after the United States terrorist attacks occurred, Prof. Carney posted
the following remarks on IndieWire, reflecting on the relevance
of the events to filmmakers.
here for best printing of text
In this time of
sorrow and mourning, it is impossible not, at least briefly, to despair
that art matters, or that in fact anything matters, in comparison with
the horror we have all just lived through. There are places in my heart
that ache so badly I wonder how I can continue to go on, or if anything
means anything anymore. I want to give up. Why continue to make movies?
Why continue to write about them? What does any of it matter?
But at rare moments of calm
and insight, as I slowly attempt to work through these events emotionally,
I realize the opposite is true. It is not a time to give up, but to get
to work. We need art. We need truth-telling films. We need true artists.
If an independent filmmaker
or writer on film can find any positive lesson in this tragedy, it should
be about the importance of what he or she does and what great artists
have always done. Events like those of Sept. 11th should wake up us and
all of America out of the slumber of unreality that Hollywood "entertainment"
and most of the media have had us in for decades. They should make even
more clear what a cultural drug state we have been living in: A
culture where the news media devote weeks to documenting the sexual misbehaviors
of politicians, as if life were an endless soap opera, while they completely
ignore events that concern ordinary people. A culture where people
seem to care more about whether the stock market went up or down that
day than the meaning of their lives or the lives of others in the rest
of the world. A culture where film is judged by critics and reviewers
as if were an Olympic diving contest, awarding style points
to meaningless stylistic cleverness and fancy photography. A culture
of L.A. Confidential triteness, of Titanic teenage sentimentality,
of Matrix video-game escapism.
To borrow a phrase from Neil
Postman, Sept. 11 brings home to us, painfully and embarrassingly, how
much we have been entertaining ourselves to deathand how much the
frivolousness of the movies, the media, and the reviewers has contributed
to the irrelevance of much of our culture and our lives. We suddenly realize
how glutted we have been on triviality, sensationalism, and escapism.
We see how much of our souls we have unconsciously sold to the gods of
celebrity, fame, power, and wealth.
Now more than ever we need
artists who will help wake America up from the sleep of unreality. Who
will tell the truth about our lives, our emotions, our culture, and our
world. Painful, hard truths at times; joyous, celebratory truths at others.
The task of the artist of the future is to explore the tortured chambers
of the human heart and mind that could cause it, as well as the capacities
of the human heart and mind to reach out in self-sacrificing expressions
of love and kindness in response to it. We desperately need artists to
help us understand what we are and what we can be. More than we ever did
before. It is time to get on with our work. It matters now more than ever.
That does not mean to focus
on this specific event or even allude to it, of course. There is something
obscene about the medias desire to keep discussing it and showing
pictures of it. They claim they hate it, but you know they really really
love it. It fits their soap opera imaginations like a glove. Just yesterday,
I saw the new issue of T.V. Guide when I was standing in the supermarket
checkout line. The cover is a photograph of the towers exploding, cropped
and PhotoShopped in a brilliant, four-color full-page bleed. I wanted
to leave. I couldnt bear to stand there next to it. How can we do
this to ourselves? What is this insane lust after violent sensations?
Why dont we put photographs of children being sexually molested
on display while were at it? Thats no worse than the World
Trade Center photos.
Are we really this depraved?
Is nothing too personal or too emotional to be commented on and discussed
to death? Is nothing too sacred or private to have a movie or TV show
churned out about it? Next well be videotaping the death rattle
of our relatives and submitting the tapes to Americas saddest
home videos. But I guess its nothing new. It's just journalism
as usualthe P.T. Barnum freak show of the presentselling us
our own experiences magnified and distorted beyond recognition. Reporters
have always rushed to interview grieving widows, and hoped for a tear
or a sob in their voices. If the TV coverage doesnt make life lurid
and trashy it trivializes it by turning every experience into an advertising
slogan, Attack on America, America uniteswith
more glossy shots of the towers collapsing in the background of course.
No, dont make a movie
about the event. Present ordinary, everyday life. That has pain, sadness,
heroism enough. Those horrors are ones we really need get to work onas
artists and as human beings. This desire to go out of ourselves and treat
events as if they happened to or were caused by someone else is just another
way of avoiding ourselves. All of history, all of sociology, everything
felt or thoughtall of the present, past, and future that ever was
or can ever beis in us. Everything that happened on Sept. 11 was
already in our hearts.
But let me end on a more positive
note: I despair of so much about our culture, but never about real artists.
The greatest miracle of all is that there is this thing called artan
impulse to say something unique and precious and personalthat doesnt
die and can't be extinguished. Not by the violence of terror. Not by the
selfishness of business values. Not by the melodramatics of the evening
news. Not by the stupidity of popular culture. Not even by our own doubts
and fears. Art always has nothing going for it. It is on the fringes,
shunted aside and scorned in our culture. It has no advertising campaign
behind it, little support in our education systems, and almost no visibility.
Its greatest works are jeered at or ignored, and almost never given any
worldly reward. But miracle of miracles, it never goes away and can never
be snuffed out. The impulse is re-born in every new generation. Against
all odds, the artists go on giving voice to the soul. Its testimony
to something like God in us. Something that gives hope, no matter how
dark the present moment may seem.