In a world where we often prefer entertainment fast-tracked or easily digested in a 6-second vine or readily ‘lol’d at in a meme, we all still love a good story.
That we as humans are all hardwired to respond to a good story well told was the very essence of Bobette Buster’s presentation at the Sydney Writers Festival – The Uses of Wonder.
A highly respected Hollywood story consultant and lecturer for such studios as Disney, Pixar and Sony and a professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Bobette spoke about the uses of enchantment in cinema and animation and her charisma, passion and insight proceeded to enchant the audience who had come to see her, myself included.
We were treated to an eye opening peek into the layers of cinematic storytelling behind such films as Finding Nemo, Toy Story 2, E.T. and Babe. Bobette also revealed the lesser known driving themes behind them, truths like the message of kindness and the ordinary becoming extraordinary in E.T. or the ultimate transformation of Rex the Dog in Babe as he humbles himself and gives away the much coveted spotlight to let Babe shine. Probably most piercing is the message of Toy Story 2 which shows us that people we love may very well ‘grow up’, leave us and forget about us, but, just like the toys left behind, we can still choose to love them anyway.
Insights like these are part of the staying power that is story-telling and cinema. As Bobette pointed out, though cinema is still a young story-telling medium, the use of story has long been an integral part of the human psyche.
Advancing from oral tradition, mythology and fables have maintained power over the centuries because they speak about the fundamental journey of being human. They appeal to our innate senses of courage, justice, forgiveness and hope and can even help prepare us and for whatever hardships the world may send our way.
Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, while a Dachau inmate, observed that the children raised on Grimm’s Tales were better able to keep hoping despite their dire circumstances. One imagines that this hope of a better life was what Anne Frank harboured inside her, aided by a poster of film idol Sonja Henie on her wall, as she wrote in a diary that would end up inspiring millions.
Cinema is therefore an artform of transformation, a chance to go places we would never go, take emotional journeys with characters we’ve never met and see the world around us with clearer eyes. As Bobette stated, ‘truly great films show us how difficult it is to find those profound truths and they do so with dimensionality’ staying with us long after the last credits roll and allowing us to pass on a ‘baton of understanding’ from each generation in order to inspire and strengthen the next.
While movies and animation allow us to visit new worlds, learn about our world and about strength, courage and hope, it’s then up to us to open our eyes, take a good look at the world around us and see the extraordinary in the ordinary. We are surrounded by stories – those of our families, our friends, our community and most importantly, inside each of us. We are all creating our own story and it’s up to us to make it one that stands up and has an impact. And if you want to tell it, then do it. Don’t be frozen by fear – speak, write and be heard.
Give yourself a chance to be an inspiration.
– Jelynn Millare