The moon

Date: 6/12/2017

By lrr

I'm sitting down for dinner with a family group, extended family, and family friends in a somewhat upscale restaurant. We just ordered, and we’re ready to engage in conversations among us when a man shows up. This man was perhaps in his 50s or 60s, with the appearance of a vagrant. He approaches the table and starts talking. He’s asking questions as if trying to fish the attention of the public, and doing so with some storytelling skills, while trying to establish a certain obscure movie as the conversation topic. Everyone in the table is visibly annoyed about his presence, and attempts to remove him by simply asking him to leave us alone don’t seem to have the smallest impact. I must step up. He asks: “wouldn’t you want to know about a movie that was produced in a fully democratic manner?” This is my queue, I ask him with smugness: “What’s the title of this movie? You said it was produced in a completely democratic way, if it wasn’t I’ll ask you to please remove yourself from the premises. What is the title?” My question is meant to give our actions some semblance of legitimacy to his eyes, show him that we gave him a chance and now it was time for him to leave. It wasn’t compassionate, however, it was not meant to make him feel heard. It was simply full of hubris, and had already an answer ready: Whichever answer he gave, I’d rant (even if I didn’t know the title of the movie) about how the process they used was simply a propaganda manipulation through some pseudo-participatory method to give the semblance of democracy, while being as far from it as any other movie produced in a studio behind closed doors. He answered simply with the title, a short word in some western-European language (Polish?) that perhaps meant “The moon”. He answered simply and humbly, as if he was unable to read the hubris in my exchange. As if he hadn’t heard anything other than the question itself: “What’s the title of the movie?”. He didn’t show excitement about having been engaged, nor defiance on answering, nor pride on being right. He quite simply answered the question. His answer, one or two short words that may have meant “The moon” in some Easter-European language, sent me directly into a flashback. I was a kid, back in Colombia, watching some sort of documentary or docu-series in the cultural government-ran television channel. They talked about that movie. Back in the Soviet years, the communist party in Poland (or perhaps some other smaller country in the vicinity) had performed a nation-wide experiment: A fully democratically-produced movie. It was an unprecedented experiment, with all odds against, a project doomed to fail. It succeeded. They made it, they produced a movie in a completely democratic manner. They managed to make technology work for them in producing ways for direct participation without falling in the tyranny of the majority, and the result was an experimental film so unique and disruptive that it may have established a new kind of cinema. A truly novel form of film production had been invented, and a truly novel film was the first result to show. A film entitled something that perhaps meant “The moon” in some Eastern-European language, perhaps Polish. The result was dangerous. Soon after release, the iron curtain fell. American interest were to remove any successes of communism from the imaginary of the world, and a fully democratically produced disruptive and truly unique film was exactly the product that had to disappear. So it did: the movie was removed from circulation, and several propaganda campaigns in the region ended up erasing its existence from the public memory, from history. My memories were imprecise and vague. What was the method? What was the technique? What was the result? One thing was clear in my memory, however: the frustration. I didn’t start watching the documentary from the beginning, I had actually caught it towards the end, and I did’t quite understand the context entirely. I wanted to know more, but there was no point on trying anything: The exact title of the movie had been mentioned only once and I had no idea how to spell it or how to pronounce it properly, and it was too short, and maybe it meant “The moon” or maybe it didn’t. Any other details were just as fuzzy, I wasn’t even sure if it had been Poland. This was before the Internet had become as pervasive and useful as research tool. Perhaps today I would have had some luck finding out about it, but back then… there simply was not enough information. I had to forget about it and move on, so I did. Fast forward several years later, a dinner with family and friends, and this man, it seems, didn’t forget. He answered simply and humbly, and all my smugness and hubris crumbled down destroying my grandstanding question with pre-decided answer. But I didn’t feel humiliated or ashamed. Quite the opposite, I felt a great sense of relieve. I felt grateful that he had destroyed my offensive plan to remove him (or have him removed). I pulled a stool half the width of the chairs (or perhaps a hard luggage), I sat down there as in a saddle, and I offered him my chair. “I do, I want to hear about it”. He came and sat down and started talking about it with the same engaging storytelling skills he had employed all along. With the same tone too, as if he had no clue of what had changed. As if he didn’t realize he hadn’t been heard before and he was now. As if he didn’t know he had beat me and I had admitted it with my invitation publicly. We simply talked about the movie. As he started talking, his voice faded, the lights faded, existence faded and I was transported into another dream.