n this digital world, fact is the least valuable commodity we exchange. It is as cheap and accessible as the electrons that carry it to our phones. For there is no art, no percipience—and therefore no effort—required to disgorge trivia.
But to tell the truth? That’s fucking hard.
— Anastasio Sevilla
For the final third of 2013, with the support of Creative District, Vimeo, Fandor, and countless others, we at Seed&Spark have worked to put together a magazine that feels the opposite of arbitrary, that utilizes the visual medium of print to illuminate—as gold leaf does a sacred manuscript—the radical medium of cinema. The creators we profiled, the essays we commissioned, reflect our belief that film is a vehicle, not for disseminating fact or even beauty, but for truth. That is a grand and dangerous statement, but let it be the first grand, dangerous statement we make.
This magazine is called BRIGHT IDEAS because we think the strength of a democracy hinges on the boldness of its culture, and its culture on the intelligence of its press. Not long ago, Richard Brody defamed the anemia of our liberal cinema, saying: “The facts do not speak for themselves, and there’s a remarkable and disheartening correlation between those who film as if they do and those who, imbuing these facts with a built-in point of view, are unwilling to stand in front of those facts and state that point of view.”
In all 128 of these pages, not a bowl of cereal gets eaten in bed by a white person quietly considering her middle class plight. The creators in this magazine—from Ryan Coogler to Kat Candler, from Teyonah Parris to Abdallah Omeish—have a point of view. And that’s why we wrote about them.
When I resigned as Senior Editor of MovieMaker Magazine last July to start work on BRIGHT IDEAS, I wrote a farewell letter that began with a quote from Aidan Hartley’s The Zanzibar Chest. Hartley, a reporter who’d covered the genocides and famines of Africa in the 80s and 90s—from Rwanda to Somalia—tells an anecdote about the journalist Eduardo Flores. One day, while covering the conflict in what was then Yugoslavia, Flores called a press conference of his colleagues and announced that he could “no longer be merely a spectator in the war” that pitted Catholic Croatians again the Orthodox Serbs. “From that day onward,” writes Hartley, “Eduardo Flores would throw away the pen in order to take up the gun.” I read Hartley’s book when I was 19, but this one anecdote has nagged at me for more than a decade because inherent in Flores’ action is the question: Does journalism matter? And his answer is no. Chronicling the revolution, Flores posits, is less effective—and less noble—than taking up arms against the enemy.
So if Flores is right, that a man with a gun is worth more than one with a camera, what is the value of a journalist two degrees removed from the action, writing not about the subject, but some intermediary’s interpretation of the subject? An endeavor that abstracted from reality must be frivolous. Well, we don’t think so. Art, to paraphrase Crane, is the bullet of democracy, and the press the powder. One man with a gun is nothing compared to the well-told story of the man he kills.
Welcome to BRIGHT IDEAS. We’re taking this shit seriously.
Photo by Sina J. Henrie