Cinema Ex Verite
Wow. As of the end of yesterday, Cinema Ex Verite is past it’s first year. Rob and I can’t hardly believe how fast the whole thing has gone and how much we’ve grown as a website, as writers, and, most importantly, as Christians. We’ve brought things here to the site that we ourselves wrestled with and, even though we’ve just started to get some true conversations going on with CxV’s community, we’ve learned a lot about what it means to communicate with a broad audience that has a niche group within.
I thought I might just take this time to bring up some things that have been kind of compiling in my brain and heart for a while. I was waiting for the right time and the right time seems now.
If i can, in the rest of this entry, i’d like to get into the meaning, purpose, and future of Cinema Ex Verite; The other manifestations of Paradox (cue mystery music ); The goals and expectations we’re putting ourselves and on you, our readers; And when you might actually get to see some real flimmaking from us.
First, let’s tackle this title: Cinema Ex Verite. What on earth, right? How did we come to such a trivial, bi-lingual, mouth-fullish type name for our site? It starts, as all good things do, with a movement.
The movement was, as most movements are, a reaction. Filmmakers of the 40′s and 50′s sought in the deepest parts of their souls for truth; truth about life and about how people actually are and how a society really functions in spite of what that society or individual is told about how other people and societies function. It was a response to the supposed nobility of idealism which had become an idol to people of all nationalities. The movement sought truth in the midst of fantasy, life in the midst of stories, and people in the midst of characters. The movement, was “Cinema Verite.”
Though there is much debate as to the terms of conditions of what a film had to be in order to be genred as, “Cinema Verite,” it can come down to a basic contrast of “realism,” and, “escapism.”
As you are probably well aware, the film industry of the 40′s and 50′s was less concerned with life and more concerned with entertainment, crowds, and mass-audience appeal. It had become a popular thing to make films that made people happy; The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, and Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, to name a few of many. And who could really blame them? You’re coming off of War, Depression, climbing crime and sucicide rates, and a nationally grey morale. No once wants to see a movie about a young man going off to war just to be shot to death or tortured so that the people in his country could live. Patriotic? Yes. Happy? No. Let’s do Singin’ in the Rain instead. We want our audience’s walking out with smiles not screaming kids.
Easy to see the thought process isn’t it? But did that make it a good thing? I greatly enjoyed what Flannery O’Connor said on a similar matter of literature:
“A literature which mirrors society would be no fit guide for it.” Why would she say that and why do you think it’s true? Not that Flannery O’Connor is the authority on all things but look at the truth that is implied and recognized in that statement. Did, “Mein Kampf,” reform or catalyze the Nazi movement? Obviously we see that a drowning pig cannot tell another drowning pig how to save itself when the first pig doesn’t know how to save himself. So what was an idealistically-driven film industry doing by mirroring and idealistically-driven society? Notice I’m not saying a morally driven society, but and idealistically driven society…Were they helping them; were they guiding them? Ask old war veterans who still have nightmares and visions and emotional instabilities wether or not seeing one of these movies helped them to heal. Did it pascify them? Temporarily. For that brief moment in time they were somewhere else; they felt better; they left their reality to see a reality that perhaps they wished for; an ideal; and this, in it’s own right, is indeed part of the process, but if you ask any doctor or leader of any kind of rehabilitative ministry or program, they will tell you that exposing those deep things and getting at them is what really helps? “Facing your demons,” as it were. As Rob said on facebook the other day (quoting something i believe), “The world doesn’t go away when you close your eyes, does it?” No it doesn’t.
So, can you see, then, why some of these “Cinema Verite” filmmakers desired something more; Something deeper; something real. So they answered with what they thought was their best shot; truth, or, in this case, “Verite.” Film Truth. The translation was as literal as it was blunt. The purpose of this movement was too look past all the ways we like to pretend we are and to show us for who we really are.
