2007 Program Book Dedication
...Of the nature of family and determining life's values
When I was growing up the one thing I remember distinctly from school was learning that as human beings we were distinctly isolated and unique entities. We lived our lives internally; always removed from others by a physicality that contained what the religious call “the soul.” Unlike the fantasies from films or popular television programs, there was no sixth sense, no Vulcan mind melds and empathy did not mean you literally felt what another felt. Popular culture for baby boomers was filled with the idea of going beyond the physical; where souls merged, consciousness shifted and the confines of the body were overcome. From Stephen King’s “Carrie,” where thoughts could kill; to Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” where the minds of a mother and daughter switched; to Kubrick’s “2001,” where humans evolved into star gods, the escape from the trap of physicality was always motivating factor to be more than oneself.
The very elements that make us human, have spurred discourse and inspired philosophy about breaking the shackles of the physical. Perhaps that explains best why we are such social animals and have a strong need to link and bond with others.
When you think about the social activities that are part of the human experience, most tend to center on shared experience. Interestingly, these experiences tend to be based on peak events: whether walking on the moon; winning an international soccer match; the death of a princess; or a tragedy of extreme barbarity where our cultural ethos is challenged to its core. In the United States, the events of 9/11 are this generation’s touchstone into the dark heart of a world that increasingly seems out of control.
Yet, whether the bond comes from a sports event, military training or a summer music concert; there is a clear human drive to ensure that that one is not alone.
When my father passed away in February of this year, I had a stark reminder not only of our fragility as human beings, but that we each have a life clock that gives us a finite span on this blue orb in space we call Earth. From the time we are born, the clock ticks down our lives taking us from an age when anything seems possible to a point where everything is probable.
I had been my parent’s caregiver for over 28 years. My life was charted by their needs and concerns. I discovered that my career path took on a different direction than what I had originally thought it would be. Yet, as I look back, he flow of my life has been natural and unforced. And most importantly, I received an amazing gift of knowing my parents as friends.
As the door to my father’s world shut, it opened an opportunity to reconnect with my older brother and his family. There had been a decades-long estrangement that in retrospect should never have happened. The passage of time does have a way of neutralizing the “he said, she said” or “you did this to me.” At the end of the day, so many things look petty and inconsequential when placed in perspective of what is truly important.
So, I have been given a revelation.
Our families, however they are defined, are the root source of our strength. Our families define, nurture and sustain us. Our families break the chains of self and make us part of a greater human experience.
When my bother, Joe and I reconnected it was sudden and powerful. I know when it happened and how.
The day was brisk and damp. A light rain had made the ground soft and muddy. We were at the graveside for my father’s burial. My father had just been given a military salute. The bugler had played “Taps.” The honor guard had taken the flag, folded it and the Officer of the Day presented it to me.
I walked over to where my brother was standing and gave it to him. It was the first time we had spoken in years.
Then something happened. The years melted away. The barriers we had both built lost their power. The sibling rivalry we allowed to perpetuate seemed foolish. We were both liberated
Now I’m not going to tell you why I did what I did. It just happened. It was not pre-planned. It just felt right. It seemed so natural. It was outside of myself. And I think that’s the point.
The connection that we have with our friends and families are deep and ineffable. They oftentimes defy logic and stir many emotions. We are linked in ways that go beyond the self. We really are not alone and isolated individuals. The connectiveness we share with others is much deeper that we think. Whether it is spiritual, some cosmic bond or even a sixth sense that we are not in touch with; our world is not so stark or even black and white. This is something that transcends cultures and nationalities and it is at core part of the human experience.
I speak with my brother several times a week these days. My sister-in-law, Tina, is always vibrant and great fun to be with. She has a way of making me smile and we email frequently and talk on the phone just to keep up to date. My partner, Larry and Tina have bonded and since they are both Food Channel addicts, its fun to watch them talk about Paula Dean and her heavily buttered heart-attack meals or what’s really up with Rachel Ray.
We just had our annual pre-festival yard party for staff and friends. About 60 people came throughout the course of the day. My brother took over the barbeque and Tina made a chocolate fondue dessert that disappeared almost immediately when it was put out. They spent most of the day with us and met our friends. The fact they came gave it special significance since they were leaving on an 18-day cruise the next morning. Most people I know would have been more focused on their trip than attending an afternoon party.
But they are family.
And this reminds me about the film festival and those who are dedicated to making it a reality: 11 years of the Festival has forged its own family.
As RIIFF has evolved and grown, we have been fortunate to meet some amazing people who have shaped the event, given it character and instilled a personality you cannot find anywhere else. The Festival has prospered because of these individuals. We are friends and have become a de facto family. We are linked by a love and passion for something that extols a special art form.
Demetria, Adam, Don, Phil, Linda, Marc, Jenni, Laurie, Michael, Katie, Jon, Toni-Anne, Joce, Paul, Mary, Christina, Keith, Ric, James, Antonio, Ken, Ted, Toni and Paul, Alyssa, Victor, Joshua, Deb, Jordan, Rachel, Sara, Nichelle, Duncan, Scott, Jim, Val, Jo, Jay, Shawn, Po Kim, Cheryl, Winnie, Michelle, Linda Short, Sixcia, Sheri, Heather, June, Erin, Morgan, Nick, John, Ineko, Paul Brooks, Bill, Richard and Phyllis, Janet, Dana, Melanie, and Larry: members of the RIIFF family.
So, this year, I am proud to dedicate the 2007 Festival to all families--yours and mine: the people who nurture, support and guide us through the rocky shoals that make up our lives. It is our families who instill in us core values hat forge our characters and personalities. And it is our families who teach us that it is not always best to be right; but you can never go wrong by being kind.
And it is because of our families that we are never truly alone.
George T. Marshall,