TIFF18: Monsters and Men

In any other universe I’d just shake my head and keep walking if someone came up to me and said:

I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters, you don’t even know which side the protesters were on. But to allow someone to stand up and scream from the top of their lungs and nobody does anything about it is frankly — I think it’s an embarrassment.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t just anyone who said that exact thing last week – it was the President of the United States of America. The supposed leader of the free world wants to silence people with whom he doesn’t agree. The worst part is that it’s not a bit surprising. In fact, it’s a common theme of this President’s as he preaches to his base and ignores the other three-quarters of the people in his country.

Included in that other 75% are a lot of people who don’t have many opportunities to be heard. The size and reach of one’s pulpit is, in large part, determined by her means and her inherent characteristics. For women, minorities and the poor, it’s hard to be heard at all as you’re all drowned out by white (male) noise. You need a bigger platform. A noisy one, a newsworthy one. Like, for example, a protest. Or, a thoughtful, well-acted conversation piece at a major film festival.

monstersandmen_HEROMonsters and Men is that conversation piece. Moreover, it is one of the finest cinematic conversation pieces I have ever seen. What makes it stand out from the rest is that it tries so very hard to stay impartial (and succeeds), to the point that a black cop at a dinner party (BlacKkKlansman‘s John David Washington) jumps to the defense of a white cop who recently shot an unarmed black man (in which Washington puts forward some interesting points). Which is not to say Washington’s character is right, because I don’t think he was, and I’m not sure he genuinely even felt that way in the movie (he is well aware of the systemic racism inherent in the justice system, there is never any doubt of that, and he has no love for the officer who pulled the trigger). But his views don’t even matter all that much. What matters most is that he tried to have a conversation about it and that’s what matters.

Societally, we don’t talk much anymore, and being real, really real, we rarely ever talked to anyone who didn’t look like us or dress like us or pray like us. In the “good old days”, you could get away with that type of isolation and insularism. That doesn’t work anymore. We have to talk and figure out how to live together. That’s a new thing and a harder thing. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Previous generations had it easier, but that doesn’t mean they had it better.

This film is part of the conversation. Protests are also part of it. But the biggest part? Listening. There is a reason Monsters and Men was made. There is a reason it is not the only film at TIFF18 about an unarmed black man being shot by police (The Hate U Give is also here). We have a problem here. We have a lot of problems, actually, but black men getting shot by cops is a particularly big one. There is no easy solution to that problem (or a lot of others) but there are answers out there. Let’s talk with each other and, more importantly, let’s listen to each other so we can figure this out.



7 thoughts on “TIFF18: Monsters and Men

  1. Liz A.

    It’s harder because we are more aware of the problems. I think for decades these things were happening but not getting the attention they needed. Sunlight is the best disinfectant is the saying. Bring it out, make it public. Raise awareness. I hope this film helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matt

      I saw this with you but we weren’t sitting together and I have been excited to discuss it ever since. I loved how every character was listened to and respected by the script and director. It really was a discussion where everyone gets a chance to be heard.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. selizabryangmailcom

    It was amazing to me that a talking head on some news program I was watching said something like “And then there are those on the far left who even believe that the very founding of America was problematic…” I know without a doubt that the founding of this country was problematic, and that’s using a NICE word, and I may not be conservative, but I’m definitely not on the FAR left like this guy said. But unfortunately, his mindset is a common one. I’m sure he doesn’t want the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem either. And it all stems from the past and our dark history and sadly, here we are today, enmeshed in what’s pretty much a nightmarish racist scenario of deeply held beliefs, misunderstanding, lack of education, and above all, like you said, complete lack of communication. I hope a lot of people see this. It sounds like it would be enlightening and help to begin the conversation……….

    Liked by 2 people

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