A Quest for Meaning (plus Q and A with the co-directors)
What does it all mean?
Whatever you acquire, what is it if it isn’t enough? What is it if it’s not sustainable? Why do we avert our eyes from the high cost of cheap goods? Where can we escape when our mastery over nature backfires?
Such considerations flow from viewing the film “A Quest for Meaning.” Connect for a moment with something simpler from the film: A tiny seed becomes two pounds of tomatoes.
Environmentalist documentaries spend lots of time reporting the travesties and threats of modernity. Sometimes they intimate, even demonstrate, what people can do in the face of such things. In an effort to gain traction, some documentaries communicate philosophical underpinnings.
“A Quest for Meaning” underpins plenty as it travels around the globe. The filmmakers begin with home movie clips of their friendship as kids. They sprinkle in a little how-the-scenes-are-set-up and what-does-our-quest-for-meaning-mean. Mostly, they listen to an array of practicing gurus, often amidst quintessential farm life. One of the most internationally respected activists, Vandana Shiva, is one of those gurus.
The documented journey by these young men carries a flavor of their own entitlement and an aftertaste of “what will be will be,” but this seems to work in favor of their genuine intellectual and spiritual pursuit. They have a cinematic knack for sharing learned voices and hopeful foreknowledge. This film seems to be a mental yoga exercise we all need.
----- Extracted from interaction with “A Quest for Meaning” directors Marc de la Ménardièreand Nathanaël Coste -----
Chuck Jaffee: You must consider yourselves privileged, perhaps entitled, to engage in this global “Quest for Meaning.”
Marc & Nathanael: Of course. Being well educated, having loving parents and models to identify with, we had more tools to face life challenges and ask questions. From our parents we had curiosity and kindness, and when you go through life with this state of mind, you open yourself to the best life can give you and a responsibility to give back to the world.
CJ: Did you think, before you started, that your Quest for Meaning would be so involved with issues of sustainability?
M&N: It was the idea from the beginning -- a documentary on alternative ways of living to address sustainability. Spending a week with Vandana Shiva on her farm for a seminar on Gandhi and globalization, we understood that the way to sustainability was first to challenge our worldviews. From questioning and deconstructing our belief system, the quest for meaning really started to appear.
CJ: After this experience, are you optimistically pessimistic or pessimistically optimistic?
M&N: A bit of both. The destruction of ecosystems is exponential. Awareness of the need for change is also exponential. We see a small window. We see in the last four years a huge shift in different fields and in the public. We’re optimistic that everything is there to start the transition from competition/greed/separation to a more cooperative/supportive/ecological economy. We are pessimistic about the lack of political will but optimistic that more people are disillusioned by this system and will start to open up to change from the grassroots level.
CJ: Is it ironic that a culture-changing critical-mass of reborn heart, soul, and action demands the use of mass media (including films like yours) and other leveraged technology to transform the reigning oligarchy?
M&N: Self-produced so far (crowdfunding and self-distribution), our movie is not really mass media, but it’s a good question. I think of Michael Moore saying, in the documentary “The Corporation,” that capitalism is so short term and money oriented that it’s capable of funding movies that aim to kill capitalism. The system isn’t so much bad; it’s just dumb and inefficient. We do have the good fortune of access to technology and the ability to use it for mass awakening, to use media to bring a new vision….
CJ: You had the opportunity to interact with an array of wonderful thinkers and practitioners. Did you feel that depth and vitality were readily accessible in all your interactions?
M&N: We spent time with them and only after that did we film interviews. So, we had time to know each other. This created the powerful interactions people feel when they watch the documentary. There are subtle things passing from soul to soul. The light from these people was contagious. Being witness to the equivalence of their thoughts, words and actions was really convincing.
CJ: What satisfied you most about making this film? What frustrated you most?
M&N: What satisfied us the most is how people react at the end of a screening. They told us it made them feel great; they want to change things in their lives and most important they have hope and dreams for the future. The frustration is to have 80 hours of incredible material condensed into 90 minutes.