So the documentary film festival is in town this weekend.
This means that I spent a good chunk of yesterday's sunny hours in a dimly lit cinema, processing narratives of African dictators and European counterfeiters.
(As a side note, the Duke just bought me the Planet Earth/Blue Planet DVD boxset. 10 DVDs full of David Attenborough goodness? And a day long date of documentary films? I just had a geekgasm.)
In all honesty, as a whole, I wasn't blown away by the festival. Some of the work was pretentious at best, as were some of the attendees.
(A note to the fellow comparing our premier to Robert Mugabe... seriously? I mean, I agree the guy is an asshat, but cutting social funding is hardly equivalent to torturing those who oppose you. You need to drop the shock tactics, and go back to first year poli sci to learn your facts a little better.)
However, after learning about the case of Lucio Urturbia, an apparently simple bricklayer and family man, who, after being arrested for one of the largest counterfeiting scams in history, managed to negotiate with CityBank to pay him(!) to stop his scamming, I began wondering why, as a society, we're so entranced by fiction.
Sure, I enjoy escapism as much as the next person. I can admit to plans to see the Sex and the City movie one night and go to the documentary film festival the next without feeling like too much of a hypocrite.
But, really, though, aren't the stories of real people infinitely more interesting than the same old tired cliche of boy makes bet about girl, boy meets girl, some hilarity ensues, boy and girl fall in love, girl finds out the truth and freaks out, boy convinces her he loves her despite it all, and they live happily ever after?
Most of the real life stories I've seen documented on film or on paper elicit way more ideas and conversations than the average Hollywood fare, and stay with me for exponentially longer. Not to mention that I have tremendous respect for the art and effort behind such filmmaking (in fact, I am completely guilty of over-romanticizing it)-- the idea of being so passionate about a story or an issue that you feel the need to dedicate years of your life to sharing it is astounding to me.
I suspect I may be preaching to the converted, to a certain extent. While I doubt that the majority of you have watching documentaries in the bathtub as your back-up Friday night plan, the regular reading of blogs seems to me to convey a bit of fascination with real life over fiction. There is something compelling about following along with someone else's life through their words. Similarly, though I'm not one to spend much time praising the intellectual merits of reality TV, one has to wonder if the current fascination with it may be in part to the (apparently) real stories of everyday (or not so everyday) people being more provocative than the laugh track enhanced tales of the poor emasculated father in a house full of women.
I think it kind of comes down to the adage of "The more you learn, the more you realize that you don't know." And the more I realize that I don't know, the less I feel like ignoring it all for the sake of a story for which I already know the ending.