For me, 2011 was a year to forget. Tides rarely went my way- when they did I usually screwed up- so I often found myself wondering how everything had gone so wrong over the last 12 months. This isn’t a column about me, Francois Le Grand, it’s a column about what films can mean, the role they can play in giving an education and the sheer power overlooked masterpieces can have in changing attitudes. Everyone experiences extended moments of distress where days are no longer opportunities to grow but long, unending spaces of time; entire weeks are thrown away and consumed by sighs and the shrugging of shoulders. So although I write from a personal perspective, it’s about a wider issue; a lack of motivation, depression, whatever you want to call it. It’s the story of how I came to love films and what each one of them has taught me.
When I was in the dumps, I became what one could call a ‘film-hermit’. For a few hours I lived other lives, was in other places and could take refuge from the present and the coming days. Me, a 12 pack of Brahma Beer, a dark room, an assorted collection of films- foreign, new, old, coloured, black & white, popular, cult and plain weird- were all I needed for the next 9-10 hours of suspended animation as the credits rolled and the music began.
Movies such as ‘Three Idiots’ by Rajkumar Hirani, which had me sobbing like a toddler lost at a supermarket, ‘A Long Walk’, narrating the true, albeit contested, story of men escaping from a Siberian prison camp, ‘La Vitta E Bella’, possibly one of the most beautiful films of all time, by Roberto Benigni and ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ featuring a stellar Anthony Hopkins as a simple New-Zealander willing to sacrifice everything for his lifelong dream, made me reconsider how I was living and what I wanted from life. Where were MY dreams? Great films would kick-start a desire to change; the emotion embedded in these motion pictures, had me rising from my bed, saying ‘Enough! Tomorrow will be different’. On occasions, films were all I had to turn to and so, they were not just entertainment, but motivation to stay afloat instead of sinking. One frequently hears of old men complaining about how the years have ‘flown by’ and how ‘so much time was wasted’. I’d like to think films bring a lifetime of meaning into a compressed extension of time, and that, even if only for a brief while, they give us the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.
The goal of this column, which will be updated every one or two weeks, is to recommend films of great power and significance, regardless of the decade, the style, how many stars are present or how controversial it is. Non-Hollywood films will be given a slight preference, as the aim is to explore the creative, the innovative and the unknown.
F.R. Le Grand