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Posts tagged “documentary

The Powerlessness of Self Expression – One aspect of Hypernormalization

 

WE LIVE IN A STRANGE WORLD

OF DREAMS WIRES AND LIES

IT WAS BUILT TO PROTECT US

AND KEEP EVERYTHING STABLE

BUT NOW WE DO NOT KNOW

WHAT IS TRUE OR WHAT IS FALSE

WE HAVE BECOME LOST IN A FAKE WORLD

AND CANNOT SEE THE REALITY OUTSIDE

(HyperNormalisation)

 

Adam Curtis has released a new documentary, HyperNormalisation. This is how he describes its basic premise –

We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.

This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.

 

In an interview promoting the release of his new film, he discusses how the idea of ‘self expression’ especially radical self expression feeds into the illusion of bringing about change while in fact it only perpetuates the status quo as it becomes an empty symbolic perhaps beautiful yet powerless gesture to bring about change.

 

“I think one of the most fascinating giant shifts that’s happened in recent history started in the late 1960’s and really took off in the 70’s which was the rise of a sort of powerful individualism, a feeling throughout western society… that I as an individual [am] the most important thing and what I feel, what I want is the most truthful authentic and right thing. And the idea that you should be told what to do by politicians, by those in power over you is wrong. Its inauthentic … [and] that you should be true to yourself.

That became a very powerful thing … It was good in many ways. It liberated people and stopped us from being told what to do by corrupt elites … But it had a very strange effect on politics … If you’ve got a society of millions of individuals who all have their own desires, their own truth, their own idea of what is true then it is very difficult to craft a collective movement together … If you then get individualism rising up what you don’t want to do is give yourself up to [a commitment of] years, to a movement that you subsume yourself into. You want to express yourself. And why I think Patti Smith is interesting is that she is one of the first people you see making a shift from the idea that radicalism is giving yourself up to a group and becoming a part of something bigger to an idea that no, to be radical is to be a self expressive individual and the way to do it is through art. And what you can use art for is as an imaginative expression of your radicalism …

[The question is] How much power [do] you have as a radical expressive artist?

What was happening was that modern consumer capitalism was looking at this ‘me’ generation and these individuals and going, ‘We can help you express yourself’ and suddenly instead of giving you the same car, the same coat, the same clothes, you can have a whole range of different ones so that you can all be self expressive in your different ways. And there is an argument that … modern consumerism was rescued by the ‘me’ generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of different people who wanted to express themselves in different ways. Which means that the idea of self expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism … So then if you have a radical art which is based on the idea of self expression … then however radical your message is and however powerful what you are saying is, the fact that you are doing it through self expression means that actually what you are doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism because it depends on the whole idea of you as a self expressive individual.”

According to Curtis, radical gestures are just that – gestures, and are absorbed into the dominant culture and are even, along with some movements, manipulated and in some cases created by powerful behind the scene forces so that the question of what is true or false has no clear answer. This is one of the dilemmas of living in a Hypernormal world. That we are being manipulated and are buying into the manipulation ourselves is just one aspect of the challenges we face at the end of an era. It remains to be seen how to break out of this illusion and see the world for what it really is. Perhaps as the film suggests it is not how we break out of the illusion but that reality will literally come smashing in. It already has begun to do so.

Please see his new film embedded below.

 

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On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh

Two years ago, for the very first time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis into their monasteries to witness their practice and the essence of their mindful living.

Filming in the depths of winter in their monastery in France, they also traveled on the road with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics to Europe and North America; capturing their journey from Vancouver to Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego and London.

Through intimate interviews and observational filming, “Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh”, offers a rare insight into monastic life and the deeply personal reasons why Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns decided to leave their families and follow in his footsteps.

Honest and heart-warming, ‘Walk With Me’ touches on the universal themes of belonging, love, loss, hope and death; relevant for not just Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns but for us all.

This documentary is currently being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. If distributors are found it should be released sometime in 2017.


An artist trying to find his way through the darkness *

“Most of us don’t want to change

Really

I mean why should we

What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model

We keep on being ourselves

But hopefully better versions of ourselves

But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic

That you just change

Change from the known person to the unknown person

So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were

But the person inside the skin is a different person”

*One More Time With Feeling


The Pearl Button – Now Streaming

 

Patricio Guzman’s remarkable film recently had its premier in the UK and is now streaming online in the US via Netflix and Fandor.

“If “water has its own language,” as anthropologist Claudio Mercado says, so too does Guzmán as a filmmaker. His work speaks to the past and present, the living and the dead with equal resolve, lingering on the seemingly small details of memory that allude to so much more.”  – Glenn Heath Jr


The Pearl Button

“In order to talk about profound tragedies, genocide that takes place, looking at Palestine or Syria, talking about Chile or Argentina indeed for that matter, it’s very important to use metaphor because metaphor is very expressive, very evocative. We’ve seen images of mass graves, we’ve seen images of the Nazi concentration camps and that has been with us for quite a while already. Nowadays we still need to talk abut these events, but it is perhaps best explained in an indirect way using the language of poetry. I think it is indispensable, in a way, to seek out that language when talking about these phenomena because it is also important to speak about pain and this is a very effective way to do it.”

