The Still, Small Voice of Calm

There is a scene from the film “Atonement” that is miraculous in many ways. First, it is frightfully recaptures the British army’s forced evacuation of more than 300,000 allied soldiers on the beach of Dunkirk, France in 1940. Nearly 68,000 British soldiers died over the two-week period, and all of the forces’ tanks, trucks, ships, and even horses, were lost.

Second, it is one of the most technically astounding scenes on film. A steadicam captured the near continuous shot, which ran well over five minutes. Please rewatch it as, despite its pain and madness, it IS a work of art.

Finally, midway through the scene, you hear a group of British soldiers singing a 19th century hymn by Paul Greenleaf Whitter called “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.” My church sang it today. Freak that I am, I remembered it and wanted to share it with you.

There is anarchy all around the world today, especially in the Ukraine, Egypt and Syria. Yet it can be argued that each of us, depending on how we respond to the stressors in our lives, endures our own form of chaos.

This particular verse captures, not just the scene in the film, but the state of our world and our own lives today.

May you hear the still, small voice of calm.

“Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace, the beauty of thy peace.

“Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm; let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still, small voice of calm, O still, small voice of calm.”

Why the Academy Awards Needs to Rethink its Cold Response to “Blue is the Warmest Color”

Blue

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stunned few when it announced its 2014 “Oscar” nominees. Yes, Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Redford were overlooked. However, the acting fields were loaded with such performances, one cannot help but shrug his or her shoulders and simply move on.

One slight, however, should not go unmentioned.

France’s “Blue is the Warmest Color” did not receive a nomination for Best Foreign Film. Nor did it win at the Golden Globe Awards, despite a nomination for Best Foreign Film, and a voting field of risk-taking international film reporters. You know, that ‘gaggle of characters.’ 

This is the same film that received the Palme d’Or in 2013 from a jury led by none other than Steven Spielberg. In an unprecedented move, Spielberg made sure the film’s lead actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adéle Exarchopoulos, received the award along with the film’s director, Abdellatif Kechiche.

So why the oversight? From the beginning the film was a branded a knockout by French critics. Yet Westerners offered a split decision. Go ahead, analyze THAT.

The film’s love scenes generated a list of mythic, and sometimes accurate, responses. Did you know that one sex scene lasted 10–no—20 minutes in length? (It was actually seven minutes.) Did the filmmaker really use fake genitalia, as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler claimed in their recent Golden Globes monologue? If only the actresses had expressed lust and gun violence, rather than passion and love, during their girl-on-girl scenes. Perhaps that would have merited “Blue” a R rating instead of NC-17?

Further complicating matters was the spat between the director Kechiche, and his leading lady. When asked, Seydoux confirmed tales of long hours of filming that teetered on abuse. She even went so far as to say she would never work with Kechiche again. Female critics jumped on the chance to out Kechiche as clearly voyeuristic and misogynist.

Kechiche lashed out at the critics and the actresses. Now there’s talk of him filing a slander suit against Seydoux.

Typically, Hollywood likes to profit from films that spark controversy. By omitting “Blue,” the Motion Picture Academy chose not to even acknowledge it. This, however, this should not be the end of  the “Blue” story.

What it should be recognized for is its accurate portrayal—sex scenes aside—of young women and the conflict over sexual preference and identity. How many times have heterosexuals been gifted in film with brave, conflicted, charming and flawed characters, especially in love stories that not about AIDS or the Gay Civil Rights movement? Name one lesbian character in a film that is portrayed as proudly out, without a trace of suspicious or controversy.

Ironically, “Blue is the Warmest Color,” has a very traditional story line. We learn of a 15-year-old girl, “Adele,” who feels a void in her heterosexual relationship. Then she is connects—at first glance—with a young college student named “Emma.” Right out of Shakespeare.

Emma leads Adele on a journey of both physical and emotional enlightenment. Sadly, and predictably, Adele bows to societal pressure and confusion when confronted by her family and friends, breaking both of the young women’s hearts. Been there. Done that. 

What is not familiar about this storyline is the use of homosexual characters as leads. Despite the growing and somewhat honest portrayals of gays, lesbians, transgender/transexual and bisexuals on television, the motion picture industry often fails to see the rainbow. Social change, civil rights advances and the leprechaun’s pot of gold will likely change that. The critically acclaimed 2011 release “Pariah,” about how a young African-American teen embraces her Lesbian identity, met a similar fate.

