June 16th, 2024

Film screening explores modern culture of disconnectedness


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 13, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

After a virtual viewing of the film The Great Disconnect offered by Healthy Communities Association of Lethbridge and Area (HCALA), those in attendance had an opportunity to meet the director for a panel discussion where many subjects were touched on.

People from different parts of southern Alberta tuned in for the virtual event on Wednesday morning, to be able to not only watch the film which raises questions about the possibilities of overcoming our modern culture of disconnectedness and rediscover how truly essential we are to one another, but also to be able to ask director Tamer Soliman some questions about it.

The film is one hour long, done in a documentary style, with interviews of various people, from random people on the streets of busy cities, to professionals in areas of physiology, urban development and others, including residents of small communities who wish they were more in touch with their neighbours.

One of the questions presented to Soliman was regarding the type of response the film had from people who watched it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and he said many had mixed feelings.

“We just had such a mixture of feelings during that time, during the screenings, and I think it just made people more aware and perhaps nostalgic for a time that was taken away from us,” said Soliman.

He said many communities where the film was shown during the pandemic, recognized how important it was to connect, and that even though the film shows the negative side of technological devices when it comes to disconnecting, that is ultimately the way many people were able to stay connected when they could not be physically together.

“We know that if this technology is used in this capacity, I think it’s still a good way to connect,” said Soliman.

But when it came to the use of technology to stay connected, some of those in attendance had mixed feelings and shared their thoughts.

One person in attendance, a political leader (who was not named) from a rural community in southern Alberta, said some people around her had started using social media to be very negative about other members in the community, things they would not say to their face, to the point where this particular individual started having no desire to go to her community’s downtown core to avoid seeing people she has previously read negative comments from.

To this, Soliman said the larger message of the film is about getting into community, getting back to face-to-face.

“I hope this doesn’t ruffle the feathers, but we’ve lost the capability to debate and to be able to be in a room with people we disagree with,” said Soliman.

He added that while researching information for the film there was a concept that it made it easier to go back to face-to-face with others, if people started doing it with those they were comfortable with first.

“I would say it’s important to get back to face to face with people we care about, with people we have similar values with, as being the central message of the film,” said Soliman.

The film also touches on the way some communities are built and how attached garages allow people to get into their homes without getting out of their house and completely cutting them off from their neighbours, and how this is affecting many communities.

But to Soliman’s surprise one attendee shared her experience within her neighbourhood, and how one of her neighbours started opening up her garage to others and many people started hanging out in their front yard, and when she would walk her dog she stopped and talk to her neighbours.

Soliman said he had encountered similar comments while talking to other viewers that watched the film during the pandemic, as many talked about how some of them were practically forced to get to know their neighbours since they were the only people they were able to talk to from across the yard or across the street when restrictions were in place.

At the end, Soliman said the film had a call to action that was a two-part call to action, with one being connect with others for the sake of connection and to have a good time with family and friends, but the other part, which is a distinction made by the experts interviewed in the film, is that we need to connect with others to make the world a better place.

“That could be the littlest thing that you can think of that you’re comfortable doing, or if you’re the type of person that got big visions on things, gather people and make things happen, and there were some examples of that in the film,” said Soliman.

For those who were unable to attend the virtual event, and would like to see the film in-person, a screening will be held at the Main Branch of the Lethbridge Public Library this coming Monday at 6:30 p.m.

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