Saul Williams (slam poet) came to Bloomington a few years to do a talk. During part of his conversation he created a discussion about the language in hip hop. He questioned what it means when we go out to parties, turn on the radio, flip on MTV and we hear a song with a beat we like and nod our heads to songs with graphic, vulgar or demeaning lyrics. He asked what, then, does it mean when physically, with our bodies we are affirming the language we hear. We nod our heads and say yes to whatever the artist is saying. Yes, slap those bitches. Can you enjoy the music without supporting bitch slapping? Williams and Deveraux are both asking if we can separate the message from the art. Can we?

The conversation is highly debated with video games, I believe. I was raised playing Duck Hunt shooting a large red plastic gun at the TV. We had Nerf guns, water guns, water bombs and all kinds of similar things that we often over look. Can we separate the interactions from the message? It was really just about running around and playing in the back yard or was I being trained to shoot ducks and people?

Should we expect the people we design for to separate the message, context, interactions and language? Is that fair, is it reasonable to try and is it even possible? I don’t think so.

But, if it were possible to separate and filter out all the elements of the forms, I want to ask if Triumph of Will is evil at all. I think if we look at this film as a film, as a piece of art, I wonder if it is not evil. It is not the film that is evil, nor is it the director. But it is the subject of the film that is evil.

If Riefenstahl is evil then I’ll ask you to agree with me that news anchors and reporters are evil. Let’s look at the Koran burning media coverage. By journalists even covering the event or by me even mentioning it here in this post, the news media and I did what Riefenstahl did. This is always a problem in news rooms. “We have to cover this event. If we cover the event, we’ll get involved and make the situation worse.” Simply by drawing attention to the event you change the reality of whatever it would have been otherwise. It’s a very difficult problem when working to cover something from a neutral perspective (which is also nearly impossible).

Of course, documentaries are never just transcriptions of events. Documentary filmmakers always e it an construct. Tliey a ways take a point of view. But even allowing this general point point, it remains true that Triumph of Will is an extreme case of a document film whose organization is governed by political aims.

The pure-documentary defense also conveniently overlooks certain crucial features of the relation between the film and its subject matter. One of the most remarkable facts about Triumph ofthe Will is that the reality it records is a reali it hel ed to create

That being said, I argue that it is not the film or the director or the award distributors that are evil, it is Hitler, it is the Nazis. Though many people believe that news reporters are evil, I don’t think people think journalists are promoters of muggers, murderers and oil spillers. I want to discuss whether or not we can separate the medium, the message, the language, the context, the political motivations from the content itself.

Is Triumph of Will evil?

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