Aylin Sözen is a Black, Turkish self-taught filmmaker and spoken-word artist born in Bremen, Germany. Aylin moved to Texarkana, Texas at the age of 7 and relocated to Denton, Texas after high school to attend the University of North Texas where she received a bachelor’s in journalism. Shortly after graduating, she returned to Texarkana, Texas to reflect on her purpose and passion, and in 2018 she met Cesar Jaralillo with whom she created the documentary film OffCenter. Her directorial debut OffCenter transpired out of her desire to create a space for Black and brown queer people to express themselves while existing in the conventional South. OffCenter was selected to screen at the 2019 Left Forum Conference in Brooklyn, New York and UC Santa Barbara’s 2020 Cup of Culture event. We Save Us is her latest documentary film. Aylin currently resides in Brooklyn, New York and is working on a hip-hop EP.
We Save Us was an effort to create a film reflecting the panorama of emotions coming from the very people enduring the trauma perpetuated by white supremacy during one of the most divisive presidential elections in the history of America. This view influenced the decision to shoot in black and white, to convey those political tones reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement.
Elements of low-fi cinema combined with various montage techniques are used to highlight moments of high tension, namely moments where police use force against protesters or when protestors confront police about their grievances. I wanted We Save Us to play out like a visual poem, so when it came time to edit, we layered different soundscapes that included segments of speeches from activists, Black-Lives-Matter chants, and police audio captured during the four days of filming in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. We also experimented with sound repetition to really emphasize the message of the people, which is that Black people are tired of a tug-of-war concept of justice.
We Save Us tells that the community’s most pressing issue is still the fight against police violence, which is also the fight against institutional racism, and that fight is still as urgent as it was last summer, as it was in the 60s and 70s. It was also important for me to emphasize the ways in which Black people just want to exist without being criminalized, and how that kind of liberation is only made possible via solidarity. I think it goes without saying that I’m personally connected to this project, and as a Black lesbian woman, I wanted marginalized people to be seen and heard, regardless of how controversial the expressions might be, regardless if those expressions demonstrate rage, sadness, or joy.