As it happened, recovering from illness and stretched out mostly on my back for two days, I turned from the diversions of reading books and news stories, to exploring the website of the Sundance film festival in Utah. When I read the descriptions of films and documentaries shown there, I became aware that they almost uniformly dealt with their subjects in very specific, often excruciating personal terms.
This made me think of how good films and documentaries typically bring a strong focus to aspects of life we sometimes are minimally aware of. They often explore personal, emotional and controversial subjects we might ponder and stay with for quite a while. That’s quite often different to what we do when we read or hear a two or three minute story in the paper or hear it on air.
For me, it is a helpful antidote or even a reality check to the quick read or the briefer news stories we hear every day. For an hour or more, a good feature or documentary film can immerse us in characters and situations that exact some significant response from us.
Recently I watched two movies — one Arrival, the other Moonlight. In the first, there is the tension between a military response to an unknown extra-terrestrial arrival and a response on the other hand that is curious and inquiring — perhaps a metaphor as to how we deal with strangers. The other movie dealt with the arc from childhood to adulthood of a victimized boy who eventually found an emotional and trustful adult relationship.
There are similar stories buried often in news stories we read or hear, but it often takes a long-form movie or a documentary to explore them more deeply. It like taking a break from the 24 hour news cycle and the busy lives we lead, to having a Sabbath or a meditative break to dig into things more deeply for a while.