Tuesday, July 17, 2018


The first time I ever heard of "VICE", the online magazine, was when they did a story about Browning, Montana, the capital of the Blackfeet Nation.  That was a while ago.  It was an honest story, though they like the underside of life a little too much and kinda neglected the women.

Now today I've intersected with them in two ways.  One was a short video.  Online magazines are beginning to present short videos that same way that print magazine present articles.  This was a little vignette of people moving through their lives, but instead of edited bits that jumped from one scene to the other, the people were all there on a stage-space and the camera simply moved among the people.  It was beautifully done.  See for yourself:   https://video.vice.com/en_us/video/waad-short-film/5b4634fbbe407757714c6671

"Wa'ad" is a composite of what was written in letters from detention centers.  It is short and simple.  This URL will take you to both the film and a discussion and interview about it.  https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xmnyx/this-new-short-film-shows-life-in-isolation-for-imprisoned-refugees  

VICE is not limited to Self-Obsessed America, but covers stories about the globe.  Today this week's disastrous and obscene conference between Trump and Putin,  sent Trump out looking as though he'd been beaten with a stick.  (We used to call dogs like that "fear-biters" and they were dangerous.)  Putin came out smiling, a show of SM almost unbearable to watch.  

VICE has saved me again by reminding me through Twitter of Obama speaking in honor of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa.  #Mandelalecture  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlrWhx8Spp8  It's not that I agree with everything Obama said.  For one thing he never seems aware of the indigenous peoples around the world.  For another he values institutions and nations far more than I do -- he's more of a politician and I'm more of an anthropologist.  But Obama's graceful, mature, humorous presence was a welcome restorative.  He calls us back to the values of his youth and my young adulthood.  We forget.

"Wa'ad" is also a reminder of grace under pressure -- not the flamboyant heroism of the movies, but the daily work that is before us.  These people are not from Harvard and Yale and so on.  They are the people that the Ivy League students envy and go to visit, pretending that they are bringing technology but ending up with friendship and laughter, freely given, they never forget for the rest of their lives.  Obama didn't forget all that -- he was born into it and calls us to join.

Twitter has fallen on hard times and one has to wade through a lot of debris to get to the good stuff.  One "genre" it repeats is that of the single drunk old white man, near-homeless, who expresses his deficiencies by finding someone to berate and shout at -- sometimes even strike.  Women get into this mode as well, looking for vulnerable victims and finding little kids -- the only people weaker than themselves.  It's a form of street theatre but clearly these people have also acted this out at home, made themselves hated by their own families.

I used to say that the strategy of being the "last man standing" is far too common and always overlooks the problem that when the last man stands there all by himself, who's going to admire him, obey him, love him?  In contrast is the Biblical, "What you do to the least of us is also done to me."  Do you see the small arms of the children reunited with their parents go around the necks of their beloveds, their source of life?

"In filmmaker Bassam Tariq's new short film, Wa'ad (The Promise), little is what it seems. Its centerpiece, a conversation between a father and son, isn't actually taking place. When the son speaks of his siblings "doing well" after their mother's death, they aren't really. And when he says he'll continue to write, right before the film's heartbreaking denouement, it's TBD.

"Deft in its execution, the four-minute short seeks to evoke the feeling of what isn't said—"what you can write when you have a limited amount of space," according to the filmmaker. Shot in two days last summer in Beirut, it's a stark look at life for one detained refugee and a tragic ode to family that demands multiple viewings."


Obama's speech is longer than an hour and there's nothing in it you haven't heard him say before.  Wa'ad is less than five minutes but it is not "small-hearted" to use Obama's memorable phrase.  Doesn't seem like watching it is too much to ask.

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