Focus: Fear Is Not An Option


While last summer the humanitarian crisis and its unexpected severity came as a blow to many of us, the world's response to it turned out to be, in some ways, even more horrific. When the situation exceeded our expectations and we reached our institutional limits, we transformed Europe into a fortress.
We locked ourselves up, we fenced ourselves in and turned into advocates of nativism and nationalism. The closing of borders, the building of fences proved symptomatic of a deeper intolerance towards those we perceive as the other, and, thus, we made a conscious decision to turn a blind eye.

It is us and then there's them, and given that newscasts can sometimes be downright pornographic in their depiction of terrorism, it is easy to fall prey to submissive justification of extreme reactions and violence. And so we fail to see the people and only see the potential of imminent danger. We fail to see difference as diversity and we see it instead as discord. It's empathy crushed by self-concern, a generalized failure to recognize humanness.
When we consider the fact that the more recent terrorist attacks in Europe were committed by European citizens, it becomes apparent that encouraging hatred and atomization of the continent will just further isolate and alienate those who are made to feel like they do not have the right to identify as being European.

In the face of radicalized discourse it's often that we have the natural tendency to balance out this hot-headedness by being overly rational, overly didactical and overly statistical. While there is certainly value to this approach, it can prove to be the same sort of one-sided argument that ignores its public. When people react emotionally to a situation perceived as potentially threatening, you cannot appeal wholly to pure reason but must still communicate to people's humanness and emotional core.

This is what makes film in general and film festivals in particular an especially fruitful context. What does cinema deal with if not with emotion, and what is one of its fundamental qualities if not empathy? And taking it one step forward, festivals give room to retreat and reflect. In a cacophony of hysterical monologues, we want to open a space for dialogue. But dialogue is not something that happens spontaneously and even when it does, getting your message across the way you intended to can be problematic.
So we wanted to spark the drive to truly gaze at ourselves and our fears, both individual and collective. By taking up as sujet "Fear Is Not an Option" we wanted not to condemn but to try to look for alternative ways to frame the conversation - about conflicts and crises, of course, but also about our future in general and about innovative approaches towards it. We do this by trying to look at the bigger picture of what fear is, what drives it, and furthermore, try to attach a sense of curiosity in exploring it, perhaps even a sense of optimism. Fear won't push the world forward, this remains true. It takes courage to start new connections.

During festivals there is a convergence of different subjectivities expressed in an artistic form and an invitation to delve into these subjectivities and identify with another's point of view. The objective is not to instil a feeling of guilt or shame since fear is a natural feeling, something that creeps into our being many times without our control. The real difference lays in whether or not we let this fear fuel our behaviour or if we instead acknowledge it as present but then act in spite of it.

(Diana Mereoiu, VIS Vienna Independent Shorts)