Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Why I Make Movies

--by Mickey Lemle (Nov 07, 2016)

All movies are an illusion. We think we are seeing motion but in fact we are seeing twenty-four still pictures every second. Half the time the screen is actually black. Yet movies seem so real, and some have the potential to reveal great truth. In the Hindu tradition, what we perceive of the outside world is called maya, or illusion. It is described as a veil that obscures the truth. But maya also has another aspect, which is the power to reveal the truth. Film and other art forms can embody both aspects of maya.

“What kinds of films do you make?” people often ask me, after I’ve told them that I am a filmmaker. “Documentaries,” I tell them. “Oh, movies about reality,” they say. “True stories.”

The issue of “truth” versus “reality” is a constant tension in creation of any film, especially documentaries. Filmmakers know that every time we make a choice of where to put the camera or when to turn it on or off, we are making choices about subjective perceptions of reality. When we edit, as I did in my latest film, ninety hours of footage down to ninety minutes, we are clearly manipulating reality, or truth.

Like the best storytellers, I don’t let facts get in the way of the truth. This might sound like heresy to some, but it is the nature of art. My motivation is to move audiences: first and foremost, to tell them a great story that holds their interest and attention, and then to put them in touch with some deep truth, to the best of my ability to perceive it and communicate about it. In that way, if the viewer is ready, the film has the potential to transform the way one sees the world and oneself. Paradoxically, to accomplish this I must manipulate reality.

As an artist, one is always playing with perception. Most of us believe that what we perceive is the truth. “Seeing is believing,” as the expression goes. For instance, have you seen a beautiful sunset recently? Here we are hundreds of years after Copernicus and Galileo, and we are still seeing the sunset. The sun doesn’t set. The earth rotates and eclipses the sun.

Back in the days of Newton, there were absolute laws of nature. Einstein explained that everything is relative.

How we perceive the truth is often influenced by our belief systems. In closed systems of belief, in any orthodoxy, there can be absolute truth. True believers believe that they—and their specific belief system—have a lock on the Truth.

Mahatma Gandhi was once leading a large protest march across India. A few days into the march, he found out that there was to be a great deal of violence, and he abruptly announced that he was ending the march. Some of his followers and supporters said, “But Gandhiji, you can’t call off this march. Many people, from all over India, left their jobs and came great distances to be on this march.” Gandhi replied, “Only God knows absolute truth. I just know relative truth. My allegiance must be to truth, not to consistency.”

Perhaps one of the reasons we feel in the presence of Truth in front of great art is that it takes us out of our belief system and opens us up to deeper possibilities. I believe that each one of us has an honest witness deep inside that tingles when we are in the presence of the Truth. It resonates, just as when one experiences the presence of the divine in nature, in witnessing a birth, a flower, an ocean storm, a volcano, or a tornado. One experiences awe and aesthetic arrest. As James Joyce says, we are put in touch with the Primal Cause of all things, with the Mystery. I’m with Joyce. That is what we strive for. On really good days, we can get close. 

Mickey Lemle is a filmmaker who has profiled the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass and many others.  This excerpt was taken from his article in Parabola.

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On Nov 3, 2016 me wrote:

 I believe as Gandhi in his saying "Only God knows absolute truth!"  This IS the truth!  For me or any other to think we have absolute truth .... is, in reality, an ABSOLUTE LIE!  GOD (Absolute Truth) makes me tingle!  Amen!

On Nov 5, 2016 david doane wrote:

Picasso supposedly said, "Art is a lie that tells the truth."  And Marcus Borg's statement that "The bible is true and some of it actually happened."  For me, I have my truth, which is relative truth, and don't know absolute truth -- maybe my relative truth coincides with absolute truth a little or a lot, but who knows.  I like the author's comment that half the time in a movie the screen is actually black.  The honest witness deep inside me tingled when I realized I had a right to express my truth, and when I realized that I have some power, and when I realized I'm loveable, and when I began appreciating us human beings as being manifestations in form of One Sacred Source and we are all one.  Those realizations had deep internal reverberations for me.  Manipulating reality and accepting reality are both part of living.  Some reality can be manipulated beneficially, such as a field can be tilled and a broken bone can be put back in place, and when it is done above board and honestly, not out of a hidden agenda or deceit, it is a positive action.  I also think there is reality to accept, such as that my feelings and behavior are mine and my responsibility, no one else's -- that is reality as far as I know -- and to accept it saves a lot of trouble, and to manipulate it creates a lot of problems.

On Nov 6, 2016 Amy wrote:


On Nov 8, 2016 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 There is my truth, your truth and the Truth. My truth is subjective  as i perceive it and your truth is also subjective as you perceive it. The absolute truth is beyond the subjective lenses. Knowing that my truth is not absolute helps me not to close my sight to understand and appreciate the other person's truth. Remaining open to understand the other person's truth has widened my lenses and has enriched my mind and heart. 

The absolute truth has  intrinsic consistency. Whatever is born is bound to die. Everything that has form is going to vanish.Whatever is space and time bound comes and goes.The world caused by ego,  mine and thine, is like a veil covering the face of truth. When I experience the world unbound by  my ego, I feel intrinsic oneness with life everywhere. It is like a shift from somebody, to nobody to everybody. In such a state of unity consciousness, truth, love and bliss become one. Taking a mindful walk in nature, comforting a sad child, giving my hand to a handicapped person entering a medical building, attending to a client going through pain caused by cancer are a few blissful gifts that I receive that fill my heart with deep gratitude and joy.

May we keep our mind and heart open to receive and give the wonderful and graceful gifts of living!


Jagdish P Dave

On Nov 9, 2016 Micky wrote:

"Can you share an experience when the honest witness deep inside you tingled?"  Yesterday in a conversation with my mom, I was telling her what I believed was happening in a place I had never visited.  Yet based on listening, reading and watching, I came to a truth.  Actually, it felt more like I was gifted with a truth.  As I spoke, I felt "honest witness deep inside" agreed -- I felt a Presence, a chilling/warming, all-encompassing "yes, this is true" confirmation.  I don't usually feel that Presence unless I'm meditating.  It was startling and really awe-some to feel it while speaking from my heart.

On Nov 10, 2016 I hear you! wrote:

 Me too!  I have been experiencing much the same!  God provides for our needs.  Amen.  

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