I had the pleasure (and pain) of watching the absolutely stunning documentary ‘McCullin’ the other day, about war photographer Don McCullin.
I won’t review it here, except urge you to go and watch it. It’s more of an experience than a viewing. And for someone like myself, with a passion and interest in filming and photography, it was actually a serious schooling on how to approach (dare I say) humanity through a lens.
Here’s a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjCfP-F58MY
Despite the unbearable level of horror that McCullin has had to document over the years of his tenure as a photographer, the grace with which he explains his outlook on life offered me a great deal of hope. As a filmmaker working in the third sector it’s easy to feel despondent and hopeless after spending long days interviewing survivors of war. But McCullin’s genius lies in his ability to find traces of humanity and life, and culture and art amidst the carnage. Looking at how McCullin was able to find these precious things in such difficult places is an inspiration for me, something which I’ll try and emulate in my own work.
In the coming weeks I’ll be flying to Gaza for work. It’s in a place like this that being able to find humanity amidst the rubble of shelled houses will play its biggest role. I’ve no doubt though that the vibrance, resilience and strength of the people will shine through the dust and debris of bombed homes.
The thought of going there, even despite the energy and inspiration I’ve gained from Mr McCullin’s words, remains a scary one. I do wonder sometimes how much human suffering can I bare to look at before I eventually go mad? 3 of my colleagues have had to be dismissed for sick leave because of the pressures of our work environment, I expect I can’t be far off either.
One of the ways I’ve been coping has been to write. This blog is an obvious example. But I’ve also begun to write a feature film. The last feature I wrote almost went in to production, and I’m hoping this one will but even if it doesn’t I won’t mind; it’s a great release to make sense of the confusion by putting a protagonist through various scenarios familiar to the ones I’m facing myself and see how he works them out. With thoughts on my mind like my upcoming trip to Gaza, and also having just seen ‘McCullin’ you might sensibly think the screenplay would be a serious political drama or something, but you’d be wrong. It’s a comedy. A comedy about dealing with life with multiple personality disorder… For those of you who know me closely, you’ll probably know the more direct inspiration for this, but some of the subtle reasons I think why this piece has got me so engrossed is because, in the end, when you look at the World you realise that as a species we suffer really seriously from multiple personality disorder. On one side you have such devestating poverty, war and disease and on the other you have Hollywood. So yeah, I’ve only written a few pages, and I wonder how our schizophrenic protagonist will navigate his landscape. Maybe it’ll offer me a few more insights on how to approach humanity through my lens!
Picture: Shellshocked Soldier by Don McCullin (all rights belong to the owner of this image, used only for reference)