||[Aug. 30th, 2008|11:28 pm]
Be the change you want to see in the world
I watched this film today. I was very moved by it and had to nix my afternoon plans and go on a long bike ride to get back into a functional frame of mind. The film shows, in all of it's contradictory complexity, how coldly and beaurocratically cruel people can be. Even people that know how it feels to be discriminated against are capable of the same discrimination. At the same time, it shows subtle and not so subtle individuals that do their best to maintain their humanity and dignity in their own way in spite of a system that does not operate in a case by case, subjective way.
The surface of the film is the conflict between the black residents of the neighborhood and gay and lesbian whites that move in and fix up the "historic" houses, thus petitioning for and getting new zoning laws to keep their property up that have the effect of pushing the original residents of the neighborhood out. Both sides are shown at their worst. A white man says that if they don't want to fix up a house, they shouldn't live in it. A black man says he'll never allow his son to be in the first grade class that the teacher who is gay leads. But I think this initial conflict, racism and homophobia, is merely the surface of the film. The real enemy of the film is ignorance, failure to see anyone as an individual, and a society that values signed pieces of paper over all else, and soon centers upon a woman that is suffering from serious health problems trying to keep the house she lived in her entire life, a few heros, one unexpected, emerges by the end of the film which is nonetheless a sad ending.
Another silent actor in the film is nature itself, which is what every single person has to fight when deciding to build or maintain a manmade structure that is not integrated within the nature of its place.
The film is in a verite style, in some ways reminiscent of Time for Burning, and one of men in the film I particularly admired had a way of speaking similar to that of the barber (and later, senator) of the Time for Burning. The issues are in a way the very same, things don't change much over the years.
I also think of a short novel of Steinbeck that I read a long time ago, In Dubious Battle. I remember Steinbeck saying that he was just hoping to help people understand eachother better.
Watch this film, find it somewhere, at a library preferably. Perhaps pbs will air it again sometime. It is beautifully shot, very carefully made, - passes no judgement, but only reveals the complexity, cruelty, and nobility of human nature.