Saturday, 8 June 2013

Many Shades of Truth

I heard about a Cambodian produced film winning at the Cannes Film Festival over BFM while I was driving this morning. What attracted my attention was when the winning director of the film The Missing Picture,  Rithy Panh, was quoted to have said that, 'Cinema is not truth. Even when you make documentary films, you can choose to show this shot and not the other shot _ this side and not the other side. In cinema there's one truth _ not 'the truth'. 


The Missing Picture is about Rithy Panh's personal articulation of the dark episode in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge lead by Pol Pot came into power in 1975 and the atrocities it committed towards fellow Cambodians. Having visited some of the scary sites in Phnom Penh myself, I wonder how human could fell so low that taking life and causing pain were considered the right thing to do. This had happened in many other part of the world and are ongoing, whether sanctioned by the state or otherwise. You can read an interview with Rithy Panh by the Bangkok Post here.


While history is supposed to be the narration of facts that occurred in the past, how history is told could be subjected to manipulation. As Churchill used to say, "History is written by the victors". Why is this so? Put it simply, those who are in the position to control information and the shape of information that goes out to the mass would be able to frame facts or even fiction in ways which purportedly reflecting truths. Even present events are susceptible to such manipulation. Hence, what is truth or otherwise would be based on the honesty of people who have the ability to shape other's views.

Of course, we may also wonder why people who could be so low in their morality are given the ability to decide what others should or shouldn't believe in the first place? Well, in certain cases in the past, they came into power by force. However, in many other situations, they simply reflect the values of the society itself. When people do not care to do the right thing but are more concern about fulfilling the selfishness, don't blame others when people with low morality are in the positions to influence our lives. 

Has the evolution of social media re-shaped such situation? Well, some may argue that when a group of people are no longer able to dominate "truth", then  the ground has to a certain extend changed. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could spread information very fast. While this could be welcomed, our ability to handle such vast information, which may not necessarily true as well, could also shape the truth in our minds. Maybe we need new skills in distilling information from many sources to enable us to figure out the real messages behind them.

So, be careful in analysing information that is fed to us by many sources and medium. Do not simply swallow them as truth, even when conveyed by your closest friends. Think and reflect. At the end of the day, we will have to live with the "truth", whether we like it or not. An easy way to deny the truth is to claim that it is merely a perception!
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