Ideas, people, strategies and solutions that communicate
#4 | 2014
Kathleen Kennedy How my family taught me courage
Yasser Aref Library of Alexandria, the myth lives again
Amit Sood Heritage, history and art: culture according to Google
Spike Lee United States of Europe ISSN 2281-3365
n. 4 - 2014 United States of Europe The soul of a nation
The legacy of a dynasty
Europe, house of history
Reliving the past
Stories in crowdsourcing
Patronage and â€œmarketismâ€?
Inside the image
Open access culture
Facilitating, protecting, mediating
The philosopher and the strategist
Argonauts of Europe
Unesco human heritage
Thanks to Vincenzo Boccia, Olimpia Fabbricatore, Silvia Tartamella, Florindo Rubbettino, Andrea Tramontana, Danco Singer, Anna Maria Lorusso, Antonia Magnacca
Under the aegis of DIPARTIMENTO DI COMUNICAZIONE E RICERCA SOCIALE
Alfonso Mattera Ricigliano
A new European avantgarde Editorial by Franco Pomilio
Avantgarde means to go beyond, anticipate the future. But what does it happen when the traces of the future bring us back to the past? How does the idea of heritage transform during this phase? These are the paradoxes of heritage, a word with many meanings and great potential, that we tried to address together during the last ICS Europe in Brussels, by exploring the tangible and non-tangible places of memory and art, of collective story-telling and cultural heritage. Indeed, how many meanings has the word heritage? And how many heritages do we have in Europe, abandoned or too often forgotten? Can this heritage eventually act as a driving force for the countries of the Old continent to leap forward after too much time spent calling and waiting for it, without finding the strength to make it? Is it possible, in short, to overcome paradox, to renew by forcing ourselves to be what we’ve always been, or simply re-cognizing it, knowing it again? These questions run around and go back on themselves. In September all over Europe the Heritage Days were celebrated and in Brussels in particular during the event the future opening of an European House of Memory has been announced. By unforeseeable but significant circumstances just two days after we were in Brussels too, for the second edition of
ICS Europe, dedicated to the same theme, addressed with the usual international and cross-disciplinary spirit, but paying special attention and awareness to European themes. As we repeated many times in this magazine, we believe it is Europe itself – despite or maybe thanks to the crisis it’s facing, the key to a new welfare and participation model where communication is not just a tool, but a relational principle, a deep reason putting trust before seduction, values before products, involvement before consumption. Trust, engage and share. The future of public communication is played on these key words. But this future is firmly anchored to some past models and maybe it’s time to retrieve and revive, searching for a new avantguarde. Think about it: Homer was the first storyteller. And the first great example of intercultural dialogue has come into being thanks to the eclecticism of the Roman Empire. It is not about repeating the overexposed themes of a return to the past, but turning our gaze around transforming the past from a dusty archive made of testimonies to living source of repeatable and rearrangeable models. This is what characterizes heritage: the possibility to be transmitted, the ability to generate and re-generate. And that is what we asked the participants to our summit: to help us rewrite the future.
A countryâ€™s Soul by Spike Lee*
The age-old history of the Old Continent meets the pioneering awareness of one among the most insightful storytellers of our time. Spike Lee tells his vision of Europe and reveals the essential ingredient in order to effectively tell a “universal” story
* adaptation of the author’s speech during the 2014 ICS Europe edition
NEO-REALIST GLIMPSES In the opening pages, a detail of “Two women” poster, one of the most popular movies of the Italian neo-realism, the movement that has inspired Spike Lee since his childhood
Service hat and Nike jumpsuit, a disheveled look and biting ideas, a smoking mug in his right hand, «because it’s 5:51 a.m. here, please forgive me if you see me take a sip of tea every now and then». When Spike Lee appeared live from Los Angeles on ICS Europe’s screen – in the outwardly setting of the Bibliothèque Solvay, all prestigious boiserie and Central European spirit, ready to explain the summit audience his multifaceted idea of culture – the effect was quite alienating. Curious, baffling, though undoubtedly impact. However completely in line with ICS basic vocation, that has always been identifying original and unexpected points of view on emerging problems: we dare say an aesthetic vocation, reminding that the function of
THE BALLOT OR THE BULLET Afro-American activist Malcolm X, murdered in 1965. Lee dedicated one of his most popular movies to his story
art is also to change perspective and, though this change, to enhance the knowledge. So asking the greatest African-American director to tell “his Europe” – and, consequently, of course, his Africa and in general every place where he found inputs for reflections and inspiration – has been an opportunity to reconsider the values of the old continent with a distant, yet emotionally involved look. Because Spike does love Europe, like he loves all cultures after all, all real and imaginary places able to be the cradle of beautiful stories. Stories that can be unique and universal. To be built, preserved and passed down. With care, and with love. (D.P.)
