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OPINION

Struggling to see the big picture

The Examiner

I can validly claim that I have attended a film festival or two.

Cannes? No. Sundance? Toronto? No. I’ve been to, and enjoyed, the more local variety.

Jeff Fox

Those more well-known ones sound lovely, but I put them on the not-quite bucket list. Like going to Scotland to land a nice salmon and then savor a glass of whiskey at sunset, Cannes and Sundance fall onto the list most of us are more familiar with: Ain’t gonna happen.

And that’s OK. The people who push platitudes say one key to happiness is not missing what you don’t have, and on this one they are right.

But then I picked up the newspaper. Newspapers do many good things, but they also show you people who are smarter, hipper and happier than you. Facebook and Instagram did not invent that. They’re just more immediate and more in your face about it.

Film festival organizers have had to scramble their plans because of the pandemic. At one of the more prominent ones in Sweden, they asked themselves, what is the theme of our time? Well, it’s isolation. Right, so let’s work with that.

They decided to go all in. Have a showing of all 70 of the festival’s films for just one person at site A, say a hockey arena. And another at site B. (And, yes, release stuff digitally for the rest of us.)

The best one, by far, was one person in a lighthouse keeper’s home on a lonely, cold island. Seventy movies, one week, no distractions.

Sign me up.

Our living room has what 20 years ago would have seemed like a space-age, extravagantly large television. By today’s standards, it’s a mid-size at most. It’s good, not great, for movies. We added a sound bar, so now ads bring the rumble of stampeding buffalo into our home. Again, good but not great.

It’s just not the same as sitting in a theater, and, yes, this is where one pines for what one does not have and finds oneself on the road to unhappiness. The Swedish island is sounding pretty good.

The festival organizers struck a chord with this. Thousands signed up in hope of being picked for the island or one of the other fabulous venues, and the winner of the island was a front-line worker, an emergency nurse.

This has elements that seem both serious and frivolous. Times are tough, and we need to focus on the many hard, complicated, chronic challenges at hand. Although I tend to fall in with that line of thinking, many will rightly point out that these are exactly the times when we need culture – movies, books, dance, Archie comics, rock opera, whatever works for you – to sustain us like sunshine on a cold February day.

Maybe it’s time to amend the bucket list. More salmon. More getaways.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or on Twitter @FoxEJC.