Identity and Recognition in Film and TV

Identity and Recognition in Film and TV

On December 10-11, 2015, the the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome held the second edition of the international seminar Rethinking Fiction. This year’s theme was “Identity and Recognition of Characters and Stories in Film and TV”. About 60 people participated in the seminar that was structured to incorporate plenty of debate time.

Historian, philosopher, and visiting professor of the university, Msgr. Mariano Fazio, gave the opening speech of the seminar. After a brief description of modern culture, with its highlights and shadows, Msgr. Fazio focused on how fiction could contribute to the rediscovery of the concept of the person. He insisted that only from Christ can we understand who man- in all his depth- really is. His latest book, El universo de Dickens (The Universe of Dickens), is a good example of how to understand great novels.

There was then turn of the catharsis in the Dardenne brothers’ films, the absence of the father in our society, and how this is reflected on the big screen and in serial television. Professor Giulio Maspero gave concrete examples to explain how certain series, particularly successful from the anthropological perspective, may allow young people to understand themselves better through self-reflection and a more accurate focus of their feelings. The first day concluded with a panel discussion of the challenges and opportunities posed by the teachings embedded in the creative writing of film, television, and literature.

On the second day, the following movies were given the spotlight: the Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes, the Chilean filmNo, the Polish film Ida, and the American films Birdman, Whiplash, and Boyhood. These movies perhaps don’t provide all the answers, and some have moral drawbacks, but they do ask questions that help viewers see deeper into the human condition, specifically on themes of identity and recognition. A session was dedicated to the work of two renowned veteran filmmakers with an exquisite filmography to their name, Terrence Malick and Hayao Miyazaki . According to film critic Alberto Fijo, Malick’s films- above all his movie The Tree of Life- give an “exaltation of the human being as a creature fallen, redeemed, and elevated. These are films in which specifically life and grace are clearly present, and can thus be understood only from a Catholic vision of man”.

The last panel of the seminar was comprised of various professionals in the audiovisual industry: Ángel Blasco from Filmayer y Magic Films; Jordi Gasull from 4Cats Pictures, producer of the successful movies, Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones (Tad, The Lost Explorer), El Niño, and most recently, Atrapa la bandera (Capture the Flag); and Armando Fumagalli from Lux Vide.

These professionals shared screenwriting and production strategies, as well as interesting stories that helped explain the complexity of the audiovisual industry. It is no doubt an industry that has enormous power in the habits and customs of contemporary society.