Telling the story is something that we human beings are always going to need. I don’t care what technology is: we started out drawing stuff in caves, songs, literature, plays, books, novels
When I was growing up I went to movies. My mother was a cinephile and she would take me to movies. She would take me, the eldest child; my father was a jazz musician and he did not like movies, so I was my mother’s movie date. That was at a very young age so I had no idea that you could actually have a career making films, I didn’t even know you made films. But it was in those early years were I think that those seeds were dropped in the fertile soil so I could become a filmmaker. I have always loved films but it was purely for enjoyment. It wasn’t until I went to college that I decided that this is something that I would want to do. I am a professor today, I teach film at New York University: the graduate film school where I went. I have been a professor for the last 15 years and I always tell my students that before I go to bed every night I get on my knees and pray and give blessings because I am doing
what I love – and that is being a filmmaker and a storyteller. I realize I am privileged, because the majority of the people on this earth go to their grave after having worked at a job that they hated all their life. Exploring different stories Being an African-American in the United States of America means there is this duality that you have since you are an American Citizen, of course, but also an African-American. With the history of this country a lot of times we have been given a “second-class citizenship”, especially when it comes to the Arts: just look at the
to myself and I have been thinking about this all night. A universal story My first time in Europe was in 1982 and it was an amazing experience especially coming from New York and going to another continent with different countries and different languages. I learned so much from any time that I travelled and I feel lucky, because most Americans do not have passports and they don’t travel. One of the most striking aspects since the beginning is that in Europe, on the same continent, you have had various wars. Europe is such a different
The pride of being who we are «I believe that a well-made African American film could be universal. James Brown is known and appreciated everywhere, and so are Duke Ellington, Baker, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Prince. Films should be the same way». That was Spike Lee’s answer, during the question time following his lecture, to the not very politically correct, yet very significant question on how much the African-American label, as well as other ethnical and cultural labels after all, can be an advantage or a limitation for an artist; he immediately replied that no, he doesn’t think that putting this adjective in front of his name has ever been a problem or might be a problem in the future. «Personally, I do not get offended when African-American is put in front of my name. I don’t think it puts limits on what I am or what I can do. I realize, though, it is not like this for everyone. Whoopi Goldberg and I often had discussions about this: she says she is a human being first, a woman second and then an African-American». In short, according to Lee there’s nothing wrong in showing and receiving acknowledgement for one’s own cultural identity, not even in the discriminations he experiences sometimes, despite his popularity, «because people see this», he says, pointing at his arm. «I am proud of who I am – he reiterates – and I am proud of my cultural heritage and I don’t see it as a negative being an African-American filmmaker versus Spike Lee, a filmmaker». And he concludes: «I don’t allow people to put labels on me. I know who I am and that’s it». Daniela Panosetti
history of television and film. So once I decided I want to be a filmmaker I knew I would want to explore different images, different stories of the African-American experience. Now when I started out it was solely that but now I have expanded and done many many subjects. In fact, I even shot a film in Italy called “Miracle at Saint Anna”, which is about the Buffalo soldiers who fought in Italy against the fascists and against the Nazis. Telling the story is something that we human beings are always going to need. I don’t care what technology is: we started out drawing stuff in caves, songs, literature, plays, books, novels. We are always going to tell a story. Now the question becomes what story are you going to tell and how are you going to tell the story. I often ask myself this question, and so I did when I was asked: “How would I tell the story of the European nation which is trying to find its soul?”. I asked this question
Human beings, people, are a country’s soul. Culture, food, fashion, language: it always comes down to the people. That’s what really matters, the source of inspiration for every story
continent – we have all these languages and cultures together and at the same time it’s not together. But it is diversity itself that makes everything universal. You could have a novel, a piece of art, a film, that’s very specific about a culture and yet it’s universal. Why? Because they are told by human
BUFFALO SOLDIERS A scene from Lee’s movie “Miracle at St. Anna”, re-creating the events of St. Anna massacre through the eyes of the American soldiers of the Buffalo Division
beings. And human beings, people, are a country’s soul. Culture, food, fashion, culture: it always comes down to the people. People: that’s what really matters, the source of inspiration to tell every story.
