and tools that you’d think are affordable to everyone. And her reservation is not the only one. Native Americans have endured continuous persecution and harsh conditions, without the support that the rest of the country has. You can really feel it once you’re in these little towns. That made Jasilyn’s story even more heartfelt and emotional. It made me realize my privilege, made me understand that we, the filmmakers, must do more than just observe. All of us, who feel affected by the scarcity around us, can support, donate, get involved, get political, tell honest stories, shine a light on the heroes who have less than most.
How did you get involved with the Girlgaze community, and how has it impacted your life?
I’ve worked with Amanda de Cadenet for years, doing camera work on various projects. I was elated when she started Girlgaze because it’s very aligned with my own values as a filmmaker, to support women and tell women’s stories. I truly enjoy working on all-women crews, and it’s wonderful that Girlgaze stands for that. We’ve created some inspiring and important work together.
Can you tell us about another film you’ve directed that had a message that would resonate with women?
I directed the feature documentary “Advanced Style,” which is about stylish women 62 – 95 years old, living in New York City and fearlessly expressing themselves through personal appearance. The film resonates not only with anyone who forgot the power that creative dressing has — reminding us to go play in our closets — but to young women everywhere, who are shown a different idea of a “woman of a certain age.”
What do you want people to think about this Women’s History Month?
I hope we realize and recognize how many women — artists, scientists, mentors — have come before us, women who have not been acknowledged in the history books. I hope we continue to polish the conversation about gender relations and the gender gap, and find more and more common understanding with men about women’s issues.
If you had one piece of advice for the next generation of young women coming up in today’s society, what would it be?
Love and support other women. Together we are powerful, connected we grow. Seek out friendships from women you admire and collaborate, don’t compete.
What does #IShapeMyWorld mean to you?
Don’t hesitate and don’t let your fears stop you. Your fears are the indicator that you should do it. You are bigger than your insecurities and your ego, so once you find your mission — pursue it.