WP3 — Film as a Mode of Knowledge Seeking
As an intellectual being, I prioritize creativity as an outlet for the seeking and dispersion of knowledge. To me that is how I identify the idea of a worthy life, which I connect to my choice of actively participating in the cultural transcendence through the medium of film. Many stories remain absent in mainstream society as parts of the human experience are negated by market demands in the film industry. The specific sector of the human experience that I am referring to is the untold narratives that sometimes are purposefully avoided to not seem controversial. The idea of controversiality stems from the lack of exposure to information, and oftentimes film viewers don’t want to bother to take the extra step to educate themselves on topics when they are going for the purpose of entertainment. I, too, have been a part of that group watching films for the purpose of entertainment and not for the purpose of deepening my path as a critical thinker. All things considered, it is not my job to force the audience to engage in my work but I do want to make clear that there are issues that are being overlooked in the world and humanize these issues into narratives that are currently suffering the brunt of them. Through my work, I can therefore give voice to those who feel like they are being unheard, ignored, and silenced.
I understand that the entertainment industry grows and evolves to its consumers, but I also aim to fulfill my own desire for exposing narratives. This is especially important for those who don’t have the outlets to tell their stories which I desired to tell ever since I was young. My initial exposure to the importance of these stories was through my father, who was very passionate about the topic of indigenous language preservation. His emphasis on the possible loss of a whole tapestry of one’s culture had greatly influenced how I personally perceived the importance of sharing knowledge across fields. With influence from this ideology, I yearn to hone in on the same ideas and apply it to my passion as an aspiring professional in the cutthroat industry of film.
As an intellectually evolving person with many facets to my identity, I pinpoint my creative side for the purpose of the self discovered passion of film. From this, I aim to answer this question: To what extent can I quench the creative thirst as an artist yet also educate the audience on topics deeper than surface entertainment? This question aims to alleviate the weight of the purpose of my life. It identifies what I find to be the most influential to society’s needs.
Both the notion of knowledge seeking and creativity are present in my aspirations as a film professional. However, beneath the realm of film as a mode of entertainment, there is also a side of film that contributes to the political sphere, which has the potential to shape the fabric of society. This also goes in hand with the consumption of news, which is oftentimes taken into consideration without the action to take the extra step to fact check. We receive our information through the spectrum of censorship and propaganda, which creates a grey line between truth and fabrication. With this understanding of current media, my future actions will unhinge “controversial” stories and go against this idea of gratifying the projected entertainment demand of the films.
A memory that initially impacted my vision was when my father partook in a trip to Ecuador where he lived with the Amazonia Achuar tribe. For weeks, he participated in all of their traditions and with their permission, brought videographers to record their language and culture for the purpose of educating those who fail to relate to their way of life. Through the perspective of the Western world, there is often the misconception that indigenous tribes and sacred communities lack the understanding of the more capitalist world shrouded in modernity. With this external mindset, the preservation of the land is not a priority as the land is seen as a commodity. The ideology of honoring the land and treating plants and animals as sacred beings as opposed to just entities subjected in mass production is not universally honored.
That being said, the Achuar tribe, along with many other indigenous communities in Ecuador’s foliage have been facing the threat, openly protesting against Chinese, American (Texaco and Occidental Petroleum specifically), and Ecuadorian oil companies as they seek to perform oil drilling on their sacred ground. With this disruption, the rich biodiversity that inhabits the land also is subjected to the destruction. It is clear to me that the importance to educate groups on untold narratives, such as that of the Achuar people, is versatile to preserve the human experience in encouraging the seeking of knowledge from those who are unaware. The message is also more apparent when the lives of people are put at risk because of corporate gain. In this case, the extraction waste is poisoning the water source of the Achuar people which created the problem of having to trek 5 hours for clean water. Through the introduction from my father and the pure luck of my conscious environment, I found a newfound purpose on my own terms to give voice to groups that lack the greater coverage of an audience. As a creator, I need to take initiative to tell a story, as the demand for it from the audience does not appear out of thin air.