From Bicycle Thieves to Malcolm X An example explaining how much can story be universal is related to my personal experience. I never really saw European cinema until I was in film school, and one of my favourite films is “Bicycle Thieves”. I love the films of post-war Italy, from Fellini to Rossellini and De Sica. Take “Bicycle Thieves”, for example: I don’t speak Italian, I am not Italian, but I was so able to connect to that story of this father and son trying to find his bicycle that was stolen. This bicycle was very symbolic: it was more than just a vehicle that enabled him to have a job and provide for his family. The film was done so well that it still has impact on me today. So the soul of a country is people. I think that the people who are part of that country, I think those are the ones who should be telling those stories. Not to say that someone can’t come from another country and make a film but to really know something you have to be about it – it has to be in your DNA.
I look very much forward to seeing the work of the new generations: young people want to give their contribution, to communicate their intake as to how they see the world, to tell their own story
For example, I was not the original director on “Malcolm X”. Norman Jewison was the original director – I have the utmost respect for him – but I just felt the story of Malcolm X as my own, related to my experience as an African-American man growing up in this country where my ancestors were slaves. There is something that you get – the history – the little extra that you need to lift the material up. Please don’t get confused and think that only black directors can direct black material and vice versa because, that is not the case at all. But that for me that is a specific example of where me being a
black man in this country gave me much insight in doing “Malcolm X”. On the other hand, there has been great work done by people who are outsiders, by people who are not of the culture and not of the people of that specific group even but were able to bring insight and outsight. In general, when you deal with such themes you have to be very careful. You have to be very respectful of the culture and respectful of the people and you cannot come with the attitude “I know everything about this and therefore I am the king”. That is not the approach that I have taken. When I have done something that is not specifically of my culture I try to surround myself with people who are of that culture, who are of that mindset and look to them for guidance because they just know more than you. So surround yourself with people in order to help you tell the story in the best way possible to make a movie. The future of storytelling I also think that technology is helping with storytelling. I think that with these cameras that shoot video, young people are telling stories at a much much earlier age than my generation and are much more savvy with their communication skills. And this younger generation is exposed to so much stuff. A 10 year-old today knows what
I always tell my students that before I go to bed every night I get on my knees and pray and give blessings, because I am lucky to do what I love - and that is being a filmmaker and a storyteller
I knew when I was 17. They are just exposed to so much stuff, and I am not saying that that is good either because some stuff they should not be exposed to. But I am just very enthusiastic of how the new generation is going to tell short stories. So I look very much forward to seeing the work of the new generation of filmmakers, to which also both my children belong: young people want to give their contribution, to communicate their intake as to how they see the world, a new voice to people, to their soul. In one word, they want to tell their own story.
Move your ass, guys! Injustice, prejudice and oppression are the moving forces of Spike Lee’s artistic universe. As a writer, filmmaker (the first African-American), actor, producer, author and businessman, Lee has rebuilt the role of the “black talent” in Hollywood, by deleting decades of stereotypes and representations of the outcasts to open a new field where the voices of the African-Americans could be heard. His movies – all characterized by an open and provocative socio-political critical awareness and influenced by the continuous commitment to challenging cultural assumptions not only about race, but also about social class and gender identity – have legitimized him as one of the most influential personalities of contemporary cinema. His storyteller activity is always focused on stories about African-Americans, in particular those stories he thinks might be ignored or hidden. It is surprising how Spike Lee, during the last decades, has been following a unique path of diverse works, reporting the African-American experience like no other director has ever dared, by leaving his particular author mark on all of his filmmaking projects. Beyond his big passions, sport and cinema, Spike Lee is also engaged in the defense of civil rights and the fight against racism, no matter what. After the recent murders of black people by Missouri and New York police officers, he joined the protests that have been enflaming several cities in the USA and he made his indignation clearly be heard. «I’m not a spokesperson on behalf of 45 million AfricanAmericans, it’s just my opinion. These times are full of tensions, people seem to be tired of police behaviour. Protests are not coming just from the black people, but also by hispanic and asian young people. The world sees us as the light of democracy, but it’s not like that. It is important to understand that in America protests are coming from young people of all races, who don’t think policemen can get away with killing people.» Young people are another regular element in the life of this world charismatic, unique star, and to them he dedicates concrete activities (the film Sweet Blood Of Jesus, for instance, has been shot with some of his cinema students and financed with crowdfunding) and exhortations: «Work guys, move your ass if you want to stand out in the world, get good at your job. They will respect you, even if you’re not a celebrity». 10
The unique “vision of Europe” by Spike Lee opens this issue on heritage communication, in which the authoritative voice of Kathleen Kennedy...
Published on May 18, 2015
The unique “vision of Europe” by Spike Lee opens this issue on heritage communication, in which the authoritative voice of Kathleen Kennedy...