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August 11, 2005

Dallas Video Festival Catalog Essay

The following is a short essay written for the catalog for this year's Dallas Video Festival. My friend Laura kindly invited me to write it.

A War Worth Fighting

The arguments over whether artists are obligated to respond to contemporary events are as old as art itself. And though the pressure to deal directly with political issues is often intense, filmmakers and artists need not feign being political, nor should they feel obligated to become so. In an age of suffocating political and commercial propaganda, simply telling a story that rings true, where the characters are honest and the situation feels authentic is in itself political.

Media viewers are so accustomed to a high level of artifice and simulated sentiment that authenticity strikes us as jarring. The depiction of richly felt, complex, even contradictory emotions is effectively revolutionary, radical even. And when you deal in deeply felt human emotions, not their cartoon counterparts, you speak to everyone, not just those of one political party or another.

Failing to question one’s assumptions may win elections, but makes for poor art. The propagandists can’t stand it when we’re honest, meaningful, and complex - where things are often grey, murky, undetermined. Clarity comes from the truthfulness of the experience as interpreted by the storyteller, not from a focus group tested slogan. Where the bad guy has more than one dimension, and where the “evil” is spread around, as it always is.

The biggest insults are movies that attempt to comment on the current political situation with a few throwaway lines, and then quickly return to the wooden dialog and simulated explosions. And waste a hundred million dollars in the process.

Independent film and video makers have an obligation, in my mind, to not do what Hollywood or Washington are doing. And they can start by being authentic to who they are, by telling stories that make sense of their corner of the world.

Simply refusing to deal in stereotypes and cliché’s in our own stories is political because it flies in the face of most political speech.

We know now there really isn’t a difference between fiction and nonfiction, because there is no objectivity, and all stories are manufactured. But there is a difference between authenticity and propaganda. They are enemies. And that is a war that is worth fighting.


Posted by Dean Terry at August 11, 2005 01:29 PM

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Posted by: Kim Winn at August 14, 2005 10:09 PM

Love your writing style!

Posted by: Reader at October 8, 2005 11:56 PM
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