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If Not I, Then Who?

Author and artist Antonino D'Ambrosio inspired TFF 2012 audiences with his powerful documentary, "Let Fury Have The Hour." As CAVU Pictures releases the film this Friday at the Quad Cinema, the filmmaker was kind enough to share his creative process with Tribeca.

Editor's Note: Let Fury Have The Hour, which premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, is a lively social history chronicling the ways that creative-response is an antidote to the cynicism dominating today's culture.  A passionate, mixed media collage incorporating graphic art, music, animation, and spoken word, the film spans three decades of transformation.

In his feature directorial debut, Antonino D'Ambrosio brings together over 50 artists, writers, musicians and activists, each attesting to the fact that we can re-imagine the world we live in and take an active role in making that vision a reality. 

Italy. Spain. Portugal. England. Ireland. France. As I write this on a tour of Europe with my film, Let Fury Have The Hour, thousands of people—some in the hundreds of thousands— in each of these countries are pouring into the streets to protest the brutal austerity measures their respective governments are imposing due to the lingering economic and Eurozone crisis. It seems fitting that I’m here screening my film in places as diverse as Belfast, Northern Ireland and Wroclav, Poland with the backdrop of a world swallow up by conflict and chaos.

These events reinforce the urgent plea put forward in the film that we, connected as world citizens, must find a new way of addressing old problems—war, poverty, inequality—that are kept alive by wobbly political and economic structures out of step with what the current historical moment demands. “The best way to challenge a bad religion or bad government is give a person a good idea,” former head of Amnesty International U.S.A. Jack Healey says in my film. One of fifty voices across music, poetry, film, economics, rights advocacy, skateboarding, street art and more, Healey’s ‘good idea’ is given a name by Fugazi’s Ian Mackaye: “I think life, or society especially, presents one hurdle after another. So I just try to have creative-response.”

Seven years in the making, Let Fury Have the Hour first made its world premiere at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival screening in the Spotlight section. Distributed by CAVU Pictures in partnership with Gigantic Pictures, the film begins its theaterical run in New York and then will expand to cities across the country. Special events including performances, exhibitions, and creative partnerships with an array of community groups, local artists, musicians and citizens will accompany various screenings as it travels around the U.S.

As CAVU Pictures orchestrates a dynamic release, I continue to discover that the experience of taking this film to audiences around the country and the world has deepened my belief that creative work, as author Eduardo Galeano’s explains, “opens up other roads, where more than ever I was able to confirm that it can have fingers to touch those who come into contact with it in places around the world I never dreamed.” For this reason, the film is both about creative-response and is itself a creative-response.

Chuck D in Let Fury Have The Hour/ Credit: CAVU pictures

In “Bend the Notes,” one of several essays I wrote for the book Let Fury Have the Hour, I explain that the film “puts on full display our grand talent as human beings—the ability to act imaginatively in challenging the problems that paralyze us… a humanist action that I call creative-response, which is a celebration of the unconventional and the rejection of hopelessness, the embracing of the odd idea, the idiosyncratic thought, the impossible strategy, creative-response twists and refashions our conceptions of what the world can be.” Creative-response is a tonic to the cynicism that dominates our culture. Rendered as a visual essay, Let Fury Have the Hour revels in the untapped power found in human possibility.

To tell this story, I bring together an array of skateboarders (Tommy Guerrero), musicians (Tom Morello, Chuck D, Billy Bragg, Eugene Hutz), poets (Staceyann Chin, Suheir Hammad), street artists (Shepard Fairey), playwrights (Eve Ensler), novelists (Hari Kunzru), economists (Richard Wolff), environmentalists (Van Jones), filmmakers (John Sayles), composers (DJ Spooky), comedians (Lewis Black), rights activists (Farah Tanis, Jack Healey), labor advocates (Anna Burger), among many others.

Each serves more as a partner than a participant, sharing reflective insights into how they use creative-response to trigger new ideas and action, illuminating my central belief that while our individual stories are unique we do share life’s outline. The MC5’s Wayne Kramer puts an exclamation point on this vision when he explains, “That idea of having an international consciousness, being driven by something more than self-interest. There were people before me, Woody Guthrie, this goes back generations and generations. This is the business of civilization building.”

After all, art or more specifically creative-response is our most compelling human endeavor because it is what we do while politics (and the media and culture) is something that is done to us. Everywhere I traveled, the core belief anchoring my worldview and driving the film is the knowledge that the new, emerging “we” are many and motivated, urgently grabbing hold of that historical thread linking all of humanity as one people.

One encounter I had in Belfast sums up the energy Let Fury Have the Hour theatrical screenings generate. As I was leaving the screening at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, a young German man named Moe stopped to congratulate me and explain how much the film moved him. “It was like everything I feel expressed in words, songs, and images. I feel more alive and filled with possibility than I ever have,” he said. While he spoke to me, I caught a glimpse of graffiti scrawled on a wall behind where we stood. It read, “If Not I, Then Who?”

Reading that as I listened to Moe I grasped that the film was indeed connecting people, asking “Why not?” instead of “Why?,” seeking ideas that respond to the question, “what kind of world do you want to live in?,” and striving to discover a new “we.” And that’s the promise the upcoming theatrical release advances to those who come to see Let Fury Have the Hour because in the dark, with all eyes locked on the screen, the theater, the cinema becomes a place that accommodates everyone: an extraordinary creative meeting that unifies individuals tranforming them into an audience.

Antonino D'Ambrosio is an author (A Heartbeat and a Guitar: Johnny Cash and the Making Bitter Tears), filmmaker (No Free Lunch starring comedian Lewis Black) and visual artist (La Terra Promessa). D'Ambrosio is the founder of La Lutta NMC, a production non-profit selected by The Nation as one of top independent media groups in the country.

Let Fury Have The Hour will open in NYC this Friday, Decemeber 14th at the Quad Cinema. Antonino D' Ambrosio will be in attendance for Q&As after the 7:25PM show on Friday (12/14), the 5:15PM and 7:25PM shows on Saturday (12/15), and the 3:00PM and 5:15PM shows on Sunday (12/16).

Want to learn more? Check out the official Let Fury Have The Hour trailer on Yahoo.

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