June 15th, 2017
by Bobby Henzler
In January the 17th 2017 Evelyn Runge opened the second day of the be a better being Forum in the Deutsche Kinemathek with a summary of the first day’s sessions and the perspectives they had presented on the individual approach to achieving “better” on various levels and in different areas of life. She also introduced the themes of the second part of the Forum, which was dedicated to broadening the perspective from the individual level to the social and political level in regard to achieving “better”.
The first session of the day was chaired by Anna Henckel Donnersmark, who was joined on the podium by Carsten Q. Schneider, Professor and Head of the Political Science Department at Central European University (CEU), Budapest. Dr Schneider’s research focuses on political inequalities in democracies, new forms of autocratic regimes, and social science methodology. In his introductory remarks, he made clear that in his work and in his field of research as a whole, the goal is to examine not individuals in society, but entire social structures. For example, in his political science research, he looks at how institutions can be structured so that people’s only option is to behave well.
We started the screening with “Running Through Life” by Helene Moltke-Leth. In the film, we accompany Zoe Alphas on her nightly run through her city. As she runs, many thoughts cross her mind: reflections about her life, her stress, her expectations, and her fears.
This was followed by a screening of “Mikelis” by Marc Bethke. In the film, we see Mikelis, a mathematician employed by the European Union, sitting in a hotel room in Brussels, on the day after his retirement. He is waiting for something and starts a final conversation with the maid Ada.
After first the screening, we conducted a panel discussion with Christoph Saber, the director of “Discipline”, Helene Moltke-Leth, the director of “Running through Life”, and, as a special guest, Campbell Jeffries, the author of the short story “Mikelis”, on which the film is based.
Carsten Schneider noted that one line in particular had struck him. “My own thoughts, where do they come from?” That is a very interesting question. We do a lot of research on how to manipulate public opinion. What came to Carsten Schneiders mind was that we all identify with political worlds or attitudes such as conservative, liberal or progressive, and so on. That requires distancing ourselves from others, and usually involves looking down on them.
And nowadays we know that the premanufactured news coming to us via the internet and other types of social media structures our minds. Our self-image of independent thinking, working through complex problems, and reflecting truly and deeply about what is going on, stands on shaky ground.
This prompted a broad discussion about the value of social media communications and their influence on consciousness. Helene Moltke Leth and Christoph Saber shared some insights into their work in this area. With the film “Mikelis”, the conversation dived more deeply into the question of how political decision-makers operate. The panelists all agreed that the premise of “Mikelis” is too close to our reality for comfort.
The next film to be screened was “The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” by Matthew Richards. Willie Bingham is the first man to undergo a radical new justice program. The government has introduced Progressive Amputation as a punishment for capital crime.
The screenings concluded with “Discipline” by Christophe Saber. In a grocery store in Lausanne, run by Egyptians, a father loses patience and disciplines his disobedient child. This film started a discussion among all attendees which culminated in chaos.
“Discipline” triggered an amazingly intense and interesting discussion about democratization processes and especially about how social conflicts structure our life in Germany but also in other countries, such as in Egypt.
Bobby Henzler is a scriptwriter but has an academic background as well . She is responsible for the coordination of the project, the film section and the curation committee of be a better being.