Breaking Free of the Box: Unchecking the Box
By Arianna Smith
With as large and diverse a place as our planet Earth is, there are more than six races. On the official US census however, that’s how many boxes there are in the race category. Just six, not counting the box that asks for Hispanic origins. Unchecking the Box, a student made documentary by MSU students Aaron Snyder, Dakota Johnston Caitlin Parks and others, explores why that is. Additionally, it looks at how it affects those who have to decide which box to choose, and how it could possibly be changed in the future.
The film opens with a mishmash of interview footage from several non-white and biracial students. They talk to each other and the camera about how their perceived “box” has defined their lives.
Though only twenty five minutes, the film is powerful and impacting. Race and racial identity is a touchy and sometimes fragile subject to talk about but Unchecking the Box does it in a tactful, unbiased way. Watching it, the viewer can tell that all of the producer’s energy was focused on not insulting anyone. It doesn’t present the producer’s opinions one way or the other in an open ended kind of format. Despite the distance, the film doesn’t lack any feeling or emotion. It simply presents the facts and let’s the viewers take their own stance without becoming preachy or overpowering.
The interviews were easy to connect and relate to, especially to those who share the same problem as the people in the film. The limitations of the box are brought to light, as well as how the world sees those who may look a certain way but identify as another due to different circumstances.
In terms of race documentaries, Unchecking the Box is in a category all its own with its unbiased, open ended format and truthful interviews. Hopefully those in the future will follow that example.