Find Your Way: a Busker’s Documentary, directed by Brian Nunes, does one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a documentary do. Midway through the film, we leave the Seattle-based buskers (street musicians) we had been introduced to and go into a segment about Joshua Bell. Specifically about how Bell, who is argubaly the most famous violinist of our time, performed incognito in a Washington DC train station.
You might remember this story.
Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten actually thought up the situation, wrote about it, and won a Pulitzer Prize for the article. How great is that? Most of my ideas involve figuring out some sort of food to eat, putting on pants, getting the food, then eating the food. While that is a satisfying experience, it has yet to result in a Pulitzer. So that is great for Gene.
The point of Weingarten’s story was that context matters. You would probably think that one of the greatest living violin players playing violin would be enough to draw people in. I mean, he is world famous for a reason. But it wasn’t. And this gets at a very important part of human psychology.
People respond to context.
Example: imagine some average joe walks up to you on the street corner and asks you for the time. You would probably give them the time and think nothing of it. Now imagine that just after Average Joe asked you for the time that some random person runs up to him and says, “Oh wow, I can’t believe it’s you!” Average Joe suddenly seems less than average and way more interesting, right? What if three people ran up? Ten people? What if there was suddenly a crowd of people? You would probably think, “That must be someone special!” And then you would probably feel more excited that they asked you for the time, even though you have no idea who they are. You would maybe call and tell a friend, “I think someone famous asked me for the time today!”
So when Find Your Way introduces this concept of context and how people often disregard what is not presented in an important context: it changes our entire perspective on the buskers the movie first introduced us to. Did we overlook them? Are they more successful or more talented than we originally gave them credit for? How did you feel about them before? How do you feel about them now?
Really, Find Your Way challenges our larger sense of the world we have been living in, of decisions we have made, of views we hold. I almost felt like the movie cracked me open and said “Here, have a fresh outlook on everything.”
What seems as though it will be a documentary focused on several street musicians transitions into how people perceive the world around them, what it takes to be successful, where does happiness come from, and ideas about creativity and performance. I think this is an eye-opening film, and an educational one. Anyone with artistic aspirations should watch, as understanding viewer reaction/public perception is a key part of having a career in the arts/making a living from the arts. Writers, musicians, painters, dancers, singers, filmmakers, actors, photographers, etc. etc. etc. There is a lot to meditate on and take away from this film.
If I had a group of artistic friends, I would sit us all down, put on Find Your Way, and then discuss how we could improve what we are doing in our lives and with our art. Or if I were a professor of sociology or psychology or any creative art: I would include this film in the curriculum.
When you think about it, film criticism is a type of social proof. Someone who is considered a “professional assessor of movies” writes about a movie. People read it and often what the film critic said influences whether or not someone will see a movie. Believe it or not, there are people who think I know what I am talking about, so when I say “Find Your Way is something you should see,” they become interested in it. I provided context and social proof for the film. If you take a second and think about context and the way things are presented to you throughout your day, how you are presenting yourself…it’s pretty insane. Your vocal inflection is a context for your words. Your body language is a context. Your clothes. Where you choose to sit in an airport is context. People are reacting to these things. And you react to these things in other people. If someone stands with their arms crossed you might instinctually find them less appealing than someone holding a book in one hand a drink in the other. Why? Because crossed arms is considered negative body language, and that is context for what the interaction with that person would probably be like: negative. Where someone holding a book and a drink is engaged with objects and is more likely to engage.
So Find Your Way is bringing up a topic that I don’t think is talked about often enough, a topic that is such an influential part of our every day life. Not only bringing the topic up, but, in the way art does, challenging each viewer to become aware of it and thus decide if there are changes he or she can make that would improve their life.