Patricio Guzman

 

Embedded in the image above is a brief clip of Patricio Guzman’s ‘The Pearl Button’, a companion to his 2010 film ‘Nostalgia for the Light‘. Yesterday he won best screenplay for his film at the Berlin International Film Festival, which is very unusual for a documentary to win such an award. I would expect this to arrive in cinemas before the years end.

Guzman is a poet who in assembling his films creates connections using metaphor to complement historical and scientific evidence that along with his compelling images makes for a powerful and resonant experience. His previous film drew connections between the stars seen through powerful telescopes in the Chilean desert, to the (star) dust floating in our air, to the dust of the ‘disappeared’ from Pinochet’s terror whose remains became part of that same desert – all interwoven in a meditation on memory.

 

 

I think that life is memory, everything is memory. There is no present time and everything in life is remembering. I think memory encompasses all life, and all the mind. I’m not simply me—I’m my father and all that came before me, who are millions. Nostalgia for the Light sprung from this concept. It involves body and soul but also matter, the earth, the cosmos, all combined.

But there’s a constant contradiction between memory and history. It’s a conflict. The official Chilean historical record in regard to the 1973 coup d’état is a disaster. For nearly forty years now there has been denial of memory (like there was in Spain too after Franco’s death).”

Patricio Guzman

 

 ‘The Pearl Button’

‘The Pearl Button’ revolves not around the theme of dust but of water – around the idea that comets first brought water to this planet, that Chile’s largest border is ocean, that only 20 people remain from five indigenous tribes who lived on the coast that were decimated by colonial invaders. This same ocean is where the Pinochet regime dumped over a thousand bodies of people who were declared enemies of the state. Guzman continues his meditation on the idea of memory suggesting that water has a memory. It remembers those who perished in it. It and we are seeded from the stars just as we are made of stardust, he reminds us that our bodies are also mostly water. This film is also a meditation on how not only Chile but our modern civilization has lost its connection to the intrinsic value of our world, to its people and to its surroundings. If water has a memory then it is also a witness to our sorrowful history, whether we choose to remember it or not.

 

(references to 2 film reviews from the Berlin festival used for this post are here and here)

September 11

 

For his new film master director Patricio Guzmán, famed for his political documentaries (THE BATTLE OF CHILE, THE PINOCHET CASE), travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The sky is so translucent that it allows them to see right to the boundaries of the universe.

The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, “disappeared” by the Chilean army after the military coup of September, 1973.

film still

So while astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women, surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after twenty-five years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families’ histories.

Melding the celestial quest of the astronomers and the earthly one of the women, NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is a gorgeous, moving, and deeply personal odyssey.

“NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is not only Guzmán’s masterpiece; it is one of the most beautiful cinematographic efforts we have seen for a long time. Its complex canvas is woven with the greatest simplicity. For forty years, Patricio Guzman has had to struggle every inch of the way, with a vivid memory and intimate suffering to reach this work of cosmic serenity, of luminous intelligence, with a sensitivity that could melt stone. At such a level, the film becomes more than a film. An insane accolade to mankind, a stellar song for the dead, a life lesson. Silence and respect.” —Jacques Mandelbaum, Le Monde

film still

“Stunningly beautiful. I don’t know how you can put more into a film, or make one that’s more deeply moving.” —Stuart Klawans, The Nation

“An extraordinary film about the unknown and the unknowable.” —Sight & Sound Magazine

“An amazing film! Nostalgia for the Light gave me goosebumps so many times I lost count.” —Andy “Copernicus” Howell, Ain’t It Cool News

“Deeply Affecting!” Critics Pick —New York Magazine

“Such a moving masterpiece… NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT is Guzmán’s leap into a different sort of cinema: a philosophical treatise that is as stunning to the eye as it is disturbing to the brain… I was enthralled. So was the audience around me.” —B. Ruby Rich, SF360

★★★★ “NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT may just be the most profound movie I have ever seen.” —Peter Howell, Toronto Star

★★★★ “The ideas in NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT are nearly as big as the Big Bang, but Guzmán’s wise and lovely film maintains a careful balance between matters both macro and micro.” —Jason Anderson, Eye Weekly

“The film is gorgeous, purposefully slow, almost a meditation. Guzmán tells us life in the Atacama Desert is an eternal book of memories. And he lingers on every page, capturing shots of constellations with the care of a master photographer. Imagine Ansel Adams, working in colour, let loose in the Milky Way.” —Stephen Cole, The Globe and Mail

★★★1/2 “Combining politics and science in a stirring visual essay… Highly Recommended” —Video Librarian

Winner, Award of Merit in Film, 2012 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Official Selection, 2012 Western Psychological Association Film Festival Winner, Best Film, 2011 International Documentary Association (IDA) Winner Best Documentary, Prix ARTE, 2010 European Film Academy Awards Winner Best Documentary, 2010 Abu Dhabi Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Toronto International Film Festival Official Selection, 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival Official Selection, 2011 Miami International Film Festival Official Selection, 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival