The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Disney talks film, life, growth

Courtesy Photo
Abigail Disney spoke about her less than easy path to her filmmaking niche, and the challenges one faces when coming into their own in the shadow of family.

ALLYN OXLEY, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






During the past few days, UNI students, faculty and community members have been granted a deeper understanding of documentary filmmaker Abigail Disney through the William & Stephanie Clohesy Documentary Film Series.

Two of Disney’s documentaries, “Armor of Light” and “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” were screened on campus this past Monday and Tuesday, respectively.

Disney, who is the granddaughter of Roy Disney, co-founder of the Walt Disney Company and brother of Walt Disney, grew up with one of the greatest lineages in filmmaking. However, Disney would not describe her journey to filmmaking as a straight path.

Early on, she was unable to see clearly what she wanted to do with her life. Still, she knew that this would only build her knowledge and strength in preparation for her true calling.

“When you figure everything out early, you really haven’t figured it out,” Disney said.

She continued to search for her niche through her education, her philanthropy work and raising her four children. Although Disney found great joy in watching her kids grow up and spending time with them as she worked for different non-profits, she felt she wasn’t getting to the root of the work she was doing.

“You’re responding to other people’s plans, and that’s good; you’re doing good in the world, but it’s not you doing the good,” Disney said. “It’s grandpa’s money, and it’s grandpa’s work and grandpa’s creativity. It wasn’t me. And I started really craving to generate a fully whole person in my own right, and there were about three years there where I was a mess.”

It was at this point in her life where Disney drew a connection from her story to the story of many college students today — all trying to find their passion and not knowing when, where or how to find it.

“I understand that phase so much because it’s really hard,” Disney said.

It wasn’t until she was 46 years old, when she was asked to travel to Liberia as a part of her philanthropic work, that she found her passion.

“Someone invited me to come to Liberia, and it was part of my philanthropic work to go to Liberia,” Disney said. “I was going there because I was interested in women’s political leadership, and they had just elected a woman president, and I said, ‘Well, this is interesting and challenging.’”

According to Disney, Liberia sparked an interest that she hadn’t experienced before — leaving her with a desire to uncover stories and shed light on areas of darkness where many people don’t venture to look.

Her experience in Liberia eventually resulted in the making of “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” which focuses on the role women play in bringing peace to the country.

“I came home so clear that that film needed making, and I needed a lot of persuading to actually go out and make it,” Disney said. “Yet, until that moment when I stepped off the airplane, and I felt that bolt of electricity in my leg — knowing I knew how to do that job — until that moment, I wasn’t sure it was me who should be doing it.”

In that single moment, Disney was sure that she was meant to be a filmmaker — to tell stories and provide others with a voice for the rest of the world to hear. For Disney, her life before coming to this conclusion was not wasted in any sense of the word.

“Even though I was 46 years old when I found my path — that’s a long time to wait to find your path…I don’t think I wasted a minute,” Disney said.

Disney’s advice to those searching for their passion is simple: learn, work hard and enjoy the ride.  

“Always learn and always be open to learning things that have nothing to do with what you’re doing,” Disney said. “Be hungry for every piece of knowledge that you can get your hands on because…you will never get old if you’re always a beginner at something.”

Print Friendly

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Changing political rhetoric

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Iowa Campus Compact Recognizes UNI Faculty and Students

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Now Introducing: Jamal & Tristan- Pres & Vice Pres

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    First-ever UNI Truman Scholar

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    The William & Stephanie Clohesy Documentary Film Series

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Students showcase worldly fashions

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Softball reigns supreme in Dome, 12-3 home record

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    House, Senate ban 20-week abortions

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    24/7 Student Space

  • Disney talks film, life, growth

    News

    Zine highlights fashion scene

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa
Disney talks film, life, growth