‘Scenema’ And The Truth According To Darren Wilson

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Excerpted from a Forbes.com article by Craig Hatkoff and Irwin Kula: Driven by their own quest to better understand the emotions, conflict and complexities that emerged from the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death, filmmakers Sol Guy and Ezra Miller have just premiered a provocative experimental work–a standalone “scene” extruded from the larger drama of Ferguson, Missouri. The four and a half minute piece is called The Truth According to Darren Wilson, which inaugurated a new feature, The Scene, on Tribeca Film’s website. The site describes The Scene as a platform as a place “for actors, writers, and directors to create, collaborate, and participate. This isn’t a feature, this isn’t a short. It’s a scene, a piece of life, a moment.” But can pieces of life and moments stand on their own as legitimate cinematic expression? It’s a little too early to determine whether this will proliferate into its own genre but certainly worth keeping your eye on where this goes. Until some comes up with a better term we are calling it “scenema.”

Ironically “scenema” reverts back to the earliest days of cinema itself when Eadweard Muybridge concocted a single scene or sequence of a galloping horse in 1873. Film has always been one of our most powerful ways of exploring and telling the truth in new ways. And the truth can be a complicated thing. We can perhaps be enlightened by deconstructing complex and overlapping narratives into more granular scenes that can be examined on their own, intentionally isolated from the conventional narrative. Breaking narratives down into modules with unexpected points of view might add new layers of  meaning to something so seemingly tragic or incoherent as the death of Michael Brown. If you watch the clip you might be surprised.

Artists who experiment always run the risk of being misunderstood–their work being neither fish nor foul. But Guy and Miller seem to have struck a nerve. It’s hard if not impossible to categorize “scenema” as pure narrative, documentary, short film or traditional re-enactment, but their first effort shows the power of point of view, context and tone in expanding our understanding of complex human dramas: in this case the shooting of Michael Brown. The Truth According to Darren Wilson is a fascinating meditation on the truth using the scene as a moment of “what if?” re-imagination– in this case inspired by George Stephanopoulos’ interview with Darren Wilson last fall just after he was acquitted of killing Michael Brown.

Ferguson has become a metaphor for the racial divide in America. Unlike the extraordinary response of forgiveness and healing rooted in the deeply religious community of Charleston, South Carolina that resulted in the removal of the Confederate flag, the anger in Ferguson over Michael Brown’s death is still boiling over in senseless violence nearly one year later. Guy and Miller explore a new style of storytelling—a brilliant art form to shake up our fixed view of Darren Wilson. Cutting and editing Wilson’s verbatim interview transcript with Wilson portrayed by actor Sean Rogers (spoiler alert—you might think Rogers is actually Darren Wilson’s doppelgänger), their creative and compelling “scene” helps us understand this tragedy in a new way…

Read the full Forbes article online on the Off White Papers blog. Originally written by Craig Hatkoff and Irwin Kula and published on August 14th, 2015, the Off White Papers are part of Forbes’ Leadership section, contemplating the deeper, disruptive angles of historically and emerging innovations from healthcare and politics to arts and culture.   


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