NO SPOILERS below. I promise.
Yesterday I went to see the current Matt Damon blockbuster Elysium by District 9 mastermind Neill Blomkamp. The film was nothing short of spectacular. Elysium explores a future in which Earth as we know it is overcrowded and overrun with poverty and disease. The wealthy live in bliss and perfect health on a space station hovering above. From the very first screenshot the viewer is hurdled into a world plagued by issues that haunt us today: healthcare and immigration reform, and government that caters to a small percentage of the population. Blomkamp brilliantly poses the question: what would our lives look like if there was no reform or conscious effort to protect those that need protection? And above all, how much can one individual faced with his own mortality impact society?
This is the kind of film that makes you sit back and say “OH! That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. ”
I am currently pursuing an MFA at a 3-year institution, an arguably questionable route for any performing artist to take. Unlike a terminal degree in business, law, or medicine there is no guarantee of wealth or job stability. However, in today’s world very little is guaranteed to anyone. (Enter foreboding parental comment here). Nonetheless, those who choose the conservatory route trade resources for an opportunity to hone their instrument to the best of its ability.
At the end of this process what you end up with are a lot of actors that pop back into a commercialized regional theatrical system, working in film and TV occasionally. It is much more rare for these programs to produce artists interested in or even financially able to challenge persisting socio-economic or political systems on a large level. We are encouraged to “be the best we can be” in all American fervor, but I’m still trying to figure out how that best version of myself can produce a message, be brave enough to put that message into a world, and ambitious enough to get that message out on a large-scale. This is what I am seeing from Blomkamp’s work. Both in District 9 and Elysium Blomkamp challenges himself and the viewer while creating unique mind-blowing entertainment.
A Daughter’s Wish
Since viewing the film I’ve found myself most fixated on the issue of healthcare. My mother is currently engaged in a battle with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She has faced every obstacle with such bravery and grace and her struggle has so profoundly changed me. Sitting in a theatre with people who have been touched by their own health issues, a room full of beings who will all at some time pass, Blomkamp’s intelligent design immediately is rendered effective. The content of the film connected me to my concerns about an unknown future and an innate understanding of humanity.
The place at the ends of the earth to which certain favored heroes were conveyed by the gods after death.
A place or state of perfect happiness.
As far as heroes go who else would you want to call on but Matt Damon? He is full of brains, heart and brawn. His performance illuminates why the “hero” trope still important. In my life I am fortunate to have many heroes, my all patient mother being #1, my faculty, and people who continue to incubate and support my work. For now Mr. Blomkamp you are one of those heroes. I thank you for pushing the limits of entertainment. What you are making I would like to call “activist entertainment”. It is not only profitable but a positive addition to the cultural landscape. We can only hope that our future won’t need a beefed up butt-kicking hero like Matt Damon to save it.
(Oh, and Jodie Foster rocks.)