Sunday, November 01, 2009

Docuementaries: Hope & Anger

I would be hard pressed to name another documentary that I enjoy more than 2004's Born Into Brothels.

While this documentary tells about the horrible reality of the lives led by children in the red light district of Calcutta, India, the film is more than just an exposé it is a story of hope about an organization, Kid's With Cameras, which is using creativity and entrepreneurial wisdom to have an impact in the world.

Another documentary that presents an image of hope amidst conflict came out a couple year's earlier was 2001's Promises. This story shows director B.Z. Goldberg having different Jewish and Palestine kids growing up in Jerusalem. Here is a case where the documentary was not just about telling a story, but also making a story and painting a picture of hope and possibility.

When I think about the past decade of documentaries, these two stand out above the Michael Moore films, the many documentaries about Walmart, the enviornment, finances, penguins, fast food, WWII, US Military decisions, religion, health, kids that paint, shopping, and crazy people that hang out with Grizzly Bears or tight-rope walk.

The reason - is because these two films Born into Brothels and Promises present these beautiful pictures of hope and the film camera is a tool for peace and influence.

In this past year, with economic woes and political partisism, world disasters, and unsettled feelings I feel like instead of hope there is anger. There is distrust. There is fear.

Of all emotions to be expressed, anger seems so unsatisfying. I believe that there a huge role for exposing truth through non-fiction work in the press, documentary arts, and in all formats of written words.

Yet, there is a desperate need for hope. Not sugar-coated unicorns and pixie dust, but true stories that inspire and help people think differently about what could be.

In 2007 I wrote a post about "Inspiration Overload." I still believe that there a lot of pull to support different causes as a way of marketing, but I also think that we need more images and stories of hope and I hope instead of docuemtarians limiting themselves to a Michael Moore attack dog style of story telling about injustice, (whether that be this years Capitalism: A Love Story, The Cove, or Food Inc.)

These other stories of injustice and exposing truth are important, but I would also like to see some films this year that show beauty, hope and virtue, and I haven't seen those stories this year. Am I missing something?

Related Post: Somehow Media Can Change the World (February 15, 2006)

(Picture above is "Girl on Roof" from the Born into Brothels press kit & Michael Moore from Capitalism: Love Story)


Michael Parsons said...

I met Zana Briski at the Bermuda Film Festival and thought the film was empowering without being sentimental.

I highly agree that it is one of the best documentaries of the past decade.

Daniel said...

Great post, and excellent example with that film. It's true, we're so conditioned to want to "attack" any injustice that filmmakers think they need to really get us fired up, or try to scare us (Al Gore). Whatever happened to just telling a story? Isn't that what a "documentary" is supposed to be?

Liked your inspiration overload post, too - just read that now.