Lots of thought provoking films at AFI Docs Festival this yeas, as usual. One of the more immediate films I saw last night was called 17 Blocks. A more intimate view into a family’s home, I could not imagine. Filmed over 20 years, just blocks away from where I live, it provided me a view of the neighborhood that I had only seen from a distance. While I do bike through all parts of the city and follow local political discourse on blogs and neighborhood List-serves, I don’t really know what happens behind closed doors. And if I do know or read about something in the paper, it is still less real than witnessing it from someone’s kitchen and listening to those who have lived it and must deal with the consequences day after day.
The previous evening I watched a similar film about the same topic, After Parkland, which was also deeply moving. The effect of a bullet is the same, whether the victim is rich or poor. Both films take the viewer into their living rooms, where one can see and hear their most intimate thoughts. The subjects’ lives could not be more different, but the pain and sorrow are identical.
Documentary film is ideal for rekindling ones awareness of human suffering. Sparking in the viewer the sense that they should do more to address situations effecting the community in which they live, whether it be a few blocks away, or on the other side of the country. Normally, it is easy to focus on your immediate needs and family, but great documentary film forces you to take a more expansive view, which then demands action. These film will open many people’s eyes to what they would rather not see. It will spur them to take action, whether it be donating money or time, or being more mindful of how their actions/inactions have consequences. It is increasingly more difficult to ignore the fact that as citizens we have a moral and ethical duty to be active participants in the world, not just idol bystanders.
l am looking forward to doing something, perhaps more that just donating money. According to Molly Ivans, the subject of another film at the festival: “What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.” “You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.” “In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster.”