As another year rolls by, a new one begins. 2016 has had a tragic start, with the continuous atrocities committed by fanatics (I’m thinking Istanbul most recently) and we have also lost the wonderful actor Alan Rickman and of course one of the most consummate artists of our time in David Bowie. Making any sense or reason out of such saddening events is always a complex issue and may highlight our constant need for stories, as a species. To push back at the darkness, good story-telling can be both an escape and an instruction.
Reviewing our 2015 ‘Best Of’ lists at Outward, it struck me there was a healthy combination of the fantastical and the real in our choices of stories that had touched us most. Always there was innovation and artistry. Film has always been a handy way of getting a little balance back for me and those lists reflected this on-going thirst for strong, intelligent tales of life and how we live it. Stories can be outlets for anger, passion, connection and philosophy. We can’t always take action against the horrors the world inflicts but we can always turn to the human connection most of us share. Stories are a universal way of doing that.
Perhaps film is too often dismissed as loud, brash entertainment; something to switch off your brain to and escape the world around you. Understandable certainly but I don’t necessarily think escapism means either denial or ignorance. In Peter Strickland’s rapturous, Giallo-inflected poem to the bonds and boundaries of human relationships, The Duke Of Burgundy, I found a strange new world that transported me out of the mundane yet kept me focused and stimulated on issues that are by no means easily dismissed. Was I entertained? You bet. But I was thinking too, caught wonderfully in another person’s environment. Or let’s take Damian Szifron’s delirious explosion against modern life Wild Tales: plenty of stuff in there that grinds us all down and you’ll share that anger too while watching. But anger was never this much fun and you might just learn a little something about how we live into the bargain. A little perspective will be gained at least.
This is what I think escapism should ultimately be about. To go outside of yourself, to someone else’s way of thinking takes imagination and therefore an inward journey. Don’t we all love a good story? In that case, dulling our senses is the worst thing we can do. The world is frightening and vicious all too often but we ignore it and we lose the ability to enjoy it and be stimulated by it too.
We’re hoping to share new stories with you here at Outward in 2016. This means looking within ourselves and outside to see what comes back; to explore and be surprised. When things reach their darkest and we need some meaning, let’s all keep our brains “switched on”. There’re new places our minds can find discovery and healing, so far as we show refusal to dilute the truth.