Meet the Fellow: Hanna Wallis

Hanna Wallis is a multimedia journalist and documentary filmmaker reporting on indigenous rights in Latin America. It’s in Colombia where she decided that telling stories was what she wanted to dedicate her life to. She has spent three years following the guardia indígena, an unarmed civilian defense force within the Ecuadorian Amazon. She’s working on a documentary film about the legacy of indigenous resistance in the region situated in the eyes of a young daughter of a woman leader of the guardia indígena. At this point in her career, Hanna has also covered indigenous issues in Mexico and the United States but has maintained an impassioned dedication to her work in Colombia.

What motivates your continued coverage in the region?

A lot of what interests me about the stories that we’re pursuing (in Medellín) is how it speaks to the current state of the peace process because we’re investigating the stories of people who finally have a chance to seek out more clarity. I think there’s a lot embedded in that, and that’s very universal for victims in Colombia.

So many people are carrying an extraordinary pain; it’s such an old conflict that’s touched so many people but there’s this alegría on the surface that’s very infectious so it’s not until you probe that you often find what people have been through.

I feel that as a journalist, working on a character piece, I often struggle with not really caring about the people I am writing about or filming. If I’ve taken the time to tell their story then I have found a way to really care about them and it’s lended itself to a certain kind of storytelling where I just want to keep going deeper with the same topics rather than covering news in a fast way because I think there’s so much complexity, particularly in Colombia there’s these layers and so much to say beyond any immediate political moment. That’s shaped how I tell stories, it’s made me more interested in video rather than print news because I feel it really gives me a chance to dignify people; to actually see and feel and connect with a person in their own voice.