Documentary Depression

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’m cruising in and out of the local coffee house and I recognize the server from the Rag Tag, an artsy theater where the young alternative crowd hangs out. Since the True/False Film Festival is commencing, and I had seen her there in one of the prime venues, I asked if she was attending any of the festival.

She said no, that work and school prohibited it. I thought of the expense, too, a luxury for a college student. But then she dropped the bomb, the last comment that might rank as one of the real reasons she was not attending even one film. After filling my cup she said, “I also don’t want to subject myself to documentary depression.”

Too much reality can be a depressing thing. And documentaries are about shining a bright light on life, the good, bad and ugly.  Tell me the truth, even if it hurts.

But I wonder about this young woman. She is bright, motivated and thoughtful. Is she simply stating her limits? How many of the rest of us are aware of the impact of 24/7 news on our psyches (it’s only getting worse, by quality and polarization) and the way we are constantly barraged with dissent and tragedy, much of which we either cannot grasp or respond to in meaningful ways? How much of this digital barrage can we take? For her, a chain of excellent documentaries has the same effect. Too much reality.

I think we need to grasp reality, as we can, and live in this world and not another. Being informed is better than not being informed. Knowing the problem is always the precursor to finding solutions. But what are our limits? How can we filter the data stream aimed at our foreheads?

Was this young woman simply recognizing her limits, practicing a kind of modern fast, and limiting what comes in so there is enough left of her to move in the world?

  1. Jim Coffman says:

    I have felt the same way without being as articulate as the young woman. What I yearn for in the documentaries are stories that are uplifting, stories that tell us there are some good things in the world after all. Does all truth have to be the worst side of humanity? Is the pig sty all there is?

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