A 2011 study from the Williams Institute at UCLAdetermined that 11 percent of Americans have “same-sex attraction,” while nearly four percent claim to be openly GLBT. At least 9 million then identified publicly as GLBT. That was three years—and many court decisions—ago.

Any pollster or marketing executive will tell you that a sector of ten percent is a growth opportunity. With the advent of films streamed into the home, and the ability to distribute to the global market, films featuring homosexual characters will continue to be a sought-after and vital business.

Now “Blue” was, by no means, a blockbuster. It earned just over $7.2 million worldwide since its in late 2013.
However, it must be said that in its first weekend, in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, “Blue” made a tidy $100,316. With distributor Sundance Select behind it, and the inevitable placement of the film online and on cable channels, it is fair to assume “Blue” will be in demand.

Is that because people will want to see the sex? Maybe…however, like heterosexuality, any healthy relationship is about love and companionship. “Blue” is no exception. It is a film filled with emotions, feelings, and conflict that all humans share.

For family members trying to accept their homosexual relative, “Blue” is a lesson in compassion and acceptance. For the individual struggling with their sexual preference and identity, the film is about self love and preservation. For the GLBT community, “Blue” should become a rite of passage.

Thus all this begs the question: How much longer can the business of filmmaking—and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—continue to deny the feelings, desires, experiences and even the accurate existence of this portion of humanity?

To anyone who is homosexual, thinks they are homosexual or knows a teen who probably homosexual, “Blue” is an important work, and a beautiful, rare and identifiable experience. It should be, for lesbians, what “Brokeback Mountain” has become for gays. For the film industry, “Blue” is the future of their business.

So if there are any Hollywood types out there still doubting my case, I’ll offer you the elevator pitch: “Blue” is the French prequel to the “The L Word” but it has the quality, conflict and emotion of “West Side Story.”

Or, as Steven Spielberg says: “The film is a great love story.”

One Building Block at a Time!

What is it they say about hell and good intentions? I have to tell you I had every good intention of launching my post-CNN life immediately. Then I came to a couple of realizations. First, I was exhausted!

No one tells you this in journalism school, but the business can really wipe you out. Nothing about it is predictable. There are no such thing as banker’s hours. You are always online, on the go, and at the mercy of the news gods. It’s one of the reasons to like it so much, frankly. Fun, wild, unexpected, and exciting.

In fact you’re so adrenalin driven, that when you do step off, your body says ‘what the hell?’ Well, that’s what happened to me. I think I slept for six weeks straight immediately after I left CNN. Then I did what any addict in recovery must do. I powered off. I suspect this was for the best. As in the final weeks of the year, when I could finally expose myself to some media in moderation, my former colleagues were engrossed in one of the most brutal news cycles ever.

Yes, news happens in cycles. Sandy, the Presidential election and Sandy Hook. Wow…..I commend my friends working that 24/7 news cycle. I applaud them. I also praise God on high that I don’t have to put my body through that again.

This doesn’t mean I am now one of the disenfranchised consumers that are wreaking havoc on the news industry. Instead, it makes me more empathetic to both sides. It’s also allowed me to truly take a breath. Get some context. Even–gasp!–develop a position on an issue.

And that’s all right. It’s okay to take a stand. Now my stand is about the next chapter. Where I happen in my work. And my work doesn’t just happen to me. So do stay tuned, because I’m a collector: of people, ideas, even a few things.

And I cannot wait to share them with you….SOON!

Thanks for reading!

Pam

Life IS happening–be a part of it!

Yes! It is true! After 15 wonderful years, I have decided to leave CNN. My last day is Wednesday, August 8th.

To my CNN family, and all I have met while working there: Thank you! I am so grateful.

Please, stay tuned to my LinkedIn, Twitter and this site for updates about my next venture. I intend to launch later a media product and consultancy platform that will introduce you to some of the most amazing ideas and concepts, and the people who are behind them.

To learn more, please send me your Twitter and email information. I’ll be in touch very soon.

Life IS happening. Be a part of it.

Thank you for your interest,

Pam

@pamelassellers

pamela@pamelasellers.com

pamela.sellers@gmail.com

www.pamelasellers.com