The Shared Wonder of Film

Paideia January 9, 2014

“Evidence suggests that humans in all ages and from all cultures create their identity through some kind of narrative form.

From mother to daughter, preacher to congregate, teacher to pupil, storyteller to audience; whether in cave paintings or the latest uses of the internet, human beings have always told truths through parable and fable. We are inveterate story tellers.

But where in our increasingly secular and fragmented world do we offer communality of experience unmediated by our own furious consumerism? And, what narrative, what history, what moral code are we imparting to our young?

Cinema is arguably the 20th centuries most influential art form. It’s artists told stories across international boundaries, in as many languages, genres, and philosophies as one can imagine. Indeed, it is hard to find a subject that film has yet to tackle.

During the last decade we’ve seen a vast integration of global media now dominated by a culture of the Hollywood blockbuster. We are increasingly offered a diet in which sensation, not story, is king.

What was common to us all 40 years ago, the telling of stories between generations, is now rarefied. As a filmmaker it worried me, as a human being, it puts the fear of God in me. What future could the young build with so little grasp of where they’ve come from and so few narratives of what’s possible?

The irony is palpable. Technical access has never been greater. Cultural access, never weaker.

Purists may feel that fiction dissipates the quest of real human understanding, that film is too crude to tell a complex and detailed history, or, that filmmakers always serve drama over truth. But, within the reels lie purpose and meaning.

As one 12 year old said after watching The Wizard of Oz, “Every person should watch this because unless you do, you may not know that you too have a heart.”

We honor reading, why not honor watching with the same passion? Consider Citizen Kane as valuable as Jane Austin. Agree Boys ‘N the Hood, like Tennyson, offers an emotional landscape and heightened understanding that work together. Each a piece of memorable art. Each a brick in the wall of who we are…an opportunity to discover what it is to be human and no less helpful to understanding our life and times as Shakespeare is in illuminating the world of Elizabethan England.

(Our young) they are neither feral nor myopically self absorbed. They are like other young people, negotiating a world with infinite choice but little culture of how to find meaningful experience.

We appeared surprised at the behaviors of those who define themselves by the size of the tic on their shoes, yet acquisition has been the narrative we’ve offered. If we want different values, we have to tell a different story. A story that understands that an individual narrative is an essential component of a person’s identity. That a collective narrative is an essential component of a cultural identity, and without it, it is impossible to imagine yourself as part of a group. Because, when these people get home from a screening of Rear Window and raise their gaze to the building next door, they have the tools to wonder, who, apart from themselves, is out there, and what is their story?”  – B E E B A N   K I D R O N

Other films mentioned in Kidron’s TED talk:
Miracle in Milan – “…to pass the button of concern and hope to the next generation.”  – B K  Commentary on slums, poverty and aspiration.
Mr Smith Goes to Washington – “…values independence and propriety. It shows us how to do right, how to be heroically awkward. It is also an expression of faith in the political machine as a force of honor.”  – B K
Slumdog Millionaire
Hotel Rwanda – “…explores genocide of the most brutal kind. It provoked tears as well as incisive questions about unarmed peacekeeping forces and the double dealing of a western society that picks it’s moral fights with commodities in mind.”  – B K
Schindler’s List
Pickpocket – “…starts a debate about criminality disenfranchisement.”  – B K
To Sir With Love – “…ignites a teen audience celebrating a change in attitude towards non-white Britain’s but railed against it’s restless school system that does not value collective identity unlike that offered by Sydney Poitier’s careful tutelage.”  – B K

Review questions to ask after watching a film:
Who was right?
Who’s wrong?
What would you have done under the same conditions?
Was the tale told well?
Was there a hidden message?
How has the world changed?
How could it be different?

DO FilmClub – An education charity helping transform young lives through film.


Today I whipped up french toast soldiers, read a collection of stories about a curious monkey, built a space ship, battled neighboring pirates, consoled, corrected, and encouraged, all before lunch.

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