Daily perusal of newspapers, magazines, and blogs can really get you down about the state of the arts these days. The pages (both physical and online) seem to shout endless sad headlines bemoaning the impending end of art itself– funding cuts, budget cuts, job cuts, the death of museums, the death of the print industry, the death of the music industry, the death of film, music, and theater as viable forms of communication.
It might seem strange for a group of young people in today’s world to buy a one-way ticket to the land of dying media, especially with all of the doom-and-gloom that follows it like some dark, cartoon storm cloud. Despite arguments against putting one’s proverbial eggs into a basket that dangles precariously over the edge of some uncertain height, the film community speaks for itself– perhaps not shouting its successes from the mountaintops in the form of money and fame, but in a more subtle fashion: true quality.
Catching up on documentary films these past few weeks has had the same effect on me that it always does, reviving a love of storytelling and of the strangeness that can be present in everyday life. 90 minutes through the lens of a camera can change your way of thinking, show you things that you could never have seen otherwise, and make you feel as though you know people you’ve never met.
While most documentaries will never have multiplex showings, they have experienced a revival in recent years that has put nonfiction storytelling in front of more eyes than ever before. No longer a dull format made only for the public television crowd, today’s nonfiction material covers every possible subject matter, in ways that are challenging and unexpected.
Films like Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s Oscar-nominated “Restrepo,” Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” or even Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” are reminders that compelling, uncommon storytelling not only exists, but is rampant within the film community as a whole. And while I may not be as knowledgeable about visual art, music, or theater, I think it’s safe to say that the same quality of content is alive and thriving in museums and galleries, clubs, concert halls, and community playhouses around the world.
Despite the media’s constant coverage of it’s own supposed slow strangulation, it’s important to remember that creativity and inspiration never lay dormant– sometimes it’s just quieter. And while we can’t predict the future, something tells me that not all of our generation’s artistic pursuits will be in vain.