Cineapolis Doctrine

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by Aswar Rahman

Transcript of Cineapolis Doctrine

Note: To skip the philosophy behind Cineapolis and go straight to the position descriptions, turn to page 7.

CineapHLiS

Cinema is one of the last remaining communal activities.

1

Somewhere in the world right now a small number of people are sitting seats apart from each other looking up at the same screen. Their recent past may have been filled with joy, sorrow, or ordinariness, but here they are, audience to the same work of art, and if the movie is strong enough, they will all leave the theater with their spirits and minds replenished, ready to face whatever struggles lie ahead as they go about the business of life.

Cinema is church without superstition; live comedy that can willingly displease; theater with more penetration and permanence. It is democratic and universal. A projector and a set of speakers can be found in most slums and all cities are expected to have at least one grand screen. It is all encompassingthe Seventh Art that combines architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, music, and poetry. It is versatile, as demonstrated by the sheer variety of cinema made in the past hundred years. Cinema can take us anywhere, focus our attention on anything, and redefine reality for us, at least for the span of its running time.

Coypel's Fury of Achilles (1737)Even the staunchest opponent of fascism felt a small admiration after watching Leni Riefenstahls Triumph of the Will. Sleazy mobsters started wearing sharp suits and speaking philosophically the day after watching Coppolas Godfather. Young men try to speak like Clooney, move like Gosling, and carry an expression like Bogart. Films are modern-day epics, and a Western child today wants to be Tony Stark as much as one raised in Ancient Athens wanted to be Achilles.

Malicks Tree of Life (2011)

Stories are a defining characteristic of our species. Our thoughts are essentially connections of causes and effects, and stories excel at elucidating the connection between the two. Storytelling has been empirically demonstrated to communicate information far more effectively than any rival method because it engages so much of the receivers mind. Psychological phenomena like neural coupling only strengthen the case that storytelling is the dominant way for us to transfer our knowledge and opinions to one another.

Storytelling is ancient but cinema is not. Were only about a hundred years into this great experiment and, I think, we are on the cusp of something wonderful. The Master, Birdman, Tree of Life, Mud, Foxcatcher, Beasts of the Southern Wild, all these veritable masterpieces were made in the past five years, and here are you and I, young and capable, who have a chance to help build this grand structure already under construction. Cinemas relative newness is an advantage to those who want to shape an art form for centuries to come.

Advantages of Cinema Over Other MediumsCinema is the best at engaging all our senses,because it synthesizes the other arts,and is played in a setting specifically geared to immerse.

Cinema is excellent at reaching a large number of people.because, again, theaters are made for large numbers,and films are surprisingly popular,both in the developed world,and the crucial, populous developing world.

Filmmaking is now accessible,because all necessary production equipment is now affordable,or can be acquired through financing if one has reasonably healthy credit.

Filmmaking is flexible.It has as much breadth as any artistic field, and can have as much depth if created by the right people.

Filmmaking is by its very nature meritocratic.because people will always want to pay to see a great story,and because its accessibility makes it hard to monopolize.

Filmmaking is an effort-rewarding field,because so much of it is learned through practice that one is bound to get better if they are honest with themselves.and because audiences grow exponentially.

Why not strive to cure cancer instead?It is a legitimate question and we should never ignore legitimate questions. Cinema demands tremendous energywhy not apply that energy to medicine, physics, technology or the like?

Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles could have dedicated their creativity and intellect to any other field and been useful to mankind. They most likely chose filmmaking because of a combination of their artistic inclinations, their circumstances in life, and their recognition of storytelling as a fundamental human need.

A matured perspective of the world recognizes humanitys various requirements. Food is important, but certain things trump even food supply. Who would sell their freedom of speech for the wealth of the average Singaporean? Medical research is unquestionably essential, but so is beauty and narrative.

Consider this: prisoners have starved themselves to death to protest their captivity. To those prisoners, dignity was worth more than food. The image of a man standing with his head held high was more valuable than that of a well-fed slave. This image is so vivid that it takes on the characteristics of a narrative: the characters of the rebel and the master, the plot that one demands liberty and the other demands obedience, the climax in which the rebel must demonstrate the conviction of her beliefs so that the master will be forced to a fight.

A Bengali Freedom Fighter Carrying Another (1971)

The strongest motives arise from self-perception, which is determined above all by the stories we put ourselves in.

It is my belief that all substantial human acts in the entirety of history are driven by a belief in some powerful narrative. The martyr facing death in the Roman arena found strength in the Epic of Christ. Bengali freedom fighters hiding in the jungle perhaps drew courage from the Saga of themselves as they saw itrugged jungle-warriors on a task to free their cities from enemy occupiers. To even a kind-hearted plantation heiress the idea of freedom for her familys slaves was nonsensical, because there was no room in the narrative for it. Likewise, criminals are generally convinced that they were doing the right thing, per their story. I am just a person, doing what I need to survive. That is a beautiful story, and has been at the core of some of the worst perversions people are capable of.

We are, as game theorists say, often illogical but seldom irrational, because we look out for our own interests. When a person puts himself into the narrative of a thiefor, as he would describe it, an enlightened non-conformist under financial stressthey adjust their behavior per their story. If that same person saw themselves as an impoverished Socratic protestor against materialistic society, then their story would not permit them to steal, because the narrative does not flow in that directionhis character would be too incoherent and the moral of the story would be lost.

Cinema doesnt tell us how to act, but at its best creates narratives to put ourselves in. Take Office Space, which I have turned to for solace whenever I find myself depressed in a corporate setting. I am the three workers, I am the quiet rebel, I am the intelligent, funny, frustrated hostage of my financial needs. Examine yourself, and witness the stories that have molded you.From a distance, we must appear to be an intelligent species in a rather empty universe, obsessed with our infighting and immediate needs. We are ugly when we are in a crowd but cant stand to be alone. Cinema provides us a medium through which to maintain our beautiful individuality while learning from the experiences of others. (That is, after all, the job of the actor: to truly live through an experience on behalf of the audience.)

It is through these case-studies of human experience that cinema makes us feel united with all of humanity, with the actress playing her role, with the wrinkled old man a few seats down watching the same screen. And when you leave this dark sanctuary back out onto the cold sidewalk and into the drone of uncaring traffic and the penetrating boredom of everyday life, you feel disoriented and curiously uplifted. It is how Plato describes leaving the proverbial Cave:

Liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and look towards the light ... the glare distresses him

but the distress is a side-effect of a thorough spiritual replenishment. We now wonder why that streetlight must be so bright, or why humans must be so cruel to one another, or why the father in the story couldnt have simply loved his child without bringing so much anger into all of it.

The ambition of all art is to remind us that there is beauty in our world and that there are things worth living and striving for. Stories lead us to hope, to feel, to provide context for our own lives and not feel terribly alone. Curing cancer is important. So is solving the economic inequalities of the Third World. And so is shaping the narratives that drive our society. In a world of seven billion, there are enough brilliant minds for every important field.

Cineapolis is the concept of a vibrant cinematic community based in the Twin Cities that makes and screens its films here. It is built on a network of resident filmmakers, designers, performers, distributors, businesses and audience members.

The model has been applied elsewhere. Essentially, filmmakers with local roots develop smaller-sized crews consisting of likeminded natives who are usually more artistically talented than technically proficient. They generally cast native actors, collaborate with local businesses on location usage and sponsorship, arrange screenings with independent theaters in the city and build an audience base in their area. Cineapolis aims to achieve much the same pattern as its counterparts