Rethinking Our Search for Relentless Happiness

September 23, 2020 7:22 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Versión en español.

The Happiness Trap

As the pandemic continues and we are all—to our own degree—faced with the results of long-term isolation from family and friends, many of us are finding happiness to be scarcer than it used to be, and perhaps we wonder if we’re failing in some way. But as Rafael Euba, a psychiatry senior lecturer at King’s College London explains in The Conversation, our brain is not made for sustained happiness. He argues, “[i]nstead, we are designed to survive and reproduce. These are difficult tasks, so we are meant to struggle and strive, seek gratification and safety, fight off threats and avoid pain.” While those tasks result in their share of happiness eruptions, being content all the time would prevent us from waging the rest of the battles required for us to endure as a species.

Euba believes that this seemingly global desire for constant happiness comes in part from the influence the United States increasingly has on the world’s dreams and aspirations. From the right to seek happiness being in our Constitution to countless stories promising happy endings told through screen and song alike and sent to every corner of the world, American happiness worship makes us feel dissatisfied with our minds’ and bodies’ imperative to fluctuate between emotions. As a filmmaker who works in one of the industries that most efficiently disseminates this collective desire to fulfill unrealistic expectations, I feel a responsibility to tell stories that value happiness while reminding us that other emotions are just as valuable to our growth as human beings. To tell those stories requires three-dimensional characters of various genders, sexualities, races, social classes, and abilities, as well as storylines that go beyond explosions and car chases to get at the more complex (yet at times less visually stirring) struggles we experience.

Whether it’s because women filmmakers have historically had to work with smaller budgets that don’t allow for as many jazzy special effects to hide poor character development, or because we are attracted to exploring a fuller range of human emotion, women directors have a knack for telling stories that remind us that happiness, while essential, is also fleeting. My dear friend Barbara Ann O’Leary catalyzes a celebration of films #DirectedByWomen in September of every year. 2020 in particular seems like the perfect year to explore the full breadth of the human experience as represented by women on the screen. From unstoppable tears to desperately needed joy and everything in between, join us in seeing the world through women’s eyes. You will find nuanced facets of yourself reflected in the stories we tell and they will help you unravel your own experience.

Natalia Machado Joins The Weeping Season as Producer

Natalia Looking At Camera
We are honored to welcome Natalia Machado as a producer for our in-production feature documentary. Natalia, who has been working with the project since 2018 as associate producer, is now joining us as a full-fledged producer. She comes with years of experience making extraordinary films through her Venezuelan production company, La Pandilla, that have gone on to screen at some of the world’s most prestigious festivals, like Cannes Semaine de la Critique, Tribeca, Berlinale, San Sebastian, and Mar de Plata. We look forward to collaborating with her on completing the project.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

Santiago and William Holding Cameras
When I was a teenager my mom bought a camcorder, and we took turns filming our lives over the years. Yet when I bought my own camera in 2009, I didn’t turn it toward my husband Nate and me, but rather toward the participants in my documentaries and video essays. As my pregnancy with my eldest son William neared its end, however, I felt the need to capture the changes in my body, and, more importantly, the baby who was about to arrive. Years later when I digitized the dozens of High8 tapes my family had taken back in the 90s, I realized I was walking in my mom’s footsteps in filmically trying to capture the love I felt for my children. By the time my second son Santiago was born, it was hard to distinguish between my professional and personal lives as I filmed the world. I had officially (at least to myself) become a memoirist, and film was the richest way I could find to capture the present with the camera’s glorious ability to eloquently record image, sound, and the moods that dominate our existence.

Becoming a memoirist whose story is inextricably intertwined with her family’s means that those you love become the subject your lens keeps turning to over and over. For better or for worse (probably a little for both) my boys have grown up on camera and have learned to think of themselves as human beings who play a role in their mother’s films and video essays. This summer, as a way to mitigate the pandemic’s wounds for them, I decided it was time for the tables to turn. I gave the boys some of my old, slightly beat-up cameras and let them record the world as they saw it (that world includes some pretty unflattering angles of their mother). I’ve made a deal with myself that I don’t get to control their vision of our lives. I keep their footage meticulously labeled and backed up, so that, if they wish, we can edit our versions of our present when they are older and this present becomes their past. If they want to do this, I look forward to the truths (beautiful, ugly, transcendent, deep) we discover about mothers and sons and what they find in each other and themselves through the alchemical combination of lenses, light, and shaky footage shot by small hands.

Join our #DirectedByWomen/agnès films Twitter Chats to Celebrate Women Filmmakers

Interview with Ariel Dougherty Postcard
agnés films, the publication about women and feminist filmmakers of which I’m co-founder and editor-in-chief, has teamed up with #DirectedByWomen to host three Twitter chats with women filmmakers this month to celebrate their work and the spectacular storytelling women can and do bring to the screen. You can go to the hashtag #DBWomen2020 to check out our previous chats with filmmakers Iram Parveen Bilal, Jen McGowan, and Joyce Wu, and you can join our chat with Ariel Dougherty on September 30 at noon EDT through the hashtag. Please do stop by, ask questions, and join our conversation.

agnès films Invites You to Watch #DirectedByWomen Feature Films, TV Shows, and Documentaries

Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen in Saving Face(2004)
agnès films ran a Twitter poll earlier this summer asking our readers to share the #DirectedByWomen moving image content they adore. Check out “The #DirectedByWomen Films, TV Shows, and Documentaries That Need More Love from You,” the article Kara Headley and I wrote about our readers’ responses for a map to exquisite content that invites you to explore the human experience and your own life with all its evolutionarily designed ups and downs and what we learn by navigating the world together.

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This post was written by Tiffany McIntyre

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