How Do You Sum Up a Life?

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 7.25.45 PMIn recent years, documentary filmmaking as a genre has lurched towards the Reality TV model, sustaining the myth that if you lock the camera on the dysfunctional and edit your material accordingly, then somehow you reveal a stark truth that makes us all feel a whole lot better about our own dirty laundry. This has put a lot of filmmakers in the unfortunate position of choosing between what is a marketable story and what is a legitimate one. At best, the Indie doc world is a radical exchange of philosophy and experience. At worst it is an unfeeling industry that only plays with our desire to be informed within a global community.

All films live or die by the solidity of the world they construct. Whether I sit down in front of a  science fiction thriller or a purely historical documentary, it is always the other-ness; the un-reality of a film that makes it good. In other words, to sum up a life, the filmmaker must first get rid of any idea that a life can be summed up at all, but by focusing on the part, one can begin to speak about the whole. If we as the audience are allowed to acknowledge the flimsy construct of a film’s arc, then we can hope to be won over by it and can bring it with us into the realm of the real.   My children love to hear the same stories ad infinitum. And yet with each telling, they are always transported to that upward-facing realm of wonder. It is as if their familiarity with the construct of the story increases their ability to get lost within it. The power of film isn’t that it takes us to a place we’ve never been, but that it brings us back round to being a child again. Ever since I’ve known Justin, he has consistently  measured everything he experiences against the framework of his childhood:

“Mary Poppins belongs to my childhood. Gonzo species is a whatever. That belongs to my childhood.  Birthdays makes me nervous because of growing older. We all have to follow our age limits…”

Through moving images, Justin has long found comfort, release and a manageable grid to understand the universe. As the film DON’T FOIL MY PLANS continues to shape itself around the growing complexities of Justin’s life, I can only hope to provide the same for myself and others.

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