Director’s Statement: A Positive Vision for Humanity
I was riveted when I first heard Barbara Marx Hubbard speak at the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment. I’d been teaching at a top-ranked journalism school for 18 years, and I’d become disillusioned with a constant stream of negative news and depressing documentaries. In contrast, I was so moved by Barbara’s compelling picture of the future that I soon retired from UC Berkeley to make a documentary about her optimistic vision. I’m grateful she let me into her life.
What does a positive future look like? Barbara speculates that by 2050, war will be obsolete. Humans will live sustainably on Earth, while beginning colonies in outer space. Robots may replace many human jobs, but humans will be liberated from 9-5 routines to find their life purpose and create. What about all the dire problems facing our world? Hubbard sees them as evolutionary drivers, causing humanity to unite to solve issues like climate change.
Beloved by thousands and seen as the “mother of conscious evolution,” Barbara takes on huge—some would say impractical–endeavors, such as her 1984 bid to be nominated for U.S. Vice President. She came close then, but at other times she’s failed. In American Visionary, I wanted to explore both the necessity and peril of holding big expectations for one’s life and for humanity. Married to her mission to “tell the story of the birth of new humanity,” Hubbard is admirably faithful to her quest.
My primary purpose in making the film was to present through Barbara’s eyes a hopeful vision of our collective future that would speak to viewers beyond the so-called “consciousness community”. While sometimes criticized as an unrealistic “New Ager”, Barbara adds a vital spiritual dimension to emerging voices in the tech community that proclaim, as does Peter Diamandis, that “the future is better than you think.” Of course, many Americans have good reason to be cynical. Changing cynical minds is a tall order, and few films succeed. If American Visionary can at least open a crack in the prevailing, post-modern mentality of doom and gloom–and start conversations about what conscious evolution might look like–then I’ve achieved my goal.
Over the five years it took to make American Visionary, I’ve read many other futurists’ visions, both dystopian and optimistic. The more I read about the promise and peril of Artificial Intelligence, for example, the more convinced I am that we need visionaries like Barbara, Ken Wilber and even younger heirs of the human potential movement to advance the “social potential movement”, evolving human culture so we can use technology wisely.
In this sense, the artistic decision to include more than forty thought leaders in tightly cut “sound bite montages”–while creatively risky–was important. The danger was that the film would be too “talky” and possibly promotional. But what I think shines through is Barbara’s powerful influence on a younger generation of baby boomers who, standing on her octogenarian shoulders, boldly envision an enthralling future.
My own vision extends beyond this one film. In my work as a documentary story consultant, I’ve helped hundreds of filmmakers visualize and structure inspiring documentaries. We desperately need more hopeful, non-fiction cinema. As Academy-nominated filmmaker Joe Berliner recently said, “The documentary has become equated with the investigative take-down piece”.
In my business, New Doc Editing, we are helping pioneer a trend in solution-oriented documentaries. While these films don’t shy away from pressing social issues, they leave viewers feeling enthused. In American Visionary, I sought to celebrate an extraordinary woman whose vision is so irrepressibly optimistic (and quintessentially American) that–if we choose to resonate with her words–can inspire us beyond habitual cynicism and apathy.
American Visionary is directed by Karen Everett, an award-winning filmmaker and story consultant who taught 18 years at the #1-ranked documentary program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Founder of New Doc Editing, Karen has helped hundreds of filmmakers structure transformational documentaries for PBS, HBO, Sundance, and other top film festivals. Inspiring human potential, New Doc Editing enlightens millions of viewers through editing documentaries about transformative people and ideas. Learn more at http://newdocediting.com/.
Karen was the story consultant on the inspiring, Emmy-nominated documentary 50 Children and the Emmy-nominated series The Future Starts Here. She helps create solution-oriented documentaries that better the human condition.