The Lottery of Birth, 2013.
Directed by Raoul Martinez and Joshua van Praag.
A documentary exploring the social, cultural and psychological elements involved in the shaping of human identities.
The Lottery of Birth is the first of three films in a documentary series entitled Creating Freedom, which endeavour to examine modern notions of power relationships in modern democracies. The film is, from start to finish, an engaging, slick and excellently produced study of a very powerful subject – the forces that shape how we become ‘us’ at a personal, societal and cultural level.
Even for viewers with a keen interest in political systems and relations between the state and the individual, there is plenty of fresh and intelligent thought in this film, all expressed in accessible language by the many engaging speakers. No art is politically neutral (a point the film itself makes repeatedly) and The Lottery of Birth is unquestionably a left-leaning political work, a point reinforced by the choice of speakers such as Tony Benn and George Monbiot and powerful quotes from the likes of George Orwell. The film challenges the viewer with the perception that much of the identity-forming process in modern western democracy is informed by the desire of government and business to keep people ill-informed and easily controlled and many persuasive historical and modern examples are given.
The film is, in its own way, just as angry and aggressive in pursuing its viewpoint as a Michael Moore polemic but, to its credit it prefers, in all cases, the understated presentation of facts and statistics to incendiary stunts. At no point does the film ‘talk down’ to the viewer and the crisp, assured composition would make this as engaging to students as to politically inclined, media savvy adults. The Lottery of Birth is beautifully consistent in tone throughout and a genuine media tour de force, weaving together some highly engaging speakers with some expertly selected footage and facts that makes a refreshing change to many modern polemics, with their gaping biases and a logical inconsistencies.
Anyone with an interest in deeply intelligent, politically aware documentary film making should seek out The Lottery of Birth and the subsequent second and third parts of the promised Creating Freedom series will be well worth a watch if they are even half as engaging as this initial work. The film’s tone may come across as slightly ponderous and repetitive to some and at times the message comes close to be overly thinly spread across a wide array of topics ranging from politics to sociology to psychology. However, ultimately this film deserves to be a hit both amongst its target audience (it would certainly be an excellent addition to many an academic programme) and the wider public, bringing energy and panache to an often dry subject. Highly recommended.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★