Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Process – A Different View

An account of the recent developments of the ‘Citizen’ project. – Part 3

To balance my previous post about an inspirational stream of consciousness, I want to acknowledge the other side of the film production coin, the productive side, the side that keeps you grounded, no doubt, and focused. In fact, especially being a first-time feature filmmaker the development process has been an uphill battle. It’s been a battle, with myself, with others, with time, money, the subject matter. Just the research and a lot of the writing took me to dark places many times. But if it’s not a battle, you’re not digging deep enough. If it’s not a battle then it’s probably not even worth pursuing. At least that’s what I tell myself. If you deal with crime and violence, the dark side of the human condition, the things that are “wrong” with society, you become constantly aware of your surroundings and what might be beneath the surface. It took me some time to put what I learned and experienced in perspective, shed some of the resulting cynicism and actually start to have faith again in our future.

Then there is the question of the benefit of a film like Citizen. “Why do you want to show this?” or “Aren’t you just reinforcing stereotypes?”, “Why don’t you do something positive?”; questions, which could absorb me occasionally. However, what I’m trying to do is purposefully focus the audience’s attention to what is a persistent problem that won’t go away with positivism alone. It is born out of a desire to tell an authentic and genuine story from the perspective of the majority of youth street gang members – homies, “gangsters” – a perspective with a different take on the “pull factors” for youth like money, cars and females. A prevalent view is that all of “them” are just “thugs”, kids born as “thugs”, criminals who simply need to be locked up and punished for what they did without addressing what lies behind their actions and what the root problems are, as uncomfortable and complex they may be. There is no perspective more ignorant and misguided as this one.

As old as this idea of punishment and determent – serving time in prison, the death sentence – may be, it succeeds only in one way, to give the victims and the victim’s loved ones a legitimate sense of justice and “closure.” But let me quote Father Greg Boyle here once again, who said: “Building prisons to address crime is like building graveyards to address AIDS”. It is as painful to comprehend as it rings true. More evidence to this age-old misconception can be found in James Gilligan’s Book Violence - Reflections on a National Epidemic (Vintage Books, 1996). Gilligan argues that the only adequate way to address the problem of violence is to declare it a mental illness instead of treating it as an act of “rational self-interest”[1], which is the predominant point of view taken by most western justice systems. This is especially the case in the US where it played a part in giving birth to the “prison-industrial complex”, which flourishes on a murder rate “five to twenty times higher than it is in any other industrialized democracy, even though we imprison proportionately five to twenty times more people than any other country on earth except Russia.”[2]

➔  Read more about why we are making this movie here.

[1] Gilligan, James, Violence – Reflections on a National Epidemic, Vintage Books 1996 p: 94
[2] ibid. p:95

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