Gurney's Inn
October 24, 2007

Kiss & Tell

Keeping It Real

Many of the privileged in the Hamptons are not exactly sure what reality is – or they seem to miss the "i" and assume it's about pricey real estate. Certainly we live in an area known for its safety and where the police blotter is often the best humor in the local paper. Violence erupts over stolen parking places or at the dry cleaner that ruined the Alpaca wrap which is now more the size of a cocktail napkin.

So it is interesting that when we turn to entertainment we flock to films which feature murders and shoot-outs and car crashes and explosions. Personally, I'm still a sucker for a great love story but all too often those get categorized as chick flicks so I end up sitting through glorified gangster tales or murder mysteries which as long as there was some compelling plot and great acting I didn't mind. However, as is a woman's prerogative, I have changed my mind.

It was during the Hamptons Film Festival where I would sit in screening after screening and devour the documentaries which are the affordable housing of Hollywood, very rare, that I gained a different perspective. A film which will be shown on HBO, To Die In Jerusalem, tells the heart wrenching tale of a mother whose daughter was killed who sets out to meet the mother of the teenaged girl who was the suicide bomber.

Ironically, the two beautiful 18 year olds looked very much alike, one an Israeli, the other a Palestinian, both dead and leaving behind two astonished and grieving mothers who give an incredibly personal face to a broad conflict. Two faces which should have been part of a Gap ad instead are that of a dead martyr and her victim.

Another powerful film seeking distribution is Soldiers of Conscience which breaks the taboo of asking soldiers how they deal with the emotional and ethical questions about killing, even in the name of war. Even though they are trained to kill and are ordered to kill and consider it necessary, many are still haunted.

The documentary follows Iraqi veterans who become conscientious objectors, chronicling their physical and spiritual journey. Their willingness to talk about what they have seen and done, combined with explicit photos of footage of death and destruction brings a civilian audience into a world we have only heard about on the evening news.

It was after these screenings that I went to a mainstream feature film about money and greed which lead to murder. Now this film was skillfully directed, acted and edited, and yet I was neither entertained nor distracted. Having seen what a real dead body looks like and what real gunfire sounds like and what real grief over death does to a person, I had no appetite for fictional violence.

From cartoons to video games to television to film we are inundated with beatings, shootings and bombings – faux presented as fact. But when you see a forensic pathologist talking about the difficulty of identifying body parts after a bomb or what a face looks like which has been shot at at close range or a child who has lost a limb, it is impossible to look at the manufactured experience on a screen and watch audiences hoot and holler without a deep pit in your stomach.

If we become immune to death we will become immune to the value of human life.

"Reality" has been co-opted by calculating television producers and news presented by those who cannot speak from first hand experience. In this world "keeping it real," as these two films point out, is more important than ever.

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