Real Life at the Movies | Sojourners

Real Life at the Movies

Now that most filmed records of human life are made by amateurs—the growth of YouTube and other forms of uploading moving images is the most influential recent development in cinema—we all have the potential to make movies. A good thing, since the poverty of ambition and imagination in most mainstream Hollywood products is more obvious with each passing week.

For example, over four days of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, held in April, audiences were treated—indeed, at times overwhelmed—by real life at the movies. A film colleague was so taken with the scope of vision on display that he pronounced the death of “staged cinema”—what you and I think of when we go to the movies.

Documentaries such as The Cove, an astonishing thriller about environmental protection in Japan, Voices from El-Sayed, a deeply moving portrayal of life in a deaf community in Israel, and Shooting Beauty, an overhaul of the perception of people with serious physical disabilities, leave the viewer suspecting that when a humanized eye is brought to bear on the realities of life, the future of movies may lie more in the hands of the people than the stars. Food, Inc., a serious exposé of the ways meat and vegetables reach our tables in the United States, is a good place to start if you want to see how documentaries can change the world.

The Year So Far. One film has risen to the surface for me—In the Loop, a political satire about the lead-up to the Iraq war. It reminds us of the horror of how careerist selfishness, ideology, and political opportunism collided to produce the mess we’re still in. It opens July 24; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2009
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