I’m not much of an Award Ceremony watcher, but the other night we did watch The Orange British Academy Film Awards – highlight of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts year, and dry-run for The Oscars. The nominees for Best Film – and, between them, also strongly represented in many of the other categories, too – were Brokeback Mountain, Capote, The Constant Gardener, Crash [a film I have written about before], and Goodnight, And Good Luck.
As writer and director of Goodnight, And Good Luck, and with Best Supporting Actor nominations for that and another film, George Clooney was in the frame for needing an extension to his mantle-piece. But at the end of the evening, he left empty handed. Was he disappointed? He shouldn’t be. Far from a public humiliation – unable to win even given so many chances – George departed with something worth much more than a trophy.
Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Film are the high-profile accolades, but the most prestigious award, and high-point of the night, is the Academy Fellowship. This year Lord Attenborough conferred this honour upon Lord Puttnam. David Puttman has made a tremendous contribution to the film industry, way beyond his own impressive filmography. His acceptance speech was, therefore, well worth attending to. He spoke of how, having given his life to cinema, he had retired from making films eight years ago, despondent in the belief that the kind of films he believed in – films that challenged the viewer, and enriched their life – were no longer being made, or likely to be made again. And then he thanked those who had made the showcased films of the past year for proving him emphatically wrong. And in so doing, he singled out “Mr Clooney” for a personal thank you.
George Clooney understands how to make friends and influence people, and the importance of doing so – not simply in order to inflate one’s celebrity but so as to be able to change the world. Like many in his industry, he is concerned about the world that the politicians are creating – a world of unstable climate change, poverty, terrorism – and dreams of offering an alternative future – a vision in which some of the inevitable brokenness, currently becoming even more fractured, is addressed in healing ways. I don’t mean for one moment to paint a picture in which today’s politicians are Sinners and its film-stars are Saints. But I do believe that the fostering and presenting of alternative futures is a crucial and prophetic role. In his speech, Lord Puttnam also spoke of how some people have tried to create a dichotomy, in which you can either educate or entertain – whereas in fact, as some have always known, there is no dichotomy between the two: rather, they go hand-in-hand. Jesus understood that: that is why he taught in parables.
If you want to change the world, you must first engage the imagination. If you want to change the world, you must tell stories. It doesn’t matter if they are written, or filmed, or sung. Tell stories. Change the world.
BAFTAs films George Clooney David Puttnam story-telling