Erica Nguyen is a first generation Vietnamese-American filmmaker and traveler, now based seasonally in New Mexico and Joshua Tree. Her interdisciplinary studies at UC Berkeley revolved around Anthropology, Ethnographic Film, Sociolinguistics and Spanish; ultimately framing her filmmaking process as an extension of an ongoing query into the nature of how estrangement from our origins manifests in our bodies.
After years of becoming versed in how the arts represent communities, from Oakland’s Creative Growth studio for people with disabilities to Peruvian documentary collective DOCUPERU’s touring grassroots workshops, Erica has grown increasingly familiar with her outsider status both at home and abroad. Her personal experience of loss around cultural identity motivates a desire to encounter urgent stories and collaborate through mutual self study.
This independent project was realized by a small international female crew who embrace reciprocal methodologies. Approaching storytelling with reflexivity and subject participation in mind, each filming expedition included the facilitation of zine/podcast workshops with collaborating communities. These collective works have gone on to make appearances at Zine Fests, and select podcast soundscapes are introduced throughout the film. In solidarity, “Shadow Weavers” aspires to make visible the struggles of cultures that are fighting to promote the relevance of their unique cosmovision. As the Director and Producer, Erica’s vision is to celebrate the intersections that leave us spanning worlds and making meaning in between.
“Shadow Weavers” is her first feature documentary, a collective portrait of Peruvian hat makers who serve as stewards of a dying language. The story illustrates a fading craft that has been the grounds of an ancestral haven for the transformation of wool and straw into legible symbols of one’s identity. Presently, there remains an unspoken form of communication within the diverse hat cultures of Perú. Be it in a gesture or color pattern, these heirlooms preserve one’s sense of belonging to a community and a place. Yet these markings of identity atop one’s head are being stripped off by newer generations to accommodate changing ways of life.