The techniques included recording real conversations with real people on a recording, and then juxtaposing them against a visual represenation of the matter at hand, or setting up a real scenario with people who were non-actors and letting them write the scene, and on the edge of it’s standard lied something that i believe to be the true art of the whole movement; a scene or scenario taken from some piece of life a Cinema Verite filmaker had observed. It was set up by the director who would either let the actors improvise within the scene or would inform them of the general dialogue that he himself would come up with “in the truth of the moment.” This began to skirt the edge of the medium but the integrity of the movement lied in the motives of its auteurs.
The purpose of Cinema Verite was obvious; have in impact, make a change, alter a decision, inspire a thought, push a reform, save a life–anything deeper than mere entertainment. Sure, you could say it looked down it’s nose at people and in so doing, become a hypocrite and contradiction of it’s character, but this is the nature of us; we don’t see where the boundaries lie. We seek truth, wether we are Christians or not, but we will mostly remain in the dark about it. The final journey on the road to self-discovery lies on the horizon of honesty. But once we’re there, to the end of our world’s so to speak, we have a Truman-Show moment; the point where we’ve reached past all of the fake and facade and have come up to a choice; do we accept that there are things even past full self-awareness? Do we acknowledge what even the forerunners of Cinema Verite failed to see?: That seeing our problems and callling a spade a spade leaves us only with a spade but nothing to do with it?
If true impact is to be made through art rather than mere prophecy, then we have to go that next step; we have to give that answer; we have to expose and explore a greater Truth beyond ourselves. And that is the point of Cinema Ex Verite.
Cinema Ex Verite; Cinema From Truth; the difference is subtle but it is infinite in it’s implication. We don’t want to remain in that ship, stranded with ourselves and nowhere to go. For, if this is all there is to life, then why not make life what you want it to be? Why not act as though these things don’t matter, that life is merely a distraction? If truth lies at the core of my soul, then I’m afraid of the truth, because my soul and anyone else’s soul (wether they’ll ever admit to it or not) is mean, selfish, cruel, hateful, angry, hurt, jealous, lustful, envious, and calussed at it’s core. It’s why they make movies like The Road; it’s therapeutic in a sense to be so honest about our nature but with nowhere to go once we have that truth, truth becomes an enemy that must be escaped at all costs.
But it’s not all there is. There is a Truth, far beyond me or you that exists and lives and perpetuates all sense of purpose, love, and kindness and that truth is Jesus Christ; him crucified; him buried; him risen again; him to yet return for his bride. I’m sure we get several hundred readers a week who do not believe in God. Or, if they do, they certainly don’t adhere to the Judeo-Christian view of God. I’d like to say that’s fine, but i don’t believe that. I don’t accept the idea that everyone can believe what they want to believe and all turn out okay in the end. I am not calmed or admonished by bumper-stickers that tell us all to co-exist, while actually telling us to form a cohesive belief that is non-offensive to any of the other parties for the mere sake of non-offense. i’m sorry, but isn’t this an attempt at idealism? There’s too much evil in the world for me to pretend that anyone can follow their own moral code and have everyone come out unscathed; somehow I’ve yet to be persuaded that this is possible, let alone likely. If we take this hyper-pragmatic stance we will be left to believe in nothing because what purpose is there if none of it matters? At the end of this perspective lies that lonely boat in the middle of a vast ocean full of people trying to tell us to pull the sail this way or that and telling us that if we listen to everyone there while simultaneously trying to convince us that listening to everyone will somehow get us to the same destination, when, in actuality, we’ll lay still, directionless and left alone to die in a sea of relativism.
At this point, you may either agree with me or not, and you don’t have to listen, but as I go on i want you to think about these things; deeply. And i admonish you to pay attention to a still small voice telling you you’re not an accident; you’re meant to do something; you’ve been designed and fashioned for reason; and i admonish you to not make the mistake so many do and ignore the pull of that still small voice to the truth.
