The key to a genuinely good movie is creating something that has a solid narrative. Too often are we bogged down by things like camera angles and cinematography, and as a result, the real purpose of a movie is lost: telling a story. Even documentaries are meant to have a string of narrative running through them that would help bring the whole film together, and many documentaries miss this mark. Killing the Rock exemplifies the epitome of filmmaking, particularly where documentaries are concerned, and it does so in spite of its exceedingly short runtime of five minutes.
Set amidst the backdrop of one of the most heart rending humanitarian crises of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis, Killing the Rock speaks of the redemptive power of art and how it can represent an intimate connection between all human souls. It focuses on one Syrian refugee, in particular, a man by the name of Abu Raja, and his art form of choice is sculpting. After abandoning his life in Syria, he is forced to start from scratch in neighboring Jordan where this film catches up with him.
The narrative of this film manages to beautifully humanize the refugee crisis and present the Syrian refugees as human beings rather than statistics which is how they are so often portrayed by our media. Through the tale of Abu Raja, we are able to learn many lessons that apply to our own lives as well. Indeed, the director of the film, who produced this documentary on a very tight budget and used several indie and guerilla filmmaking techniques, managed to tie his experience making the film into the subject matter of the documentary as well. Here are some of the lessons we all can learn about art and life from this moving portrayal of how indomitable the human spirit can be.
Your choice of project can end up making or breaking the artistic endeavor overall. Even if the endeavor is not particularly artistic, it is important to note that you need to pick your battles. This isn’t just isolated to the what of your project either. Your “how” is affected a great deal by this mindset as well. If you want to do something, get it done in any way possible. You don’t have to conform to the standard work process that people tout as being the best. You can create your own process as well.
A good example can be seen in the documentary itself. The director of this documentary needed to get things done on a tight budget, which meant that a lot of the conventional techniques he might have gone for would have been difficult to apply. Hence, instead of trying to do what he couldn’t, he made the best of what he had. This goes to show that you can alter your techniques to fit your resources, and this applies to artistic preferences as well.
Express Yourself Through Your Art
The next condition your art needs to meet is that of self-expression. Once you know that a particular artistic pursuit will conform to the things you care about, you need to ask yourself if you are honestly expressing your inner thoughts through this art. All real craft comes from within, and you can see this in Abu Raja’s sculptures. He comes from a land that has been torn apart by war, and his sculptures are often his only outlet for emotions that he hasn’t yet fully processed.
You can follow this dynamic as well. We all have things that we are struggling to express. While the vast majority of us are lucky enough not to have things quite as dark as Abu Raja is going through, we still leave things unsaid. You can use your craft to talk about what your words can’t. Just like Abu Raja, you can create things that would help people understand what goes on inside your mind. This is just one of the many ways in which art can connect all of humanity because no matter how different we are we all experience the same kinds of emotions.
Never Give Up
If there is one extremely poignant lesson that we can learn from Abu Raja, it is that we should never give up on our dreams. Whether we are talking about artistic pursuits or life in general, roadblocks are things that we are going to have to deal with on a regular basis. It can be easy to get a sense of hopelessness when we are faced with a roadblock because we start to look at ourselves as failures. However, failure does not mean that you are never going to be able to finish what you started.
Just look at Abu Raja. He had to leave his entire life behind, and one can only imagine how much art he had to abandon to get to safety. And yet, in spite of all of this hardship, he perseveres. Another thing you can take away from this is that you should always be pushing your boundaries. As long as you consistently try to get out of your comfort zone, you will always be able to make the most of your artistic endeavors every single time. The film portrays this tenacity and determination in Abu Raja beautifully.
This is one piece of advice that you can get specifically for film related pursuits. The film crew for Killing the Rock did not have a lot of time to plan things out nor did they have the sort of budget that would pay for excess baggage. They had to pack as lightly as possible and make do with whatever they were able to bring. While this was not exactly an ideal situation for anyone involved, it is important to note that it pushed them to do new and exciting things with their art. They did not have the same technological advances to rely on, and so they had to focus on honing their craft according to the situation instead.
You can apply this logic to virtually all aspects of your art. Whatever it is that you do, try not to rely on your equipment too much. Instead, focus on using your natural skills to help yourself grow. This is without a doubt the best way for you to create something that would be an artistic challenge for you, and in the process of overcoming this challenge, you would be able to create something that you would be truly proud of.
Work With Others
While there are certain artistic pursuits that you could refer to as solo efforts, collaborative work is infinitely more rewarding. You would be able to bounce ideas off of your teammates and collaborators, and whatever ideas you have will be critiqued so that you can get an objective opinion about them. This can help you avoid being overly critical of yourself because your artistic peers would be providing you with criticism that would be valid. After all, people can be overly critical of themselves at times.
It would also help to have people that are your artistic equals. This way you would not be comparing yourself to them all the time. Rather, you would be focusing on how they can complete your artistic circle instead. By allowing them to do the things you can’t, and doing for them the things that they are unable to do, you would be able to get a much more fulfilling artistic experience. You can see this collaborative effort in the documentary since the entire film would not have been possible without the input and creativity of every single member of the crew.