The old ways are dead.
I’d like share with you some ideas on how I’d like to cannibalize the medium of cinema.
Four years before his death in 1934, French auteur and son of an imprisoned anarchist, Jean Vigo outlined a vision of “Social Cinema,” a cinema which could ignite a sociopolitical awakening in its audience. This vision prompts spectators not to passively consume images and narratives in a collective dream state, but to confront and respond.
Rebelling against bourgeoisie First World (Hollywood) cinema, Vigo presented his film À propos de Nice a “rough draft”of this vision. In his address before screening the work, Vigo urged fellow filmmakers to “stimulate echoes other than those of the belches of the ladies and gentleman who come to the cinema to help their digestion.”
Even today, Hollywood’s easily digestible stories are like Pepto Bismol for the divides and inequalities we face outside the theater. These films are crafted and packaged to be consumed in a catatonic glaze of narrative clichés divorced from their ideological implications.
If we can observe the intersection of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and the effects a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal system has on nearly every level of society, how can we not witness its effect on cinema?
To truly achieve the aims of a social cinema, the tools for visual storytelling must be accessible to the masses as well as a platform for sharing these stories. In an era of (social and visual) media convergence (Twitter, Instagram, etc.), how can we fulfill Vigo’s vision of Social Cinema? Has this vision changed?
That said, I’d like to examine an overlooked social artifact as a possible model for building and sustaining a Social Cinema.
Cinema is a visually affective and communicative medium. As basic social forms of visual communication change so should filmic language. If memes are any indication, between the reappropriating and sharing of images, it appears our visual language seems to be moving towards subversion. Subverting a master narrative to be exact. When an image is meme-ified the initial narrative associated with it is uprooted and fragmented into meta-narratives (see Ann Coulter’s #bringbackourcountry backfire.)
No longer do we passively consume images or the ideologies they contain. We reconfigure and regurgitate them with bits of ourselves. We inject ourselves into these miniature visual narratives, disrupting their ideological continuity. Here are visually affective experiences generated by new forms of protest, artistic statements of solidarity. Memes produce collective auteurs in the tradition of our tribal ancestors.
This post-modern narrative communication is a direct result of intersectionality. It’s no secret cinematic narrative permutations, more often than not, come from marginalized communities (see Third Cinema). Not only are we telling our own stories but telling them in our own way. More on this later…
What’s fringe should now be the norm. In this post-modern era, we hold no truths to be self-evident. If modern cinema is not yet dead we have the responsibility to make sure it doesn’t survive. Sharing our stories is essential to our survival. Too often written off as informal wisecracking, I see a number of memes as very real affirmations of a denied experience. An experience First World cinema, 80 years after Vigo’s death, still lacks.