When I was very young, my Father explained to me how history was documented in Hawaii. He told me that it was passed along from Father to Son, and that if the chain was ever broken, that the family History could be lost as time passed. So I grew up with the concept of the story being aÂ relatively sacred thing.
As my career in imaging grew, it was based on the telling of stories in the context of my image creation. I would always, no matter how surreal the work became in expression, root the piece inÂ aspects of Historic Truth. The exact timbre of the truth communicated was always, by design, supposed to correspond as closely as artistically appropriate with the subject.
This week I had a fairly rare occurrence. Someone posted a video on my Facebook wall, and asked that I watch it. At the end of the half hour piece, I was heavily impacted by the message of the film. I sat in front of the monitor and pondered how I felt. The person was asking me to pass the film and it’s message along.Â To both tell and verify their story by my assent to that act.
I thought awhile, and did not share it. With a sigh, I realized that something did not seem right to me. A close friend of mine, a Deputy District Attorney once took me aside after my company had experienced a couple episodes with Con men (short for confidence) in our retail stores and factory. He said that if something ever struck one as being “too good to be true” that in all likelihood it really was a lie of sorts, based on what we wanted to hear. Frequently, he said (and I found this to be very accurate in perspective over the years) that the Con man himself really believes what he is saying, or at the very least, maintains his aura of confident assertiveness in the telling of the tale.
So I began the process of vetting the truth of this film. It just seemed all too perfect, emotions manipulated neatly in a seamless combination of perfect production values, that belied great skill, a lot of time and as I know first hand, a substantial budget to cover the phases of production, post production and distribution.
That film on my Facebook wall was Kony 2012.
So for two entire days, I looked into the aspects of the history of an age old conflict in Uganda, which the story loosely and creatively chronicled, and began to look more closely at the manner in which the story was told. The closer I looked, the more appalled that I became. As I point by point dissected the film, unraveled my emotional entanglements, figured out the why, when, where, who and how of the film, I was appalled, but really not that surprised, that in essence, at it’s core, I was being conned.
As a last point of vetting, I rang a colleague up. L’s warm voice came on the line and in the background I could hear voices and commotion. “Hey L, where are you?” “In Washington at aÂ National Journalism Convention. How are you? What’s up?” I offered to ring him back later but L said that he had a 7 minutes, so I said simply: “Kony 2012″. L was silent for a few seconds then responded. “What do you want to know?” “Everything”
So L stepped outside the conference and used his 7 minutes to tell me what he KNEW. Not what he thought. Journalists are great that way, the real ones. The details he described showed me a methodical background check that led all the way from various NGO long term aide workers on the ground in Uganda, right to the fund raising efforts and disbursement of funds in the NGO which the film fronted and talked story for. As we rang off, L promised that he would send me a link to someone he respected who was on the ground in Uganda, so I could read firsthand, that person’s story. And we said goodbye. 6 minute phone call. The link arrived and I posted it into my vette document.
I would not be posting that video on my Facebook wall, but I would talk a little about the value of correct Philosophy in storytelling.
There is an age old saying about the past and it’s documentation, which illustrates the importance of not just good intentions, but purity of heart. “History is always written by the winners”
Ethically, without an embrace of the truth in a matter, there is no real purity of heart, and that story telling experience which ensues, well, that can alter History, and affect the manner in which a culture moves forward to great negative affect.
Storytellers therefore, have a somewhat sacred trust to maintain and abide by.
I have seen a lot of subtle lies in film and media. Sometimes they are blatant, as in Stop Kony. Frequently they are more subtle, as in the rewriting of MOH Michael Monsoor’s death account to suit the storyline, in the recently released film, the doco turned feature “Act of Valor”. The lure of a “good story” is always there to tempt the storyteller to bend or weave truth, according the their own reality.
EVERYONE struggles with the truth, in media and content development. Myself included.So many voices exist, telling so many tales and frequently something that sounds reasonable gets passed on and becomes a part of a bigger work. That is the architecture of deceit. This is how it comes and creates a reality that can deceive many. It is true, that saying: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.
I know a lot of Film Makers, Directors, Writers and various Creatives. The bulk of the ones with professional standing have a high bar for Truth, especially the ones whose careers burgeon under the label of being an “artist” .
So maybe as Social Media accelerates rapidly forward, we ought to hold people accountable a little more often. What you see or read or hear may be a lie. Everything you read is NOT true, but may be someone’s version of a lie wrapped in the guise of Truth. It is not all grey out there. Really. Truth matters.
Each one of the images in this blog tells a story. Each tale is rather pure. I like the fact that life is often much stranger and more beautiful than fiction.
I am outraged by the insult that film maker issued with Stop Kony. I want to simply type these words as my message to him.
Â Â Â Â Â Fuck You
But here is the deal. No one wins in that. Not really. Because outrage must transform into education, and forward progress, or my own story telling itself, will become darker, and filled with less light.
So I will refrain from a long diatribe and simply ask people to think about what they are being told. Is it sounding too good to be true? If so, just do a little something. Turn the light on. Our Society and Culture need that.
Then go tell your own story. I am sure it will be wonderful.
Lastly, here is a fantastic piece about Jeff Skoll, on storytelling, in one of my favorite reads, Daily Good.