The Portland Counterculture Examiner recently spoke with award winning documentary director Nico Sabenorio about his latest politically charged music video for the band Rise Against.
Sabenorio is known for his work concerning human trafficking, youth violence, and drug abuse with organizations such as National Geographic and Interscope Records, among others. His latest release is a video for the “Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan, Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International” album with the song “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, about a farmer who faces difficult trials and tribulations to make ends meet.
Profits from this album will go to Amnesty international’s humanitarian efforts.
Sabenorio works with a company called Rock Hard, in Los Angeles, who has worked with bands like Rise Against in the past. When his associates at the company got involved with the band to create this informative music video, they realized he was the man for the job.
“They put out a lot of important messages… they’re very generous with their time… just down for whatever, just in terms of talking about the politics of the video, they… had a lot of good ideas, and a strong point of view about what this video should accomplish” Sabenorio said about working with Rise Against.
In the introduction, and throughout the video, there are messages about the state of underprivileged families, specifically farmers, in the United States. Sabenorio used government sources, such as the census bureau, to focus on “stats of what we see are the bigger problems” in America in order to give it a “greater context and higher impact”.
When asked if he was worried about the video coming off as “preachy” Sabenorio said; “I hope they won’t… but you can’t really put a message out there without someone saying that.”
In regards to the widespread problem of farms being shut down by companies like Monsanto for unknowingly having trademarked seeds blown into their land, Sabenorio said “it’s terrible… people are getting sued for having Monsanto corn on their land that apparently just came from some truck driving by” and that it destroys business’ which have been a family tradition for hundreds of years. He later said “it’s a classic example of… the big villain [corporations] picking on the ‘ma and pop’ farmers.”
“We didn’t really have the time to search for these farmers… we just drove… and more times than not we found people that were just excited about the project and what we had to say” Sabenorio explained. He added that he and his crew lost their keys at one point, and a family they had just met helped them search for the keys, and invited them in for dinner.
Sabenorio referred to his time in Batesland, South Dakota on the trip as the most eye opening. Batesland is a small farming town where large industrial farmers have started taking over and pushing all of the smaller operations out. “The conditions of the people living out there… and just the conditions of the town looked apocalyptic almost” he said, going on to say that some of these places seem almost like “third world nations” within our country.
The video was edited by Sabenorio in the back seat of their car as they went along. He said this was helpful to the creative process because as he went along he could keep in touch with what he already had good footage for, and what else he needed to capture. Their trip ranged from Iowa to Nevada over the course of a week, with South Dakota being the hardest struck area.
With a damaged economy and over 1.3 million Americans who lost their homes last year, as the video states, this message is sure to resonate with many working class Americans. The United States may be a “first world” nation, but with such a high divide between the rich and the poor it is important to see that even in a wealthy country there are still those struggling to survive.
Sabenorio grew up south of San Francisco in Belmont, California where he sometimes saw farmer’s experiences first hand without actually being part of a farming family.
Nico Sabenorio is currently working on a film campaign for Drug Free America regarding prescription drug abuse, and the “lethality and ease” of using and obtaining such drugs.