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Youth doc ReGENERATION fell short for me

At the recent Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), I saw the documentary ReGENERATION, about activism in today’s youth generation, and how to change apathy to hope.

I must have had high expectations for the film because it disappointed me. Sure, it had interviews with Amy Goodman, co-founder of Democracy Now, Vancouver’s Kalle Lasn, who started Adbusters, Noam Chomsky, and the late Howard Zinn, who wrote A People’s History of the United States. It emphasized the power of hope and how an individual’s choices and actions affect consumerism, the environment, media, and so on.

The film conveyed that we’re victims of mass media, “technological dependence, rampant materialism and the increasingly fractured relationship with the natural world,” as the VIFF program stated. I don’t disagree with any of that. But the film did not cover the Internet as a tool of empowerment and education, linking people around the globe and regionally in activism, awareness, and communication in ways not remotely possible decades ago.

I think of groups like Avaaz.org, who have used the Internet to remarkable advantage to educate thousands, if not millions, about sociopolitical issues around the world. Their online petitions have altered events and galvanized movements to stop destructive actions from environmental devastation to the sexual exploitation of children. The Internet has connected people to organize demonstrations and educational workshops on short notice with impressive results.

When I brought up this point in the question period after the film, director Phillip Montgomery dismissed my remarks, saying that he didn’t think that social media was the answer and it didn’t have the same powerful impact as a demonstration. I wasn’t talking about Facebook and Twitter. Sure, there is a lot of online crap out there, but I still think that activists and nonprofits can use the Internet to great advantage, whether through videos, blogs, or sending out info about an upcoming protest. Someone like filmmaker Velcrow Ripper certainly does.

I am happy that a film like ReGENERATION is out there to serve as a rallying cry, but it didn’t have the same inspiration and impact for me that a movie like The Corporation did. That is largely due to its story structure. It tries to cover too many areas without a clear presentation of distinct messages. For me, the last few minutes of the film, in which a female high school valedictorian speaks of the need for hope to her classmates, had the biggest punch. The doc needed more moments like that with an emotional edge.

Overall, the movie needed a list of simple, declarative statements, an informal manifesto, if you will, to anchor its message. It gave value solely to external action, not addressing how individuals can transform themselves and the world through deep inner, spiritual work. Look at Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. — that was a core element of their activism and look what global influence they had.

October 21, 2010 at 7:56 am
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