Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lessons I Learned at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival

I read somewhere that the director of “Transamerica” judged transgendered people to be more highly evolved than most non-gender benders. I thought of this while watching “The Power of Nightmares”, a documentary detailing the dysfunctional relationship between neo-conservatives and Islamic fundamentalists. It hit me that neither destructive movement would exist in a transgendered world – and that this had little to do with gender benders being more “highly evolved.” If those of us between the sexes are more “highly evolved” it is simply out of necessity. We are forced to live in the gray all the time – so we have no fear of it. We know there are no absolutes, have to be comfortable with that fact if we are to live inside our own skins.

Leaders of ideological movements, however, are driven by fear – of the unknown, of the gray. Mad men like Tim McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski are unknowns, loose cannons, embodiments of the chaos, which is also an integral part of the world. “Al Qaeda” as a concept is comforting to those steadfast, black-and-white neo-conservatives. A known entity that can be defined can be controlled. Or so it would seem. No matter that the random, uncontrollable Travis Bickles of the world – David Berkowitz and Colin Ferguson in real life New York – are more of an everyday threat than Osama bin Laden, head of a criminal organization America needed to invent in order to prosecute the moneyman under U.S. law for the Nairobi and Kenya bombings. Just one thing I learned from the Tribeca Film Festival.

Rumsfeld and Richard Perle still battling a Soviet threat that was itself a myth. Seeing those two onscreen in “The Power of Nightmares” was like watching old boxers who would rather risk brain damage in the ring than retire from the fight. It was embarrassing and pathetic – and I realized that these are the people who are driven to lead.

But then I was reminded of another lesson learned – from the basketball documentary “Through The Fire” – the antidote to “Hoop Dreams”. Sebastian Telfair, the 5’10” point guard for the Portland Trailblazers, made it to the NBA due to his immense physical talent and a caring family that included two older brothers/father figures who supported him emotionally, prepared him mentally and loved him unconditionally. In the film one of the brothers suggests Sebastian’s happiness is integral to his being, not dependent on a million dollar sneaker contract. If all young men in the projects from Coney Island to the Casbah were like him, I realized, those madmen driven to lead would have no followers.

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