I don’t want to explore every nook and cranny of this debate and I don’t want to stray from the purpose of this article, but i do desire every soul to turn to God as his make and to Christ as their Lord and Savior; It is from this truth our cinema comes. Cinema Out of Truth. Cinema Ex Verite.
So now that we’ve been through the FIRST POINT of my outline (my apologies), I’ll hurriedly get to and through the rest, because from here on out, everything else is how we make these beliefs real.
So, point # 2: Paradox. What is paradox? Strictly speaking it is truth that is guised as a contradiction. These are normally the most profound and persuasive truths, for we are selves seem to be paradoxes. But, strictly speaking, that isn’t what our Paradox is.
To us, Paradox has always existed; before Cinema Ex Verite even. In fact, you’ve been taking part in Paradox ever since you’ve been part of Cinema Ex Verite. (feels like i’m quoting Inception or the Matrix here). That’s because Paradox is the ministry while CxV is an arm from that ministry.
I’ve always wanted to make Christian films that are excellent and powerful, and i wanted to start a ministry that would do just that. And so, “Paradox,” was born. Initially it existed in my head as a studio, but as i’ve grown into an every “communication/technology-operated” society, I’ve realized that the mediums are many, as are my passions. And so, Paradox is now multi-faceted (or, will be). My passion is that we would reach into every aspect of the arts and provide both a theologically sound and creatively sublime warehouse for quality and powerful artistic expression in every medium that would effectively reach the world with the gospel.
My first partner in this venture was Rob. He’s been my closest friend since childhood and one of those people who you know you’re supposed to keep running with; a realtionship to keep alive and a friendship to keep thriving. Outside of my wife, I’d say Rob knows me the best. Without his continued support and contribution and passion for this site, I can see where I could’ve easily tossed in the towel. And as we continue, we seek new partners and have, indeed, found them.
A good friend of mine, Kristin Ungerecht (http://chronicles.kkandacamera.com/), has joined me in the start-up that will be Paradox Photography. As some of you know; actually, scratch that; You should all know at this point that I love cinematography, which sprung from my love of photography. I’ve taken many classes and am currently enrolled in a program to earn some certification for it. I’m also an advocate of the idea that great cinematographers must first be great photographers, so, i think it is a quintessential part of the filmmaking process.
It is also its own art form that does something beautiful in itself; freezes a moment in time so that it can be viewed over and over and over again and enjoyed by filling in the sounds and feelings of the scene with your imagination.
Currently I’m not in the position to fully pursue making Paradox Photography a manifest business/ministry, but will in the near future. Kristen and I have had many talks about the direction we’d like to take Paradox Photo. and it’s gonna be super cool I’m thankful for her and her heart for those around her who don’t know Christ. We both believe Photography is just as much a medium for ministry as the other art forms are and will be pursuing it fully in the near future.
Which leads into the future of CxV, and of Paradox Pictures.
Rob and I love film criticism and Christian-Cinema philosophy, but we are absolutely chomping at the bit to make films that will live out our philosophies. We’ve started a couple of ideas and written some things that are actually well on their way to becoming a reality. Right about the same time Pardox Photography will be taking off, Paradox Pictures will begin it’s productions in full swing, with Rob, myself, and a few others at the helm of the venture. So where does this leave Cinema Ex Verite?
Well, good news; not only will it still go strong in the future, we are pushing ourself this year to make this place something more. We are gonna try some branding, maybe some merchandising, and maybe some collective literature for you to download or purchase. But before we start sounding like a sell-out, I’ll tell you that we are looking to try and “professionalize” some things about the site; this means a couple of things: Better organization, More Series, More staff/contributors, better communication and a wider-spread reach. These are things we hope to implement through various methods we are currently discussing and hope to make it so that you don’t notice a big change, but feel it nonetheless.
From you we expect honesty; that’s it. Give us feedback, tell us what you think, spread the word (good word hopefully :)) and don’t be afraid to interact and challenge. We both like a good challenge
So there you have it.
One year of analyzing Cinema
One year of exploring Truth
One year of
Cinema Ex Verite