Leslie Ann Epperson

On Thursday, March 22 (the day this issue officially hits the streets), All Souls Procession supporters and participants can watch a preview of Leslie Ann Epperson's documentary-in-the-making on the history and artists involved. Many Bones, One Heart starts at 7 p.m. at the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. The screening includes a discussion on festival culture with procession creator Susan Kay Johnson, artistic director Nadia Hagen, director Paul Weir and UA folklore scholar Maribel Alvarez. If you have a special story to share, contact Epperson at 207-5348, or email her.

What is your film background?

I'm on the board at Access Tucson, but I worked at AZPM (Arizona Public Media) when it was KUAT; went to grad school; and before that, I worked in Illinois at a PBS affiliate in Champaign-Urbana. I was in a very bad car accident in 1999, and I ended up having to leave work. It took a long time to recover, but I've recovered enough that I wanted to start this documentary. I was initially going to do a short documentary on the All Souls Procession, but then as I began investigating it, I realized it was a much bigger story than I had first anticipated.

Why All Souls?

I'd been doing photography art for years at the procession, because I love the artistic constructions of very inventive people who participate, and I also liked what it was about—loss and grief. It seemed like a very poignant fusion to me of loss and celebration and art and creativity. ... I realized it was an important story. It is the only nonsecular festival for reflecting on loss and death in the United States.

What else attracted you to the procession?

It really wasn't so much the creativity itself, but the fact that it is free, that I've had a lot of loss in my own life, and everyone I have interviewed had loss stories. ... Then there is the fact that the founder and current organizers do this out of love for the community and out of self-expression and sharing that—and, of course, the finale (is) so amazing. ... As I get to know Susan Johnson and Nadia Hagen and Paul Weir better, I'm just impressed with them as people and their commitment to making art and sharing art. It's not about money; it's about living for an ideal.

Why the screening and discussion?

It's one of those things documentary producers are expected to do these days in the independent community—plan outreach campaigns right from the get-go. ... I met with Maribel Alvarez, and she'd been advising me for quite a while on the folkways and how this is very common for people to come up with their own ways and getting together as a community ... and as we were planning the outreach campaign, she said it would be nice to have people participate right from the start. I thought, "That's a good idea." I don't like the idea of me making all these decisions without any input from the community when it is a community event.

Is this also a Tucson story?

Oh, it is very much a Tucson story. It is, in a sense, a portrait of Tucson. One of the things I loved about Tucson when I moved here in 1992 was the multicultural community. I am from Chicago originally, which is very diverse, and I loved that about it. It was just part of me. When I moved here, I was really, really pleased to see the Latin-American community and the Native-American community, and then I went to Tucson Meet Yourself, and it continued. Tucson is a refugee kind of place, where all sorts of people show up. I really love that about it. I hope we hear from many people and find out what they are working on in the fall. We want to know where people are making wild constructions that are a labor of love. ... We can show up and document it. The great thing about film is that the visuals say what needs to be said. I don't have to say a word. And that's very different from the essay style, where we tell you what to think. This is character-driven. I want viewers to come to their own conclusions in watching it, and people will see what Tucson is all about.

More by Mari Herreras


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