Over the last three weeks I went to see few documentaries during a Design Film Festival in Singapore. I saw four in two days and yesterday was lucky enough to catch the most celebrated of the lot called The Salt of the Earth.
All these documentaries were about individuals. The first one about the creative head of the cartoon department at The New Yorker, the second one about a 90 year old woman called Iris Apfel who is a non-conventional, eclectic, and a crazy designer. Then there was another one called Dior & I and that was completely enthralling from the point of view of a new creative director at a fashion house like Dior and his anxieties and apprehensions along with the doubt and support of the team he has been given. The last one was about the almost lost tradition of the artisans in Paris.
While I watched all 4 of these, Day 1, I was swept with the idea of The New Yorker and how important those cartoons are, by the stories of some very old people who go every week to show their cartoons and the guy decides which one will get published and which won’t. And you don’t end up hating him because you just realise how tough it is to keep excellence afloat.
With Iris, it was just sheer delight and I walked away thinking the energy one needs all of one’s life just to keep the wheels in motion…the one superb dialogue in Iris was when the 90 year old is asked how does she do so much at this age and doesn’t she get tired, she replied,”My mother said, whatever I have two of, one of them aches, but you have to go on…”,
Dior and I was visually stunning and emotionally it was kind of close to the chaos of advertising at a different scale.
The last one of the 4 was Handmade with Love in France, it was sad but the artisans who are losing their shops were witty full of zing, jokes and laughter.
All these documentaries left me feeling inspired, questioning and restless.
And then yesterday I saw The Salt of the Earth. It was about this photographer called Sebastião Salgado. The documentary is his life’s journey from being a social photographer who went all around the world and made the struggling lives of people his subject, his life’s work. From starting out as curious, driven, to reaching a point that he said that we human beings deserve to die for what we do to each other.
I don’t really have words to say what I felt after seeing his work but one thing I can say is that it gave you a glimpse in the souls which carry desperation, misery, music, life and death. It left me feeling not teary eyed but rather useless. The documentary should just be seen as I am sure each one of us will end up feeling differently. In the end he and his wife re-planted the barren land in Brazil that they owned and after years grew a healthy thick forest where nothing had grown for decades. When I saw him talk about the plants, or walk about in the forest I realised that perhaps the journey of life comes full circle when we nurture something.
Our need to create is very strong all our lives as it helps us figure out who we are and who we are not. Creating something not only gives us joy, recognition but most importantly it makes us feel closer to having an identity.
But nurturing is different, nurturing something is an inward journey and it continues without an external validation while creating needs the others and the outside world. While creating brings us closer to who we are, nurturing brings us closer to why we are.
Both are right in their own time. But nurturing completes the circle.

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