Screen Angle

“Keep moving please!” said the traffic cop. “No stopping here. There’s no entry.”

Sami was annoyed. He thought that by coming on a bicycle he would get a break, but the cops were treating car drivers, motorbikers, cyclists, skateboarders and pedestrians the same. He wondered how wheelchair users would fare.

“But I am part of the production crew. I am the local project manager for the screening.”

This had no effect. The cop waved him on and said, “Well you should know better then. Nobody is allowed through this way except VIPs. Do you have VIP credentials?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, go around the back like everybody else. Once you pass through security, you’re in.”

It was strange to see the heart of Lucerne cordoned off. It was an important event, he knew, and they had to take precautions, but it didn’t seem right somehow.

The global launch of the film HUMANITY could have taken place in London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Paris or New York, but the director had had his vision for the film while climbing mountains here. The white bulk of Mt Alba at one end of the valley, and dark bulk of Mt Negra at the other, had caused him to “transcend the monochromicity of the world, while retaining its bipolar archetypes.”

What this meant, nobody really knew, but he was a world famous auteur at the peak of his creative powers, so it didn’t matter. He declared this film the “cumulative cultural container” of his lifetime’s work, and said that it must be revealed to the world in the place where the world had revealed it to him.

The producer had wanted to show the film on the railway tracks to signify “humanity at the crossroads,” and his people had conducted negotiations with the provincial government, village council, railways department, health and safety boards, and emergency services, but had been unable to convince them to allow this. So instead they had settled for The Place, the communal square in the centre of the village.

It took an hour to get through security. By the time Sami was on location, the scaffold and screen were set up. He knew that the screen was twenty by forty feet, but in situ it looked much bigger. The film would look awesome on that.

He scoped the area, paced it out, and ran through things in his head. VIPs were here near the trees, premium diners there near the fountain, ordinary ticket holders on the terrace, and press near the bar.

Hang on! The VIPs would get the same view as everybody else. That wasn’t right. He had been told that VIPs must get the best view. He would have to move the screen, maybe angle it a little towards them. He called over a technician.

The technician said, “Look pal, it’s all set up. It will be tricky to move it. Why don’t we just leave it there?”

Sami felt he had no option. “I’m afraid we have to move it.”

“But isn’t this film called HUMANITY? Why don’t we give everyone an equal view?”

Cinema is a cultural artefact. By exploiting the universal power of visual communication, it is used for entertainment, education and indoctrination. Individual images are shown rapidly, creating the illusion of motion. One cannot see their flickering due to an effect called persistence of vision, wherein the eye retains a visual image for a fraction of a second after its source has been removed. Thus, things persist, whether we like it or not. One such thing is social privilege.

Sami said, “We need to move the screen for the VIPs. Can you please call the rest of the crew.”

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2 Responses to “Screen Angle”

  1. What is the relationship between social privilege and persistence of vision ?

    • They both endure beyond their immediate aspects (persistence of vision on your retinas, and social privilege in wealth/class based societies). Does that make sense?

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