Monday, December 21, 2009

Validation, A Classic Film, Eternal Concept

My wife showed me a link to a short film (a bit less than 17 minutes, that is on You Tube called "Validation" by Kurt Kuene and starring TJ Thyne & Vicki Davis. It has received awards at film festivals around the country, including the following partial list.

Winner - Best Narrative Short, Cleveland Int'l Film Festival, Winner - Jury Award, Gen Art Chicago Film Festival, Winner - Audience Award, Hawaii Int'l Film Festival, Winner - Best Short Comedy, Breckenridge Festival of Film, Winner - Crystal Heart Award, Best Short Film & Audience Award, Heartland Film Festival, Winner - Christopher & Dana Reeve Audience Award, Williamstown Film Festival, Winner

The film shows a man whose job in a parking garage is simply that of delivering hearffelt compliments to total strangers who seem to feel invigorated and inspired by his words of encouragement. My reaction upon watching the film was at first one of disbelief, of cynicism. How sincere could the guy be?

The black and white in which the movie was filmed, along with the ordinariness of the actors reminded me of the twilight zone and enabled me to suspend my disbelief. Eventually, it evoked memories and comparisons with what I have read and what I have experienced.

Isaac Bashevis Singer once embedded in one of his novels the story of a hot tempered opponent of chassidism who struck his chassidic son in law and agreed to go to a Rebbe for a prescription of penance and self correction. The father in law stormed out of the Rebbe's office, convinced that his son in law's rebbe was a fool.

What did the Rebbe tell the man? He told him to compliment people and to say pleasant things to them, even if it was the total opposite of his feelings. Grudgingly, with coaxing from his son in law, he tried it out on even the most annoying people in his life. At first, they were skeptical, but eventually they responded in kind. He in turn ended up responding with sincerity to a side of people that he had previously never seen. In transforming his surroundings, he transformed himself.

In my personal life, I long ago made a resolution not to gossip, not to save up the latest dirt to share with my wife when I get home. My success rate is not 100% by any means, but it has impacted very well on my relationships with friends and coworkers. It also affects how I see myself. I tend to subconsciously assume that people are speaking well of me, since that is how I speak about them. It has actually helped me with depression.

Speaking about Bosnian rock music or endangered languages never hurt anyone. Neither did talk about sports or history.

Eventually, in the film, it became clear that the Validator truly believed what he told people. Of the many brush strokes in the painting of his surroundings, he focused on that which cast people in a good light.

In a fable, things are simplified. Clearly there are con artists, thugs and all around low lifes of one needs to be wary. Missing the cues for finding such an individual can be very costly. But the "Validation" fable focuses on what can be lost for want of trust in the sparks of goodness that can be fanned into a steady flame.

My experiences in life validate the truths of "Validation". The light one shines on others brightens one's own path. I hope my readers will watch this film. And I hope to see more from Kurt Kuenne, who wrote, directed and composed this amazing film.

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