Remember the fate of Sixto Rodriguez in "Searching For Sugar Man"?
How he discovered a distant land, an alternate universe almost, where his work was understood and appreciated and celebrated as meaningful?
Such was the sublime fate of "Disconnect" recently, as I discovered to my amazement on a recent trip to the Camerimage Festival, a prestigious annual mecca for the world's best cinematographers, in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
"Disconnect" never even received a theatrical release as a film in Poland, but it was discovered by the programmers at Camerimage and recommended to two extraordinary policemen in Bydgoszcz as the perfect film for the third annual edition of a program that they invented and administer called The Art of Choice.
What is life but a series of choices (unless you belong to that group of people who think the play has already been written and we are but actors in it)?
The Art of Choice picks a film whose theme is socially relevant to youth today, and through a series of seminars and workshops, encourages teenagers to make their own short films and tell their own stories around that same theme, in the case of Disconnect the socially disruptive power of technology and the internet, and how we communicate with each other today.
The film were judged in a competition and the winners presented at a Gala ceremony at the Multikino in association with the Camerimage Festival. I was grateful to be invited to attend and hand out the prizes to the winners, and blown away by the very idea that our film was the instrument and inspiration for this conversation and burst of creativity.
There was also a competition among student graphic artists for poster design. I have always been in love with the striking graphic art of classic and contemporary Polish film posters, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to me how deep and creative and subversive were the images that these artists drew for the assignment.
I loved their work and wish they had been around when we were struggling to find a campaign that would cut through the clutter and effectively market the film over here in the USA!
The whole trip was a slightly surreal and unforgettable experience.
And an inspiring idea, as the program seemed wildly successful in its multiple goals of getting teenagers to open up and engage in a conversation about things that matter to them, and in positioning the police not as a force of oppression and control but of listeners and facilitators of a conversation around the idea of making good choices.
Technology is neither good nor bad, it is a just a tool, as is the internet, with its amazing power to connect us and hide us, spy on us, amplify our voices and our anxieties, isolate us, reinvent us, expose us, inform us and on and on and on.
It's all a matter of choice as to how we use the tool. The Art of Choice.
Thanks to Alicja Szalska of the Tumult Foundation for inviting me, and to Lieutenant Colonel Maciej Wolczek of Voivodeship Police Headquarters for his hospitality and inspiring program!