Why film is good – in terms of relating to societies today.
In an hour or so, an issue can be confronted and exposed to an audience of people. The audience may already be knowledgeable, or politically aware of the topic involved; or the audience may be opened to something they did not yet know. Either way, the audience will hopefully leave with a greater understanding, more emotion, or a more open mind towards discovering more.
News stories aren’t enough. News is constant, and negative news is always present – so much so that we can easily ignore it. Or, we can read about illness, deaths, destruction, corruption so much that its value or emotional effect on us as a reader is undermined. Or, issues can become overshadowed by mainstream media, portraying gossip, celebrity, new trends, as a necessary point of conversation in people’s social lives, or own interests.
What we sometimes need is some artistic representation. Whether you see it as art or not is not important. It is there and we watch it and we are affected. Just like museums show off artworks, or like creative platforms are being utilized and made aware of on social media, or like music and their lyrics or beats; film is a form of artistic visual representation.
I recently had a film splurge at the ICA, The Mall, London.
Stranger In Paradise, 2016, directed by Guido Hendrickx, raised the issue of Europe’s migration crisis. It was an artful combination of documentary and fiction, exploring different sides of the argument, as recently arrived refugees receive lessons from a teacher. Hendrickx cleverly exposed the complexity of the issue through 3 acts, very often making us feel uncomfortable.
In Act 1, the teacher takes a rather negative side, saying that we built welfare states, here in Europe. Why should we, Europe, help you? Go help yourselves! Work together like we did after World War 2! Following this in Act 2 he takes a completely different tone, talking about colonisation. We, Europe, colonised you, that wasn’t fair. He questions the refugees: Where were u born? Where was I born? We did not choose to be born in these places. Therefore it is not your fault that you have had to flee your country of birth. Furthermore, if we would just break down the borders everyone would gain economically. We finish with Act 3 – by the rules – whereby each refugee is interviewed one by one, with questions testing the credibility of their seeking asylum; for example, investigating how unsafe they may or may not be in their country. A seemingly subjective process and a somewhat brutal reality.
City of Ghosts, 2017, directed by Matthew Heineman, confronts us with the ongoing ISIS (Islamic State/Daesh/ISIL) war. This war has been going on for a long time now; violence was ongoing pre 2014, but 2014 is the year where ISIS took control of many cities, controlling more than 34,000 square miles (CNN source) in Iraq and Syria. For me, and a lot of people I hang around with my age, or even just in my household, when discussing the topic, we know that ISIS is bad, and we know its a horrific war, but no one can say anything about the causes, the true effects, or how it is being dealt with on an international scale. Basically, no one can say much about it at all. To become aware, we have to actually think about it, take on research, or be confronted with it, like in this film. The shock I had at most moments in this film made me feel ignorant because I didn’t already know. I should have researched a long time ago. Of course, it is much more complex than just looking up a few facts. However, at the same time, its a similar thing with the news: it’s just there – do we forget that its a big deal because its happening so much? Is it the news that gets bored of saying the same old thing?
RBSS, – Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently – is an activist group based in Europe, and in and around the war torn cities themselves, ie. Raqqa, Syria. In relation to this film, RBSS have been fighting ISIS and their ideologies for a long time; its only now, and finally, that we are listening more. International threat has shaken us – it is not just a national problem anymore. But Raqqa and other areas of the middle east are still being slaughtered silently. This movie is utterly brutal, but necessary. It is happening.
It was emphasised in this movie that you can defeat the regimes, just as ISIS overtook Raqqa in 2014, after the defeat of the Assad regime, but it is the ideology that is the problem. One group down, and another one will just take its place. It is the ideology that needs defeat. I loved the emphasis on the importance of raising awareness throughout this movie. The main thing for me by the end, was how it encouraged me to research, and learn more about this issue. WOW. Stay informed!! http://www.raqqa-sl.com/en/
On this week of essential film at the ICA I also watched Ousmane Sembene’s 1966 film Black Girl, which brought to screen the history of colonisation, and issues surrounding our society now as a supposedly post-colonial world. I ended the week with David Lynch’s highly acclaimed The Elephant Man of 1980, which tells the true story of Joseph Merrick; this man lived with extreme physical deformities which concealed his beautiful soul in the face of the people of that time, exposing their grim attitudes. In a broad sense, it made me reflect on the society we live in now, surrounded by images and unrealistic representations of people that result in us constantly comparing ourselves to these others. The presentation of the “perfect” self – unrealistic and intangible.