Camilo Silva standing against background of Teton mountainsMFA grad Camilo Silva has filmed a short documentary exploring the issue of book banning and its impact on a small community’s library.

Filmmaker explores library controversy in thesis documentary

Camilo Silva is back globetrotting after earning his Master of Fine Arts in film at the School of Creative Arts (SoCA), where he spent two years crafting a documentary short that explores the issue of book banning and its impact on a small community’s library.

Silva returned to his home in California to resume work with an adventure-based travel company after spending the last two years working on his degree and thesis project.

“Windsor was a great surprise,” Silva said. “I feel lucky for the time I spent there, which was post-pandemic when things were just beginning to open. It was class, and I was very close with our professors. I had good communication with all of them and a lot of access to them.”

To get into the SoCA program, Silva needed to pitch a thesis idea. However, upon arrival, he decided to pivot and focus his film on a more localized story. Silva dove into research, searching for a strong foundation for his narrative. This led him to investigate the rising trend of book banning across the United States — particularly a story in Michigan.

According to local media reports, the Patmos Library in Hudsonville, Mich., garnered national attention when voters defunded it twice due to the inclusion of LGBTQ+-themed books — a first in U.S. history, Silva said. The defunding votes led to heated public meetings, widespread media coverage, and significant community division.

“That struck a chord with me,” he explained. “I was pretty shocked that a community was willing to sacrifice an institution, something that’s kind of like the centre of most communities.”

Silva emphasized that libraries play a critical role beyond being book repositories. They provide spaces for seniors and veterans, free Wi-Fi access, and essential community services.

“The community essentially said, ‘We don’t like these three books in your library, so we’re going to pull all your funding and force you to shut down unless you comply with our demands.’ Holding the library hostage like that was pretty shocking, but it also made me think, ‘This would make a perfect documentary.’”

Entitled The Canary, his film focuses on the efforts of a librarian in the community, who is also the mother of a trans child.

“It follows the internal conflict of a mother trying to reconcile her responsibilities to her child with her job as a library worker and librarian while dealing with a community that opposes her efforts,” Silva explained. “There are so many angles to this story that I found it incredibly compelling and beautiful. She’s so kind, which inspired me to make a documentary short about her life and her struggle with this community, fighting to keep their library open.”

Silva is finalizing the film, sharing it with friends, and preparing submissions to several festivals.

“Every time I show it to people, it sparks a conversation,” he said. “They want to discuss it more and more. The beautiful thing about all kinds of artwork is you start with an idea in your head, and then when you see it come alive, it is so rewarding. I think this is a beautiful story and is something that I can continue with and has another life outside of school.”

To learn more about Silva and his work, visit

Watch a trailer for The Canary:

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