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Film Binge


We, The Sisterhood, watched The Railway Man last night. Tears rolled. No spoiler alert here. I’ll just tell you that the movie’s adapted from the book, same title, a true story—one of wartime torture, devotional love, and redemption.

Several times, Erma asked, “Why war? Why don’t we learn?”

Years ago when I was soaking in establishment mythology, I’d have said, “To spread democracy” or “humanitarian intervention.” Now, I say, “Greed.”

Speaking of gluttony, I’ve been immersed in films this week, and I want more. My Netflix queue is loaded with documentaries. Last week, I attended a documentary film festival. Saw KikiPickle, and Life, Animated. Each is powerful.

Kiki is the story of young LGBT people of color, their aspirations, dreams, philosophies, and wisdom. It’s the ball subculture and voguing I first was exposed to over 25 years ago through another documentary, Paris Is Burning.

In light of current electoral politics in states passing anti-LGBT legislation, Kiki is profoundly relevant. Sadly, people who SHOULD see it won’t. They’re busy, rallying, spewing Christofascism, in support of hate bills. May their vocals be muted by a tolerant majority.

Pickle is an example of the sentient, a couple’s capacity to love, take in, and nurture injured animals, including a paraplegic possum, even a deformed fish whose name provides the title of the hilarious and poignant documentary.

Stupidly, I didn’t realize until halfway through the last film, Life, Animated, that the author of the book it’s based on is THE Ron Suskind who revealed that jarring quote by Karl Rove about the way today’s world works for people like him vs. people like you and me. But first, the documentary: After Suskind and his wife Cornelia were told their son Owen was autistic, they worked tirelessly to reach him. And finally, a gasp-able realization: Owen’s mind was a repository of words and images from all the Disney movies he’d watched, absorbed, memorized. The movies helped him express emotions and make sense of the world, and they became vehicles through which his family communicated with him.

A friend and I discussed how dissimilar Owen’s situation was and is—to have parents with the resources necessary for progress, the private schools, the facility where he could live independently in his own apartment—from children with severe learning disorders who have little or no support. The difference between life and death.

Continuing my more, more, more, I watched Paris is Burning last night. I’ve seen it probably 10 times. Laura fell asleep, while Erma and I discussed the mini-wars between and among the performers. The resourcefulness, fantasies, the longing for a “normal” life. Here’s a favorite quote:

This is white America. Any other nationality that is not of the white set knows this and accepts this till the day they die. That is everybody’s dream and ambition as a minority – to live and look as well as a white person. It is pictured as being in America. Every media you have; from TV to magazines, to movies, to films… I mean, the biggest thing that minority watches is what? ‘Dynasty’ and ‘The Colbys’. Umm, ‘All My Children’ – the soap operas. Everybody has a million-dollar bracket. When they showing you a commercial from Honey Grahams to Crest, or Lestoil or Pine-sol, everybody’s in their own home. The little kids for Fisher Price toys; they’re not in no concrete playground. They’re riding around the lawn. The pool is in the back. This is white America. And when it comes to the minorities, especially black, we as a people, for the past 400 years, is the greatest example of behavior modification in the history of civilization. We have had everything taken away from us, and yet we have all learned how to survive. That is why, in the ballroom circuit, it is so obvious that if you have captured the great white way of living, or looking, or dressing, or speaking, you is a marvel.~Pepper LaBeija, “Mother” of the House of LaBeija

Returning now to Rove’s schooling Suskind: Rove said guys like Suskind were “in what we call the reality-based community.” He continued with the chilling distillate of U.S. policy:

That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

Yet, there is hope. The films demonstrate this, each an example of what can be accomplished despite overwhelming challenges.

Get involved. Think of your life as bookends: birth and death. And fill the space between with meaning.

Addendum: Please don’t write and inform me of Disney capitalist propaganda. I know it. And I’d use it and just about anything available to help a child.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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