Arts and film reshaping opinions and views

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THEY say art imitates life, but the truth of the matter is, artistes mould and shape our view of the world based on their experiences.
In the end, what we have is a social narrative that is based on the artistes interpretation of the world around us being held as a record and becoming a society’s collective memory of events.
Art, much like history records, tell a story, which for all intents and purposes is rarely critiqued and therefore provides an opportunity to retell an event and reshape a community’s values and culture.
Art becomes an instrument that prods, motivates, encourages and forces communities to interrogate their beliefs and value systems.
In a way, it sets the agenda.
Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a painting, or a spatio-temporal experiment.
When we are touched, we are moved; we are transported to a new place and that is the power of art — creation of the new.
Unlike the media, where journalists are held accountable and expected to live by some code, artistes’ responsibilities to society are not cast in stone.
However, artistes have to be responsible; major being to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds, but also to feel it emotionally and physically.
The concept of arts and film festivals is to bring people from all walks of life together and provide them with a common perspective.
These festivals create venues that draw people together who would otherwise not be engaged in constructive social activity.
They foster trust between participants thereby increasing their generalised trust of others.
They provide an experience of collective efficacy and civic engagement, which spurs participants to further collective action and provide an experience for participants to learn technical and interpersonal skills important for collective organising.
Finally, they increase the scope of individuals’ social networks.
To sum it up, festivals are the breeding ground for participants and their audiences to interact and for the former, it is the staging ground to launch dissent in the case of places such as Zimbabwe, where the national discourse is dominated by political conflict.
In his submission, Fifty Years of Film Making in Zimbabwe, Kedon Hungwe, makes mention of the use of propaganda films by the Rhodesian Government during the liberation struggle in order to build a divide between the freedom fighters and the rural masses.
According to Hungwe: “The (Rhodesian) Government unleashed a major media propaganda war…It is from there that propaganda war films were produced. The films were directed to both African and white audiences. Those film directed to African audiences, and in particular, the so called ‘war films’ sought to undermine the support of rural communities for the guerilla armies that were challenging white rule.”
In one of these productions, the film opened with shots of three insurgents entering a village where they were fed and given shelter.
As the story unfolded, the guerillas were tracked and shot dead.
The villagers who assisted them were arrested.
In the most horrific scene, the camera shows a hyena on leash rolling itself upon three real human bodies which are badly mutilated, licking up the brains of one body, ripping open another to pull out and eat entrails.
The camera lingers on this scene for a considerable while.
The film closes with a pitch black screen and the sound of hyenas laughing.
The reactions to these sorts of films are obvious.
Coming to present day use of film and art to shape opinions, more especially to dictate political discourse, most governments are lagging behind in telling their stories.
Sponsorship and commission of works has been traditionally the preserve of the wealthy and now corporations as well as NGOs are moving in and setting the agenda.
The proliferation of arts hubs in the developing world is testimony to the fact that creativity is a better vehicle in spreading ideas and shaping cultures and beliefs, in comparison to other mediums.
Art stimulates our brains differently, which is why a 70-year-old man will remember a song or poem he learnt in nursery school, the play he saw as a child, the film he saw as a teenager and so forth.
Art and film are not just entertainment, but teach us more than we could ever learn in a classroom.

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