What movie did you watch this weekend?
I bet that although you were horrified at the violence displayed by one criminal mind during that now-infamous opening night screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, some of you still managed to sneak in a showing of the film... Unfortunately, no matter how much we try, it's a lot harder to be culturally sound than it is to catch the kind of thoughtless entertainment those Hollywood blockbusters so easily offer. I'm guilty myself, not for the whole "Batman" series which does not interest me one slight bit, but I do so love the crudeness of The Hangover and found myself discussing the absurd details of the film with a new friend, just days ago.
Yet ultimately we are what we eat, as the old saying goes, but also what we watch, read, discuss, discard and wear. We talk the big talk about recycling and eating green, and then we throw our cans in the garbage because it's faster, and we eat at McDonald's because it is, well, there, just when we are hungry.
We do the same with our culture. We don't want to be left out of the pop-discussions, so we watch films we know we'll be able to joke about and talk over with our friends. We read the newspapers that are considered intellectual in our circle, even if they are that old, tired New York Times which is always at least a day behind the hipper blogs. We do things for convenience, for the easiest results, instead of thinking how every move, every moment, every step of our lives means so much and creates such a momentous ripple effect.
Nearly every day I meet someone who says they "love world cinema!" When I prod them further, ask what they have seen lately that has inspired them, they'll come up with a film from ages ago, like Fellini's Amarcord. Fantastic of course, but there have been amazing movies made since, in worlds far, far away by enlightened members of cultures we need to understand more deeply.
I myself am far from having it all down packed. Every day, I learn a bit more on how to be authentic, how to create an organic sense of rightfulness in my life (note to self: use the word "organic" a whole lot less for that to happen!) and I've started with the movies I watch. While I will still catch that odd rom-com from time to time, I am substituting them more and more with real life inspirational stories and the kind of cinema that is slowly but surely changing the world.
So, this week, pick up your best friend, your lover or your Mom and take them to see the Korean documentary Planet of Snail, playing at Film Forum in NYC. Or put Oscar winner A Separation on your Netflix queue and while you wait for it, watch The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 already available on Netflix.
These choices, just the sheer act of you watching these films, will change your life. And that will change the world. Insha'Allah.
Top image from 'A Separation' courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, used with permission