At some point in almost everyone’s life, there comes a challenge so overwhelming, so painful, that it forces a course of action – to run and hide, or to turn and head bravely Into the Storm. For filmmaker Sandra Salas, that defining challenge occurred in the midst of her own family on the day her Father took a gun and killed her Mother and then turned the gun on himself. Into the Storm is the heart-wrenching, inspiring journey of Sandra’s life as she confronts the complexities of the domestic violence that shattered her family and contemplates starting a family of her own.
Into the Storm is a story about legacy – about the legacy caused by cycles of domestic violence, and the desire to create a new family legacy of one’s own, one that reverses violence and builds on hope and forgiveness. It’s the autobiographical tale of filmmaker Sandra Salas, the youngest of the five Salas siblings born to Irma and Rudy Salas Jr. It’s the story of a deeply loving family who battled against the dark despair of violent abuse, and the toll that violence took on their lives long after the day that Rudy Salas Jr. killed his wife and then killed himself. The story follows Sandra as she contemplates beginning a family of her own while coming to terms with her family’s painful history. Sandra begins to search for answers, while learning that the only way to truly change is for her to journey into the storm headfirst and confront the fear that she may never be free from the dark secrets of her past.
The film unfolds as a rich family journal – a visual diary of a loving, but troubled, past, deftly edited and woven with a contemporary account of Sandra’s life, her struggles, and her hopes as she begins a new chapter of her life as a newlywed and starts to plan for a future she never dreamed was possible but is still afraid she may lose because of her broken past. Into the Storm draws on raw, moving interviews with Sandra’s siblings, her extended family, and close family friends – as well as home movies and family photos – to bring Rudy and Irma to life again, to trace the family fault lines that ended in tragedy. Sandra also plays an important part on screen, helping to re-tell the story, and also helping to move the story forward. The film’s journal-like narrative is also anchored with poetic voice-over that serves as a snapshot of the racing thoughts and fears occupying Sandra’s mind – as she navigates the treacherous path of uncovering her family’s secrets so she can have a future free from the past.
Be the buffalo.
Sandra first heard this famous Cherokee life lesson from her oldest brother just a year before their mother’s murder. On a bicycle trip from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C., he sent her a postcard telling her to pay attention to the buffalo she would encounter along the route.
“When there’s a storm, cows and other animals run away from it,” he said. “But, the buffalo charges directly toward the storm and gets through it quicker.”
Little did Sandra know that only one year later this life lesson would be so tragically significant to her life. After her mom was murdered, Sandra was overcome by grief and used dubious ways to deal with the pain, thinking she could outrun it. When Sandra finally hit rock bottom, she realized the importance of her family’s vow. She wants to help fulfill that vow and because of her nephew Lorenzo, she has to do it now.She also wants to create a new legacy for her mother, one that truly represents her mother’s life. Her mother wasn’t just a victim despite being victimized—she was more than that.
Sandra has to “be the buffalo” to fulfill these goals. She has to charge directly towards the family’s disease, in search of answers to the difficult question, “How do you end domestic violence?”