The 15th Cinema South Festival – On Cinema and the Healing Power of Art

 

The Palm / Wislawa Szymborska

Twenty seven bones

Thirty five muscles

Nearly two thousand nerve cells

Are in each of our five fingertips.

That is more than enough

To write “Mein Kampf”

Or “Winnie-the-Pooh”

 

Wislawa Szymborska, in one of her simple and genius poems, “The Palm”, tells us where writing may lead. It may be to something like “Mein Kampf” – one of the evil writings that led to atrocious crimes against humanity in the twentieth century – or to a most wondrously humane book such as “Winnie-the-Pooh” – which heals man’s soul and enhances his ability to accept himself and those around him with all of their weaknesses. Thus, Szymborska views weakness as unique and magical. My big question, vis-à-vis myself and the world – which often seems to be on the verge of devouring itself in fury and self-hatred – is: What will art, culture and cinema do, as they are confronted with the dire human existence in which we are caught? Will they rewrite “Mein Kampf”, or will they find new creations that heal, console and rediscover the power of reason and compassion?

Cinema South Festival in Sderot and the School of Audio and Visual Arts at the Sapir Academic College seek a significant path in a world lacking safety or awareness. We seek a path of compassion, giving, acceptance and searching; to look, and offer another viewpoint in which the artist is a shaman and his touch of the material, even if painful, will bring seeds of healing, seeds of renewed faith in man’s soul. The voice and viewpoint of the aching artist, which we bring to the kingdom of the festival, are the sound and sight we need more than ever, in order to delve into the kingdom of darkness and find cure there. The artist-shaman is the one who can exist in these difficult realms of agony of the soul and the world, offering bright clarity from within. We know he must cross terrible journeys within himself, yet in his art he brings us the touch of healing. And perhaps part of his role is to sacrifice himself in order to render society the chance of becoming a saner one – similarly to the actor of the “skene” (the actors’ tent) in the Dionysian theater stage of Athens, who was the only one in ancient Greek culture allowed to be a wanderer in soul and a gypsy of identities, since only he could take the psychotic and schizoid journey of the artist.

In a famous story of Lacan, he tells of a journey that Freud and Jung, the two Fathers of Psychoanalysis, took from Europe to America in the 1920s, when they were invited there by Americans who wanted to understand this modern spell or spirit called ‘psychoanalysis’. When they approached New York and passed by the Statue of Liberty, Freud said to Jung, “They (the Americans) think we’re bringing a cure, they don’t know we’re bring the plague.” This story is deeply connected to the cinematic endeavor we seek to create here in the South, since the question of the plague and the cure is at the basis of our current human-psychic existence in the world.

I think there is a deep connection between the psychoanalytical endeavor and the cinematic one – both born at the end of the nineteenth century and both seeking to cope with a new baffling reality, searching for healing in new ways. The cure they both bring exists through the deepening of pain and darkness without fear, while very carefully – so that, ultimately, it will be possible to reach enlightened moments that can illuminate the dark recesses within us. The knowledge that the dark is within us, and that the art of cinema can touch concealed contents through it, is part of what we call ‘the creation of consciousness’. Consciousness born through disease can touch healing and not only the disease itself. The arts of cinema, music, acting, stage, poetry are our way at Cinema South Festival and the Sapir School of Audio and Visual Arts of treating and touching the dearest of all – our own lives. “Winnie-the-Pooh” represents the kind of creative work we need now, more than ever before, and we have more than enough of the “Mein Kampf” kind.

All of the impressive programs of Cinema South – Israeli cinema, world cinema, graduate films, fringe, poetry and classic movies – will be screened at the renovated Chen Cinema, to be part of the new cultural-artistic space of Sderot, Sapir, and Sha’ar Hanegev. It is precisely here, the wounded and painful area of the Western Negev near the border, where the movement of healing can appear through art and cinema.

 

 

Prof. Avner Faingulernt

 

Head of the School of Audio and Visual Arts

Initiator and founder of Cinema South Festival

Sapir Academic College