YOUR Interpretation

So there’s this fable about blind mice and an elephant. Each mouse feels one part of the elephant. The elephant seems to be something different to each mouse, and this leads to a big argument. No mouse realizes it’s an elephant. Each mouse is too small to be able to perceive the whole picture. The idea is that we all have different points of view, that nobody is right or wrong, and that our perspectives are all relative. We all claim to know the truth, to see objectivity, but in reality we are too limited. An extension of this moral is that we should value all interpretations equally.

This idea is somewhat valid, although intrinsically flawed. An intellectual named Tim Keller explains the flaw in this way. The author, by placing himself in a position where he observes everything, the mice and the elephants, also claims to have the truth and objectivity. The author pretends that he isn’t committing the same folly as the mice. Moreover, by communicating that we cannot attain truth and objectivity, he undermines his whole fable. No matter what, we are always trying to attain the objective truth, even when we claim that we aren’t or can’t.

I bring this up as a preface, because I feel that there is too much weight given to the audience’s interpretation, and not enough value attributed to the artist’s intent.

In my opinion, we should try as hard as possible to understand the artist. We shouldn’t dogmatically claim to know his theme. However, I don’t think we should use the artist’s work as fodder for our own agendas. That’s parasitic. For example, many people insist on discussing the misogyny of “Antichrist.” Maybe that is a minor theme of the film. But what is the film called? Is it called “Abusing Women?” Is it called “I Hate Women?” Is it called “Women Suck?” No, it’s called “Antichrist.” I don’t think the intended theme could be any more clearly defined.

Here is my issue. When we ignore the intentions of the artist, we galvanize the divides between people. We can only become closer as a human race if we listen to each other. A film is a medium to connect two people. A director has something in his mind. He translates it into a movie. And then the viewer translates it into his mind. The film is like a glue for our minds to become closer. For us to understand each other. To learn new perspectives.

I’m not just saying this because I want to encourage you to understand my film. I actively try to understand every director’s intent. I think approaching movies in this way will help you grow more, and bring you closer to people. Does your personal, oh-so-unique interpretation really have that much value? Truthfully, I feel closer to Lars Von Trier, Craig Brewer, Stanley Kubrick, Eric Roehmer, and Quentin Tarantino than most people I’ve met in real life. Not because I’ve fabricated original interpretations of their works, but because I believe I have discovered their intentions.

A friend of mine once told me that if there is “one interpretation” and we all discover it, then the film won’t matter any more and will be “done.” I do believe that’s kind of true. I think debate about interpretations is what will give a movie like “Inception” a really long life. However, I don’t think it’s necessary for a film to have a long life. If you’ve read my posting about “legacy,” you’d know what I mean.


Irrational nostalgia: as it relates to our love of the theater experience

Our prospective web premiere has caused me to reflect on the theater experience. What is the value of going to the movies? For a while, I’ve maintained a position that it is the best way to watch a film. But I am unsure if this feeling is an actual conviction, or if really I just cling to an irrational romantic notion of “the idea” of the movie theater.

Let’s examine the theater going experience. How does it differ from watching a movie at home? To start, there’s the larger screen. To this I have two points. First of all, many homes are becoming furnished with projectors that enable the theater viewing experience on your wall. As projectors proliferate, many people will forgo televisions for digital projectors. They take up less space and provide a larger image. I have already enjoyed many movies this way, so I no longer see the movies as the exclusive provider of a large screen.

Secondly, does a larger image actually equal a better experience? I admit that seeing “Lawrence of Arabia” at the Ziegfeld is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. But in the same way that certain paintings are better with small dimensions, couldn’t I argue that some movies benefit from a small dimension? If the film’s goal is to sweep the viewer into an atmosphere and make him forget about the real world, then a large screen is probably a better route. But, if sweeping the viewer up in the world of the film might be disadvantageous, say because it prevents the viewer from examining the ideas of the film, then I would argue that film should be viewed on a smaller screen. Given these two points, I think we cannot be dogmatic about a movie theater’s screen size advantage.

Neither can we point to the fact that theaters offer the most current releases. Comcast is in the process of making deals with studios to acquire the movies on cable even sooner. The gap between theatrical and cable release will diminish to nothing. In fact, some movies are already being released simultaneously on cable networks and theater screens.

Could the theater going experience offer anything else? Well, there’s overpriced snacks. Sneaking snacks into a theater is a bitter reminder that I am poor. Not such a good context to begin a film viewing experience. At home, I can publicly display any type of cuisine, which has the potential to be much more diverse than what the theater offers.

Is there an advantage to watching a movie with strangers? There is something to be said for the ferver of a crowd, especially at midnight screenings, film festivals, or fan saturated retrospectives. And there’s something to be said for chatting up with a fellow fan (although I rarely do this). But a factor like this is technically external to the film, no? I could argue that if it does significantly affect my appreciation of the film, then the audience is potentially distorting my experience of the film. To take the argument to extreme lengths, if I make out with a girl for the duration of Jonah Hex, is it suddenly a good film? No, and I shouldn’t allow the energy of the audience to influence my assessment of a movie either.

