Antonino D’Ambrosio’s debut documentary “Let Fury Have the Hour” screened as part of the Paley Doc Fest Tuesday, Oct. 9, in association with SnagFilms (Indiewire’s parent company), and the event prompted heated discussion about the film’s relevance to this campaign season’s election drama.
“Fury,” which D’Ambrosio preceded with a 2004 book version, explores the power of creative response to start revolution and combat corrupt politics. The film investigates its subject through criticism of the individualism and consumerism engendered by the Reagan/Thatcher era and the role of punk music, poetry, skateboarding, street art and other forms of anti-establishment creativity in freeing people’s minds. It includes commentary from fifty artists and activists, including Lewis Black, Chuck D, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Eve Ensler and John Sayles. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and it has received critical acclaim from such media outlets as The New York Times, Time Out New York, Vanity Fair and The Huffington Post.
At the event Tuesday, D’Ambrosio was joined by musician DJ Spooky and Sayles, the independent film legend behind “Lone Star” and “Passion Fish,” for a post-screening discussion moderated by Geoffrey Gilmore, chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises. D’Ambrosio shared how Sayles’ 1987 film “Matewan” influenced his filmmaking vision, and in response Sayles discussed how he embodies political activism in his filmmaking by exposing subjects that are rarely explored on-screen. DJ Spooky praised D’Ambrosio’s use of a “collage” effect, much like sampling in hip-hop, to construct his philosophy and ideas in “Let Fury Have the Hour.”
The main focus of the discussion was the film’s relevance to the current presidential race, corporate media’s battle for our minds and how individuals can participate in shaping history. The group discussed how to activate this generation politically and make people aware that they are in fact “stakeholders” in history. “Politics has become something that is done to us,” D’Ambrosio said, “but art is what we do.” Sayles urged the audience to get into the habit of constantly, ceaselessly asking questions, analyzing and criticizing society. Not asking “Why?,” but the more important question, “Why not?” The conversation revolved around the concept of actively transcending the limitations imposed on society by government and corporations through the production of innovative ideas and art.
D’Ambrosio emphasized that during the “post-truth” era that we live in, and as the 2012 presidential race progresses, politicians are waging a war on memory by attempting to erase facts and create new ones. Asking questions and participating in the political process is crucial, he asserted, and his film and the group’s discussion highlighted how and why an individual should do so. Some of their suggestions: from Gilmore, take music back from those who commoditize it; from D’Ambrosio, bypass corporate dominance through free creative response and turn obstacles into opportunities; from Sayles, consider the impact you’re making and take responsibility for how your actions affect others; from DJ Spooky, don’t be afraid to get away from technology for a while.
“The best way to fight a bad government is to give people a good idea,” DJ Spooky quoted from the film. One of the more thought-provoking questions posed by D’Ambrosio during the conversation referenced the presidential debate: “Where was it written that when we’re electing leaders, there’s got to be a winner and a loser when discussing the issues that are critical to the country? Democracy is living in the messy, uncomfortable world.”
The thesis of the film is that art as a creative response is about engaging collectively with other citizens of the world — and not only standing against something, but also for something.