Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Category: stories

A Wide View

Sometimes I wonder why I chose to study film and not something more practical.  Well, yesterday I had an insight into why I made that decision. I was talking with a pathologist about her job when she made an observation that took me completely by surprise.  She told me the most difficult thing about her job is keeping an open mind.  She explained that she has seen her pathologist friends over the years go from being very “wide-minded” people to very narrow-minded people.

“It’s all about the job,” she said.  “All day, every day, we look into a microscope.  We intentionally narrow our vision.  We must ignore everything else except this microscopic thing right in front of our eyes.  I am not looking at a whole person to find their disease.  I am only looking at a small piece of his kidney or her lung to find the disease.  It begins to affect your outlook on life too.”

She went on to explain how she saw her pathologist friends narrow their views of morality, religion, politics, family life, etc. until they could no longer contextually evaluate anything.  She finds she must be very intentional about keeping an open mind to not fall into the same rut as her colleagues.

As she was talking, the light bulb clicked on for me.  “That’s why I chose to study mass communications!”  I love gathering information from a variety of sources.  I feel stifled if I am stuck with the same thing for too long.  I feel the most fulfilled when I am in situations where I am encouraged to have an open mind.  I want to live with a wide view.

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Making the Most of a Commercial’s Budget

This is a beautiful ad for Chanel No. 5.   I really like the director took the time to actually craft a short story for this commercial.  And then followed through with great directing, acting, cinematography, and locations.  Trains.  Istanbul.  And the lovely Audrey Tautou.  What more could you ask for?

Why do we tell stories?

Last night I had some friends over for a party.  We ate and played Taboo for a while and enjoyed ourselves.  And then we began swapping stories.  Our own stories, our parents’ stories, stories we had heard from other friends, probably even a few urban legends.  It was really fun hearing stories.  After a couple hours of that I started wondering why we tell stories.  Why do we share stories?  Why do we find enjoyment in hearing other people’s stories?  From the time that we are small children, we ask for stories.  In every culture that I have ever observed, storytelling is important.  What is so human about telling stories?

Monsoon Season

Taken from BBC.com

How I want to learn to see the world

When I was studying Biblical wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) last semester, we started talking about how to interpret the poetry of wisdom literature.   One of our professors mentioned that many medieval theologians viewed the world as full of metaphors for God and His character and so they found the poetic style of David and Solomon very natural.  Though these medieval theologians viewed the world as corrupted by sin, they strongly believed that if we learn to look closely at the world, we can see glimpses of God.  Even the tree growing right outside my window can teach me something about God if I take the time to notice it and think about it.

I like this idea.  A lot.  It is not a pantheistic claim that God is everything, but rather a healthy appreciation of God’s fingerprints on our world.  After all, as Creator of the world, wouldn’t He leave His trademark on it?

Learning to think about the world this way has really deepened my appreciation for the creativity of God in that last few months.  It has also helped me to think more about how I tell stories.  Am I picking up on the God-given metaphors around me?  How I can use those metaphors to tell better stories?

I am trying to learn to see the world that way.

Sound and Fury

My mom heard about this film somewhere so she ordered it since we can rarely find documentaries in Turkey.  (I know.  My last posts were about a documentary film FESTIVAL in Turkey, but I think that’s fairly rare.)  Anyway, we watched it as a family on Friday evening and it was really fascinating!

Sound and Fury follows the decisions of two families of whether or not to give their deaf children cochlear implants.  I never realized that there would even be a decision involved in whether or not to give your child hearing.  Apparently there is a very big debate though among the deaf community because many are concerned that cochlear implants will destroy deaf culture.  (No, I had never heard of deaf culture either.)

My family has still been talking about this film.  It was really, really thought-provoking.  It also lead to a lot of questions about the issue of extracting any person from his/her own culture.  Is it ever a good idea?

After a short internet search I found that a follow-up film has been made.  http://soundandfuryfilm.com/sixyears/  I’ll have to see about getting a copy of that too!

Documentarist

Today I went to check out the Istanbul documentary film festival.  I saw 2 feature-length documentaries and about 6 shorts.  The atmosphere was different from the American film festivals that I’ve been to.  My experience with film festivals is that people are really chatty and mingling and discussing the films and such.  I was there for over four hours today and didn’t hear anyone say anything aside from the occasional whispering to a neighbor.  No filmmakers for Q&A either.  I was a little disappointed about that.  The two features that I saw were really interesting though. 