There’s also the matter of having to go to the theater, and make it at a time established by the theater. Now, I actually see this as an advantage. When you have to look up the show times, coordinate with other people, make the trip to the theater, it creates the context of an “EVENT” for the movie watching experience. It’s special. It’s not mundane like just flicking on the television. But I have created this event experience through movie marathons right on the comfort of my own couch, and these experiences rival any event I’ve had at the theater.

So then, what is left? As with any obsolete technology, there is one remaining thread sustaining it’s influence in the lives of human beings. Nostalgia. Does the theater retain value because when I go there, I am reminded of the great tradition that was part of so many people’s lives?

Here’s one thing to consider. Many theater goers of the 50s were not clinging to the movie theaters because they loved the movie theaters. No, they went to the movie theaters because it was modern technology. So if we really want to adopt the mindset of these people, we would also turn to the modern technology instead of clinging to old fashioned, outdated experiences.

But here is the heart of the issue. Why do I like an old bicycle? Because it has a history? It has endured time? These are all admirable qualities, but have nothing to do with my speed or safety. If I like an old bicycle, it’s because I like being perceived as the type of person who likes old bicycles. I have accepted this taste as part of my identity. I like to be perceived as a simple european instead of an exercise addicted Lance Armstrong. Similarly, if I like the theater going experience, it is because I like the idea of being perceived as the type of person who likes the theater going experience. Who sees charm in the dingy art houses. That constructs a romantic identity for me and because of this, my appreciation for the theater going experience is really just a narcissistic notion.

So the bottom line is that I cannot think of one legitimate reason to embrace the theater going experience, but I can think of many reasons not to. If you can think of a good reason, send it to me.

More Love from Freethinkers

Press Release from Atheist Alliance International

‘The Evangelist’ for an Atheist Convention
For Immediate Release
(Tampa, June 25, 2010) Attendees of the Atheist Alliance International and Humanist Canada 2010 North American Convention will get an exclusive sneak preview of the International Freethought Film Festival.
This week, the Freethought Film Festival Foundation (FFFF) partnered with Atheist Alliance International (AAI) and Humanist Canada (HC), and committed as a convention sponsor of the AAI-HC 2010 North American Convention. The non-profit, educational organization, whose mission is to “promote reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film”, will be presenting an exclusive sneak preview of the International Freethought Film Festival. The founder and director of the Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Andrea Steele, will give an introduction of the organization to convention atten-dees; followed by a screening of the film, “The Evangelist”. The independent feature film was submitted to the International Freethought Film Festival for consideration, and was an early selection of the judges.
“The Evangelist” is director Nate Chapman‟s first feature film. He describes the film as follows: “At the heart of „The Evangelist‟ is a yearning for more communication between the religious and liberal free-thinkers. Neither taking sides or making value statements, the film pits the two groups together and il-lustrates the dangers of intolerance. Danny is a fixture of Provincetown, a very eccentric and countercul-tural community, while Gideon is a self-serious, fundamentalist. Gideon and Danny are both stubborn and resigned in their ways, acting on their own behalf rather than trying to understand each other.”
In addition to the sneak preview, FFFF will also be among the exhibitors at the AAI-HC 2010 North Ameri-can Convention, which will take place in Montreal, QC Canada, from October 1st-3rd, 2010. The FFFF booth will be tended by both Steele, and FFFF board member, Judi Green, and information about the In-ternational Freethought Film Festival will be available. The film festival is scheduled to take place in Tampa, Florida on Friday the 13th of May, 2011.
Steele states, “The International Freethought Film Festival is different from anything that has ever been done within the freethought movement. It‟s an event with the potential of gaining interest from the gen-eral public, as well as those who are already aware of the freethought community. It‟s a celebration of the artistic expression of freethought ideas, which tends to be forgotten, since the movement traditionally focuses on promoting science and literature. Art is a part of „The Good Life‟, and I hope that we can get the message across to convention attendees that freethought expression through the art of filmmaking is not limited to documentaries. It can be rich with symbolism that exercises the mind as much as a mathematical equation, and entertaining at the same time. „The Evangelist‟ demonstrates this beauti-fully.”
# # #
Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Inc. was established in August, 2009, for the purpose of hosting an annual, International Freethought Film Festival. Its mission is to promote reason, critical thinking and freedom of inquiry through the medium of film. It is incorporated as a non-profit, charitable, educational organization, as an exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Federal tax code.
# # #
For more information contact:
Andrea Steele Executive Director Freethought Film Festival Foundation, Inc. 888-821-1990

Q & A after Greenpoint Screening

Here are videos from a great discussion we had with some of the people who attended our screening at The Cee Flat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Discussion on Character Identification

On Gideon’s Religion

On Danny’s Sexuality (The lighting was off in this one, but against my better judgment, I am sharing it for the sake of the great comments that are very audible)

Nate’s personal experience with the gay community

The audience loved the cinematography

Screening in Greenpoint: June 19, 2010

Film Stew


Check out this article on Film Stew about The Evangelist. Its description of the film is probably better than any I’ve ever come up with.

The article was also on Yahoo! movies, but it got taken down since they don’t archive their articles

The Freethinker

Freethinker is the longest-running Atheist journal in the world, operating since 1881. They recently published an article about The Evangelist along with a film by Alejandro Amenabar (director of Academy-Award Nominated The Sea Inside) called Agora, starring Rachel Weisz (The Fountain, The Constant Gardener)