Politics play a big role when it comes to narrative representation within films. As an individual of the United States, the topics with politics are highly polarizing, creating barriers between groups of people. A majority of the time, it’s the lack of communication that creates tension between these groups. The dissonance of information comes from the oftentimes intentional lack of information provided to incite opposition, in other words the role of censorship. In a recent Netflix documentary titled Knock Down the House, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a current democratic congresswoman for New York State said (in the context of the political stance she takes) how “it is not about the separations between democrats and republicans, it is about morality and unification….how it’s about standing up for working people, standing up against corporate interests”. From this observation, it also becomes clear that the support of corrupt, highly endowed corporations play a big role in the dispersion of media as she works to speak for the people whose voices are muddled by their ulterior motives of self interest.
AOC invites the questions with an empathetic mindset trying to deter from “how does this benefit me?” as opposed to “how do we all get the most benefit as a whole community?”. Through her influence as an advocate for the citizens of New York and the greater American community, the ideology of betterment beyond self is prevalent in the work that I aim to do. Because ultimately, when a story becomes known to the audience, the emotion elicited through empathy will be a driving force for the sharing of the stories. For example, a short film was released in 2015 titled Beneath the Canopy, which touches on the Achuar people standing up to both Big oil and pushing its effect on climate change. To some, the drilling on the Achuar’s sacred home might seem distant to their reality as they have their own worries to tend to. Especially since little coverage is put at the front of the news when it seems that everyday there is a new issue to tend to. This creates noise to most people’s daily life, so they choose to avoid the news or simply make a passing comment but there is no strong impression. Although this mindset is quite common, the link to the bigger picture of the deterioration of our planet as a whole should be something that catches attention. The Achuar people are the inhabitants of “the lungs of the world”, as the Amazon is one of the most important jungles to our planet. That should be something worth protecting. The difference of understanding issues like the Achuar people in a news headline is that films like Beneath the Canopy, creates a digestible and emotionally enrapturing snapshot to play into the emotion of the potential audiences.
The evolution of me as a creator is also anticipated as I discover more issues that are unknown to me. As much as I am an advocate for the implementation of films that support the notion of seeking knowledge, the intersectionality between both creativity and knowledge dispersion exists in a threshold decided by the viewer’s interest when it comes to the terms of success. The view of success is not that of simply monetary value but of the transfer of information and its retrieval as an action changer. If I am unable to reach the audience purely through just showing the information and keep their attention, the reigns must also be directed to the film being an art form. Cinematography and the other aspects that go into a production must also be taken into account. I want to be able to create impacts on the audience in a way where they internalize the knowledge and have the urge to share its content because it moved them, that’s when I know I have reached success as a knowledge distributor.
The film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a good example of film that has personally moved me, and sets a good example of the style that is useful in storytelling as a mode of education. The film tells a story through re-enactment of a true occurrence of a boy in Malawi combating his situation within his impoverished community that lacks the resources for water. After sneaking into a library, he learns how to build a windmill that ultimately saves his community from a drought stricken famine. Not only does this film an exemplary example of the importance of education, it also provides a narrative that reaches across language and economic boundaries through the stylized cinematography, grasping the audience’s attention.
The whole basis of conflict comes from the misinformation of one’s sources or a different translation of a situation. As something that has been an inner frustration for so long, the topic of censorship and the institutions that actively implement it, is also a part of the issue of the lack of certain stories. Because with truth comes opposition, so companies will strategically try and cover up information that therefore leaving issues to be under the radar from the greater public. According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, implemented by the UN, any individual is free to seek and receive news. With this understanding, it is clear that it is simply unacceptable in terms of the human right to truth to shield information that could potentially help smaller communities, like the Achuar, to fight bigger corporations.