“Please Vote for Me!” was excellent!  It has no narrator and simply documents an experiment in democracy at a Chinese primary school.  For the first time, a class of third graders is given the opportunity to vote for their class monitor.  The three canidates are chosen by the teacher and embark on a week of campaigning.  Classmates, friends, and parents all get involved in the process.  The way the election process progresses is really fascinating (and often funny).  And it was eye-opening about the way democracy is perceived in China.  I highly recommend it!  I really like documentaries that are both informative and entertaining.  You can check out the trailer here:

Trailer for “Please Vote for Me!”

“Who Am I?” was the other documentary I saw.  This one was about the 500 Argentinian children that disappeared during the 1977-1983 military coup.  Apparently 30,000 adults and 500 children disappeared during this period.  Most of the adults were killed but many of the children were given or sold to Argentinian families.  Most of these children have no idea that they were adopted or that some of their adoptive parents are actually the people who murdered their biological parents.  (I never even knew that Argentina had this violent history!)  Truly eye-opening and surprisingly moving.  You can read a news article about it here:

Article from The Guardian

Most of the shorts that I saw were from a project called “Why Democracy?”.  You can check it out here.

The editor of the “Why Democracy?” project, Nick Fraser, is quoted as comparing the documentary film movement to the rock ‘n’ roll movement and that documentaries are “one of the few truly distinctive cultural innovations of our time”. 

What do you think?

Documentaries in Istanbul

I just found out that there is an international documentary film festival called Documentarist going on right now in Istanbul. I’m hoping to make it to a few screenings.

When I looked at the schedule this morning I found out that “The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nuns” played last night. I’m disappointed to have missed it. This was my favorite documentary of the ones that I saw at Sundance 2007.

It’s a very unlikely story for a documentary. No history changing events or great world problems. It’s just the quiet little tale of a Danish man who invites Russian Orthodox nuns to set up a convent in his dilapidated castle. The old man’s quiet way of life and the busy nuns’ expectations clash in humorous and sometimes insightful ways.

I’m sorry I missed the screening. I’ll have to rent the DVD when I get back to the States and my Netflix account.

Summer Movies

Blockbusters that I’ve seen so far this summer

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Movies that I’ve seen that I’ve liked so far this summer:

The Fall

dir. Tarsem Singh

The Willow Tree

dir. Majid Majidi

Am I film snob so I am just drawn to the more obscure titles? Or is there something really better about these independent films over the big money-makers?  Would most people like “The Fall” and “The Willow Tree” better than action/adventure/superhero-movie-of-the-summer if they had a chance to see them?

Words

This was the final paper for my Literature: Autobiography class this semester. It is written according to the guidelines of the “This I Believe” project.

I believe in words.

My mother tells me that when I first learned how to talk I would only say the end of words. Watermelon became “lon-lon”. Maybe this has to do with the fact that I was an American child learning to speak English in Jamaica. Rather than choose the American or Jamaican pronunciation, I made up my own way. My father also tells me a story about when I was first learning to use words. I was two years old and playing with some little boys of the same age. My father was watching us in the front yard when a red car parked in front of our house. My little friends and I were very amused. The little boys started making car sounds–“brrrrrmmmm”, “beep-beep”. I stood beside them saying things like “look, it’s a car”, “pretty car”.
I was four years old when I discovered that words can be given to others without actually saying them. Books. My favorite book was about a wig on a pig. There was another book about a boy flying a kite. The book had a line that went something like, “I fly a kite.” I read it aloud as, “He flies a kite.” My teacher kept insisting that I was reading it wrong. I kept insisting that the story wasn’t about me so of course I wasn’t flying the kite. The first time that I wrote my own story (which was about a ladybug) I was amazed by the fact that other people would read it and know just what I was saying. Words on a page took on an almost magical quality. Books became my portal to other worlds.
I was eleven years old when I tried to speak using words different from my own. It was so extraordinary when “naan” started connoting “bread” to me. I have since studied three other languages and each time I begin to recognize the meaning of a word, I get a chill. How do foreign sounds suddenly import deep meaning to me? It is the magic of words that I can (with practice) communicate with a person whose every word used to be strange to me.
Now, in college, I have dedicated four years to studying words. They have become no less mysterious to me, but all the more powerful. I have come across sayings like, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And “Your words are like honey on my lips.” And “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. How can words fight, taste sweet, and live? I think it is because words are shared among people, but at the same time live a life of their own. Think about it, long after an author dies, his words continue to affect us. It is another magic of words—they can live forever.