“Star Wars is the first movie that I remember ever watching,” says Paula Avila. “My dad took my brother and me to see the movie. When I stepped out of the cinema, I did not want to come out of this fantastic world that had been portrayed. It bonded me and my brother in hours and hours of pretend play and daydream…dreaming that maybe an Ewok would show up, and we could keep him at home.”
Many years have now passed since Paula and her brother first fell in love with the Skywalker saga. Originally from Colombia, Paula now lives in Angrogna, Italy, with her husband Eliseo and their children Sophia, Manuela, and Pietro. Their home is in a beautiful valley just 10 minutes from Paula’s father, Hernando, and his wife, Pilar.
“My youngest son, Pietro, was seven when the third trilogy came out,” remembers Paula. “He would enter the Star Wars world at seven, just like me. It became a family occasion for us: a special moment to welcome him to the adventures of life, to the struggles of our heroes, a preparation to face adversities and hang on to what matters.” The family began watching the entire catalogue of Star Wars films together before going to the premiere of The Force Awakens, where a new family tradition was born.
Paula and Eliseo originally met 25 years ago when they were both working onboard a volunteer ship. “All of us, 350 volunteers, young people from many different countries, were united in one same objective, with one common mission: serving others with our talents, our hearts, and our hard work in order to provide practical help, but above all to provide a message of hope and brotherly love,” Paula describes.
The couple eventually married on that same volunteer ship. Today, both work for a Swiss NGO which defends refugees, immigrants, and victims of wars and persecutions. They also run a social centre in a poor neighbourhood in Turin, and Paula organises local activities in the valley near their home. She and her husband are deeply committed to this ethic of service, one which they see reflected in the lessons and morals of the Skywalker saga.
“The epic battles, the individuals or entire populations that are threatened by evil…all that is just like what’s happening on our planet today, where entire peoples are being threatened by wars, famines, natural disasters. The Star Wars common denominator is that there is hope of being able to overcome these things, to confront and resolve them,” says Eliseo.
Eliseo goes on to say: “When I meet people who arrive from difficult situations in which they are forced to flee their land, their homes, because of war or other types of persecution…you can see the sadness, the tragedy, but you do see hope as well: being able to seek a better future for one’s kids. The fact that one can now reconstruct a life and a future.”
Italian photographer Carlotta Cardana was commissioned to produce a narrative family portrait documenting the Avilas at this unique moment in their lives as they anticipate the release of the Star Wars finale. “All of us photographers were put into very intimate situations in joining the families in their homes,” the photographer says. “It was important to gain their trust and make them feel at ease.”
The commission had a personal resonance for Cardana, one which echoes in her sensitive portrayal of the Avilas. “This project, to me, has always meant family,” says Cardana. “Star Wars reminds me of these peaceful and rare, quiet moments with my brothers, just watching the films on the sofa under the same blanket. I cherish my Star Wars memories.”
The photographs are bursting with Cardana’s characteristic attention to the fine details of family life. We watch as the Avilas say grace around the dinner table, as they practice their instruments and as the women do one another’s hair in the bathroom. This is a privileged intimacy that speaks volumes about the family’s confidence in Cardana’s careful handling.
While some images are more formal — a striking frontal photograph of Pietro on a snowy bridge, or a painterly family portrait — the family’s love of the Force is clear, not least in a lightsaber duel between father and son. “It was very important to listen to them and let them decide how to present themselves to the camera; let them live this Star Wars dream for a day,” says Cardana of her inclusion of so many rich details. “They were all very excited.”
“Star Wars reminds us who we are in a fun way, but also in an emotional way,” concludes Paula. “It reminds us what we are made of: love, hope and faith, which are characteristics that give us strength and that light up our path in life.” The Avilas’ profound commitment to the betterment of the world around them, to helping the less fortunate, corresponds to that familiar Skywalker theme of the triumph of good over evil.
“In Star Wars there are many journeys,” Paula continues. “I think that the nicest journey is the journey that allows one to serve others. The giving of oneself to others. That’s a journey that lasts a lifetime, and is worth taking.”
Star Wars Families presented by eBay is a collaboration between Lucasfilm and British Journal of Photography in advance of the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. An immersive photographic and editorial project, it sheds light on families around the world who have enjoyed the magic of Star Wars for nearly half a century.
To hear about upcoming commission opportunities, register with 1854 Commisions.