Beyond the aspirational advance to fulfill that of a profession such as film, the underpinnings of the passion remains a lifelong collection of knowledge. The push to expose one’s story could quite literally determine the fate of its preservation. The creative process is merely my voice as an artist acclimated to the professional framework of a “filmmaker” or an active participant of the media of film. As a woman who is multiracial and has a family in different cultural and economic backgrounds, the yearn to tell these stories also works as a voice for myself as well. My self-reflection on the how and the why of creating content to educate correlates to the current issues that remain prevalent to my generation. Issues such as the inequality of rights towards women and BIPOC, rape culture, political suppression, the in and outs of climate change, and high levels of economic inequality (such as poverty) all remain relevant to the current issues of me personally, my community and the external community. With active thinking towards these topics, it’s not difficult to feel the empathy to those who have endured these injustices. It is with that twinge in my heart that really makes me want to share with the external world and hopefully garner real life action against these topics.
As a collective voice, the prospect for change is more attainable and makes it less daunting to go against the powers behind the issues. With the passing of knowledge through the disguise of entertainment, the association of joy and more cohesive explanation of topics will create an easier space for discussion amongst viewers. If I am able to successfully lure (if you may) them through a film, like Beneath the Canopy and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, being a visual masterpiece as well as an overall great production (and ideally bigger production) then the want to receive the information will come naturally, much like those films did to me as an audience member. With this in mind, the creative process of an aspiring film industry participant is just as important. I speak on the film industry not simply as an industry but as a carrier of knowledge distribution for knowledge seekers. Moreover, on a personal level I also intend to partake in the notion that learning is a life long journey and not a temporary aspiration.
The Achuar people had nearly zero contact with the outside world, intentionally so , yet were forced to face big corporations just to preserve what they had left. Their people mirror the merely half a billion indigenous people fighting to preserve their culture, and some have given up as the walls of constraint are too high to fight against. Part of my intellectual identity entails the power that my voice and knowledge can be used to move masses who can be more confident and knowledgeable in topics of deeper meaning. In the context of present time, this greatly involves the political world. Both through giving people, like the Achuar, a platform to gain support and through the audience using their own sense of judgement and allocate a voice that can be loud enough to overturn injustice.
Having a conflict-less world is merely an impossible task, yet if I can actively create a platform that provides deeper insight to diminish the quick creation of assumptions and educate on the basis without subjectivity then my goal will be met.
Bozigar, Matthew, et al. “Oil Extraction and Indigenous Livelihoods in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon.” World Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Feb. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4629257/.
“10 Most Censored Countries.” Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, 2 July 2020, cpj.org/reports/2019/09/10-most-censored-eritrea-north-korea-turkmenistan-journalist/.
Blasco, Pablo Gonzalez, et al. “Education through Movies: Improving Teaching Skills and Fostering Reflection among Students and Teachers.” Journal for Learning through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Schools and Communities, vol. 11, no. 1, 2015, doi:10.21977/d911122357.
Daily, Screen. “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.” Limits of the Imagination Film Series, Penn State, 2019, intersections.psu.edu/the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind-6/.
Orfalea, Matt. “That Time Noam Chomsky Was Censored by National Public Radio (NPR).” Medium, Medium, 28 June 2018, 0rf.medium.com/that-time-noam-chomsky-was-censored-by-national-public-radio-npr-881db989be06.
FREEMAN, MICHAEL. “Indigenous Tribe Halts Oil Drilling in Amazon — for Now.” Amazon Watch, 27 June 2019, amazonwatch.org/news/2019/0627-indigenous-tribe-halts-oil-drilling-in-amazon-for-now.
Goldman, Jason G. “Ecuador Has Begun Drilling for Oil in the World’s Richest Rainforest.” Vox, Vox, 14 Jan. 2017, www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/1/14/14265958/ecuador-drilling-oil-rainforest.
“Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
“A Netflix Original Documentary.” Knock Down The House, 22 Apr. 2019, knockdownthehouse.com/.
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