Available to view on TheNFB
In Oana Suteu Khintirian‘s excellent documentary, Beyond Paper, she looks at why the written word is important, and what’s the method of preserving it. Without pen and paper, all the world is not a stage to chronicle the best of times, and even the worst of times shaped not only literature but also the passing of culture from one generation to another. While that sounds like a very loaded introduction, not every bit of knowledge can be passed down orally. And when it’s a document, will it be easily accessible?
Here, she is not only looking at how to preserve her own Romanian and Armenian heritage, but also humanity’s collective history. It’s not as easy as digitising it to the cloud, a digital version of what some may call the collective consciousness. Some nuances will get lost. For example, calligraphy is a craft few can master, and those studying Chinese style will know there’s a lot to consider when allowing those splashes of ink outside the line to exist! Sometimes examining how that stroke was made is significant.
When considering creating comics involves lettering, even this branched aspect of the literary to sequential art deserves equal preservation as well.
Not everything on paper can be carved into stone. And I’m sure not everyone understands the sweat and blood put behind doing that, especially from an archaeological perspective. By looking at the strokes made on that tear soaked page, we get to experience what went on, then just admire the strokes made.
Although Khintirian is focussed on discovering her cultural heritage, to understand why it matters means looking beyond what’s set on that piece of paper. She asks some very critical questions and one of them concerns why today’s educational system allows the use of smartphones, tablets, or laptops in the schoolroom to make their notes. Typing is a skill few truly master. Also, not everyone is even a touch typist. To learn how to handwrite may seem tough to some, but is Khintirian right to call it a lost art? Maybe.
I’m glad that this filmmaker’s documentary begins by explaining the importance of why libraries exist, and why people should master how to lay down the written word. Because without either, I would not have learned about how the word can be transformed. Quite often, the story begins with what’s written before it can be turned into a visual image on a film, or a panel in a comic book. While what’s presented doesn’t offer a definitive way in how we should preserve the past, at least shows why we must not forsake it, in lest we forget.
5 Stars out of 5