I have vague memories of the first few motion pictures I watched. I matured with films, the subliminal messages, the more obvious ones and a gamut of influences, ideas, theories and concepts. There was a time when my pre adolescent friends wanted to be supermen, with a firm belief that there was life beyond our planet. Even stranger was the fact that we actually tried to fly, or pretended we could. If I recall that was the first time I noticed the power of film. A dip into reality, a slice of fiction and acquaintances with characters that shape lives and the way people can and cannot live.
Maybe there are those who have the opportunity of exposure to films of a niche genre, the films that win festivals, the premiers that captivate the festival watchers. But then again that audience already knows what filmmakers are talking about, the niche audience is already part of the changing culture. And as part of the consciously evolved mind, the change is limited to a mere appreciation or a nod of approval.
For a filmmaker, the type of connect they wish to establish with the audience differs. For films like ‘Turtles can fly’ the audience that is captured is limited. Films that change generations and make popular culture are the bigger grossing box office hits. Although they have fairly predictable storylines, the influence or the circles they influence are manifold. The onus lies on these filmmakers to inject the mass consciousness with new ideas, thoughts and create a cultural shift.
If films talk about mindless violence, create a protagonist of a negative character, the number of minds that find this glamorized violence appealing is unbelievable. The harmless Darth vaders, the ambitious Jedi’s and a whole subculture of star warriors. Who would have imagined that a film about an alternate reality, which it cannot be denied, could generate mass hysteria. From fan following to a few deluded individuals stuck in timewarps, one movie spawned a generation of star wars fanatics, whose evolution can be traced to the newer generation films. The creation of a system has been spoken of throughout the ages, but for those who would not read Nietzche or Marx, it was the Matrix that opened the possibility of the system. Some movies, devoid the action and sex, have an underlying subtlety that forces one to think, to reexamine life and the ideals that govern existence.
There is no debating the fact that films define the culture of that moment. But it is the illustrious few who choose to break the monotonous drabble that films usually approach are mostly films that mass release but approach serious issues, changing the perceptive towards that particular issue. Philadelphia did it for AIDS, A Beautiful Mind for schizophrenia, Blood diamond educated the action film junkies about child soldiers, A constant gardener would make a lay man rethink before he went to a pharmacy, this just skims the barrel of thought that films generate.
But when it come to the role a filmmaker plays as a culture maker, there is nothing definite. There is a great responsibility, as film although a form of entertainment is one of the greatest influences of popular culture. From the dress sense to the dialogue, everything is absorbed by audiences like moths to light. Moreover, it changes the fabric of being, hitting an individual’s consciousness when the guards are down. This is almost a form of brainwash for a neo nazi. That’s exactly what the whole sixties propaganda spoke about, that’s exactly how young minds went to war, why armies marched during the second world war. The power of film is unfathomable and the impact on culture is inevitable. Filmmakers are simply one of the great guiding forces that are ushering us into an age of collective wisdom.