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The Genesis of New Era. . .

April 17, 2007

At this point, I guess I am still developing the background to what New Era is, and just where it came from. In this essay, originally written for my blog at Zaadz.com, and posted on January 8th, 2007, I used the term New Era for the first time. Although it had been coming together as a concept for some time, this was the first time when the concept seemed to find coherence. Even a bit of attention!

I will continue to roll out my archive of core material from my blog at Zaadz, as well as putting out the new in the coming days. With my sights currently set on both a feature film and two shorts, I may go archival for just a bit, but content will continue to be generated and delivered. In the meantime, to those of you who are watching me unfold this minor spectacle of a blog, thanks for being here, watching and eventually I hope to start getting to know you better as friends, colleagues, and if I am lucky, perhaps even consorts. . .

Thanks for BEING here!

–D.

Children-panEven The Bleak Gives Me Hope. . .

Yesterday, I took in a double bill of what could have been a “blow your brains out” pair of films: Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men.  Both films are often brutal in their violence and shaking in their themes, and neither of them would feature what would commonly be called a “Hollywood Ending”. Each of the films in their own right would make filling cinematic meals, but taken in together you’ll walk out feeling as if you have indulged in an extravagant filmic buffet, stuffed to the
last notch on your belt with delicious substance.

This post is less a review of two of the year’s finest films, as it is as the beginning of a thought cycle on hope, artistic quality and responsibility, and the direction which all artists I believe will eventually be heading. Furthermore, I am not likely to hit all of the notes that I wish to, because much of this is still percolating in my mind, but I will be returning here to finish my thoughts before too long.

Let it first be understood that Pan’s Labyrinth is not a children’s film. Perhaps fodder for every adult’s inner child, but this is definitely one to call the babysitter for. It’s a classic fairy tale set amidst the real life setting of Spain during Franco’s
era. The film’s villain is a very real and sadistic officer who doles out pain with pleasure and ease. The heroes are the little girl who has come to live with her mother in the home of the facist officer, the head of the captain’s house, and the family doctor who lends comfort and aid to the resistance fighters living in the forest.

To me, the real hero in this movie resides in the heart and mind of the film’s Director, Guillermo Del Toro. A storyteller for certain, but one who has taken it upon himself to reframe the trappings of the fairy tale.  In many ways, it is a very standard fantasy, except for the choices that Del Toro has made to set the fantasy amidst the dark fabric of the modern era. In many ways, he has chosen to tell a story not so much to succor the suffering child in all of us, but more to speak of truths
needed to be expressed for the next era in human evolution.

Interestingly enough, there is a Judeo-Christian bent to the film which for this
writer, in this day and age is not often a source of inspiration and light. However, I doubt that any fundamentalist or orthodox Christian will be able to sit lightly through this tale. For me, this again is a source of hope and inspiration as I am reminded of an Episcopalian priest who played a signigicant role in my life and was fond of the idea of “Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

Del Toro deals unflinchingly with the ideas of violence, mercy, justice and how each have a hand in one another. He deals with the notions of blindness and zeal and how the loss of one’s ability to question has direct correlation to one’s ability to feel mercy for another. He also sets Christian mythology neatly alongside Pagan mythology as a reminder to all of us of their kinship. After all just who is Pan? The Devil? Trickster, demi-god or angel? Or perhaps aspects of all of the above?

Pan’s Labyrinth is an old story framed in a new language, and done so with the
responsibility of a New Era Artist. Instead of creating a fairy tale which helps the viewer escape from the darkness of the world outside, Del Toro is like the storytelling father who says “Yes, the world is a dark and scary place, but together we can look at the world and no longer be afraid.”

The second of these two films, Children of Men, was even less “upbeat” than the first, but again, I had to walk out of the theatre carrying a loud note of hope, and the soothing note of Shanti, Shanti, Shanti…

Speaking only from the view of a cinematic aesthete, I will admit that the craft
of filmmaking was nothing short of amazing. Between the camera work of Emmanuel Lubezki, the editing of both Director Alfonso Cuaron and Alex Rodriguez, I have Oscars in my eyes for all three of these filmmakers.

While set twenty years in the future, Children of Men feels closer to being set twenty minutes from now. The basic premise is in a future where humanity has lost its ability to procreate, society has deteriorated into a world where humanity has been shackled to a police state in the name of Homeland Security. In this state,
immigrants are deported and tortured for the national benefit, suicide is wrapped in a beautiful pharmaceutical package, and ganja is still illegal. Children of Men
is relevant, bleak and alarming. It’s also far earlier than being timely. And yet, the fact that the film got made and is finding an audience gives one pause for hope.

Many films that I have seen this year have given me the sense of the growing voice that is coming out of hearts and minds around the world. It tells me that we are
coming to an end of an era laden with preaching and divisiveness, the ideas of who is “right” and who is “wrong”, and instead taking up the cause of survival and evolution.

As this piece draws to a close, I have to take my hat off to Alfonso Cuaron who was key to both of these films being made. As a Producer on Pan and Director on Children he has been one of the central keys to the birth of these films. I can
assure you that there is much to be optimistic about knowing that people like Cuaron and Del Toro are out there in just one medium of contemporary art.

There are so many more people like them out there. It’s not just in the land
of celebrity or the spotlight of just that single facet of the artistic community, but so many others in every facet of the emerging gem of humanity’s Art. The more I look around me and consider the work and care of so many artists visible and invisible, famous and anonymous, I begin to feel a sense of ease. Ease not from feeling that
“Everything’s gonna be okay”, but in knowing that we will perservere through these dark times. I see this here at Zaadz, in Camp Happiness, her author and scribes, and in the hearts of those who have chosen to be here with their eyes set on a better way.

Do you begin to get the sense of why even in this era of darkness, I have such a strong sense of hope?

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