Connecting the Dots

A mentally-active, communicative morning, here in London. After a few weeks of admittedly focused self-absorption, I’m catching up on news from outside my bubble and piecing together my judgments of the world we share.

Revolution in Libya, the U.S. empire on the brink of recession and Earth quaking because it wants to. Those are the bits I caught up with, today. Challenges from all over the world. Aliveness, indirectly transmitted to me by news sources from outside America. On Huffington Post, headlines about Libya catch my attention. I scroll down for more news of this magnitude, and I read words about Americans politicking. On the right hand side of the page, and in the header at the top of the front page, entertainment news. Pretty girls. Trivia. Pretty girls. I’m distracted. I want to click.

Not today, though. I keep myself on task. I want the news, what’s really happening. Not the Daily Show, today. I don’t want to laugh. I want the straight dope, no chaser. Neat – a tall pour, please.

I head to the Al Jazeera website, where I find opinions and perspectives about the events of the world without the distractions of American media. I find bold opinions about the decline of the American empire. I read news about Libyan defectors landing on Malta, and I wonder if my friends in Europe will be safe, if “the sh*t goes down.” And I catch myself, judge myself for being so American. I judge myself for living inside this bubble. And I feel like shit. I feel small and ignorant. I feel like I’ve been propagating an illusion, a delusion of grandeur, by living as an American in the UK. I feel short-changed. By my textbooks, my teachers and my story about why I haven’t traveled much outside the U.S.

So I retreat, back to my bubble, looking for validation, hoping for support: I switch over to Facebook, for news about real things, matters of substance, through the lens of people that Like, Share and Add me – and that I like, share and add. My network. My informants. My fans.

On my Facebook feed, through my handpicked community of healers, conscious beings, visionaries and beautiful people from the many chapters of my journey, I consume the minutia and the musings of individuals. Each one, maybe as self-absorbed as I am. Each one, sharing for reasons only they can admit to with certainty. Hustling, bustling. Marketing their work, advertising their wares, celebrating their achievements, lamenting their shortcomings, propagating their viewpoints. Judgments abound, projections in multiple dimensions. People minding each other’s business. And I’m minding all of it. I contribute. I comment. I share. The musings of the comfortable and the laments of the fortunate. I judge it all. Because I can. Because they want me to. They put it on the Internet.

But my most trusted sources on Facebook are posting about visionaries, the innovators of this generation. Links to TED Talks, YouTube videos by contemporary philosophers. Quotes and links to the newest of the New Age thinkers. Positivity, empowerment, integration. Love, compassion, community, communication. Ah, my life. My purpose. I feel nourished, and I feel optimistic. I can’t change the other people’s business I shouldn’t be minding, but I can change myself – and I can share with the people that I journey with.

So, I reach out, through my blog: To My Public, My Dear, Beloved Reader. My family of friends and fans. To share. To chat. To be seen doing my inner work and my work in this world, in the best way I can. To connect with people about life and about living. There I find The Social Change Film Festival.

For Cynthia Phillips, the festival’s founder and overarching visionary, the event is about providing a platform for important ideas that have a social impact. “We’re a very different type of festival,” says Phillips, “we want to empower activists as well as filmmakers to make what they envision happening with their film and impact a reality.”

Originally trained as an agricultural economist, Phillips discovered powerful storytelling can be while working on developmental projects in Africa. “I realized that the power of story is as powerful or more powerful than a good plan, to be able to motivate and inspire people with story makes a huge difference.” In the final stages of her doctorate work, Phillips filmed a documentary about fighting hunger and poverty in Africa, connecting storytelling and social activism.

GSCFFI is a place where filmmakers and activists can engage in a dialogue about pressing social issues while sharing valuable experience. It’s a win-win situation: filmmakers learn how to be more effective social activists while social activists acquire the skills to become better storytellers. Some festivals provide audiences with a visual onslaught of 150 films, but the GSCFFI screens only eight films over a four-day period, highlighting the importance of providing networking time and a place for extended dialogue around the work.

With 2019 marking the 108-year anniversary of International Women’s Day, it’s fitting that this year’s festival theme is “Women and Film.” Phillips strives to empower women to become the filmmakers they want to be; inspiring women to take on roles that are traditionally male dominated, such as directing and producing, is part of the festival’s aim. Nia Dinata, an award-winning Indonesian filmmaker and activist, will be one of this year’s honorees and institute instructors. Dinata, who produces her films under the constraints of strict government censorship, walks the fine-line of creating films that both challenge and respect the powers that be. “We honor her because she’s an inspiration and mentor to so many people,” says Phillips.

Every aspect of the festival is geared towards making a difference; by combining art and activism, filmmakers spread awareness and help illuminate important issues. When asked about the future of the GSCFFI, Phillips is both inspired and optimistic. Despite tough economic conditions, Phillips is determined to spread the festival’s influence and leave behind an infrastructure and community in places like Bali so that activists can arrange festivals on their own, even after the annual event is over. “We like to call ourselves a global festival with local presence,” says Phillips.