One of the passages of Scripture that I keep coming back to again and again is Genesis 18:25. “Will not the judge of all earth do what is right?” It is the trump card Abraham plays when trying to get Him to spare Sodom and Gomorrah; God agrees, of course.
I bring this up because one of the talking heads in Last Days in Vietnam says they had no way of knowing whether the refugees that were being airlifted out of Saigon were deserving of rescue. They were just doing the best they could.
When I think that justice on a massive scale is impossible, it’s because there is no way of gauging every individual human experience. For instance, the Vietnamese ransacked the embassy once they realized the Americans had betrayed them and left them behind. They could not know how the Americans were risking career, and in some cases even life, to get as many locals out as they could.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong side to this scenario, but then where is justice? Both sides have equally valid and weighty arguments, so what gives?
Multiply that on a global scale and you see what I mean when I talk of the nonexistence of justice. It is not pure bleak and despair, however. Since believers in the resurrection know that the judge of all the earth will eventually do what is right, we can rest and do the best we can, for ourselves and others.
Two days ago, the mass murderers interviewed for The Look of Silence told the camera that no, they did not consider their atrocities to be crimes, that it was done in the name of the state, and that anybody in their position would do the same.
It is incredibly revealing about the state of human nature that Wall Street bankers rationalize their evil deeds the same exact way villagers from Indonesia justify their horrible actions.
I suggest anybody to watch both documentaries back to back.
It makes one think that beyond culture, beyond surroundings and diverse catalysts, there is something inherent inside all of humanity that is deeply rotten.
How lucky, and extraordinary, that we have a redeemer then.
How difficult it is, to accept responsibility for our own failings!
One of the most spellbinding films I have ever watched, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, documents with dumbfounding clarity how one person’s decision can ripple throughout time and borders and go on to affect the globe as a whole.
And while the decisions that the main subject of Weiner makes may not be as far reaching or impactful as those found in We Steal Secrets, it is yet one more example that we do not need made up stories in cinema to scratch our heads and go “That was unbelievable”, while also making us glad it does.
Halfway through Joshua Oppenheimer’s superb The Act of Killing I was assaulted by the following inquiry: How did this man’s camera capture all of this?
There are so many scenes bordering the surreal, that for a time I began to doubt the authenticity of its subjects. Surely the scene in which a journalist pleads ignorance of the slaughter, while his face slowly transforms into one of shame and guilt, was rehearsed. The sheer amount of pathos on display is usually reserved for movies, not real life. Yet, in scene after scene Oppenheimer shows that these men are not putting on a show; they are demons, and they live among us.
God help us all.
5 years ago I sent an email to Roger Ebert and he wrote me back.
The questions included in my message were, looking back, painfully unsubstantial and nearly pointless, yet the man actually took time off and answered each and every one of them.
I still have the response printed in my room.
4 months before he passed away, I left a comment on one of his Journal entries. My writing was no longer pretentious and I was, by the mercy of God, past the point where I had lofty aspirations of being noticed by the wonder of my prose.
I simply wrote to him what was in my heart. I, like everybody else, wanted him to get better.
His 6 word reply to my message is one that I will always carry with me.
“I want to be like you”, Ebert wrote.
I nearly cried right there, and I cried the day after his leave of presence went up and his passing was in the news everywhere.
I have never cried and doubt I will ever again for the death of somebody I did not even know.
But I really do feel as if the power of his words and paragraphs was so that it did not matter if one read him on a computer screen thousands of miles away, or listened to him at a World Conference. It reached out and touched your soul, and even if limited, you still got to know him.
The spiritual successor to Alex Gibney’s masterful We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks.
The revelation that arrives during the final 5 minutes of this documentary confirmed why I had felt such unease during the 100 minutes that came before it.
As global commentary alone, this documentary deserves high marks.