Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Illustrations, New Stories

I have a really cool class that I teach at the university.  My students have to organize outings to different cultural events and then host a salon afterward to talk about what we saw.  Basically, we go to concerts, shows and museums, and then have stimulating conversation and try to refine our minds with beauty, wit and cleverness. 

Last Monday, my bright students coordinated an outing and salon around "The Snowbowl Effect: When Recreation and Culture Collide" at Cline Library.  "The Snowbowl Effect" was made by local filmmaker Klee Benally.  Klee's website says that he has been a "media activist" for over 6 years, an enrolled member of the Dine' (Navajo) Nation, and the project director of the non-profit media group Indigenous Action Media. 

What I liked about the film was that it gave a voice to the indigenous cultures that are affected by Snowbowl expansion.  The players that spoke up for their cultures weren't movie stars (except for Klee Benally--HE'S movie star material!)  They were real people who have real values and opinions that they expressed.  Sometimes their words were awkward, sometimes they were articulate, but they were always heartfelt.

My students were really interested in the local politics, and really struck by how money seems to take precedence over cultural values.  Are we really a culture that values capitalism over soul?  My students were really concerned--bless their hearts.

I agreed with them.  But what really struck me about the film was the initiative behind it.  Indigenous Action Media was founded in 2001 "to provide strategic media support and action to directly address issues impacting Indigenous communities."  They are telling young people from the reservation that they, too, have something important to say, and they can say it with cutting edge technology!  That's pretty empowering.

Oh, how magnificent film is!  It gives voice to issues that aren't directly addressed by mainstream media.  Everyone can watch a film, and nowadays, almost everyone can make one.  It truly is the artform of the "common" man, because it is accessible, relatively cheap, and easy to learn.  The mistakes that young filmmakers make in film are sometimes the very things that endear the audiences to the film.

French filmmaker Jean Cocteau said that "Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper."

We are so lucky to be in the middle of a new art form, one that is as common as pencil and paper to provide  us with so many new illustrations and stories.


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