On January 21, 2017, Zoë Ghertner captured powerful moments from the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in a short three-minute film. The footage is moving and intimate, features close-up shots on women and men protesters’ faces and signs. An article covering Ghertner’s documentary called up on the reader to “watch Zoë Ghertner’s beautiful protest film from the Washington march.” Certainly, the film was powerful, inspiring, and artistically creative, but can we judge this film as beautiful by Kant’s account of the beautiful? I say yes.
Ghertner’s film encompasses Kant’s four moments of the beautiful. The film inspires feelings of disinterest, it does not depend on the audience’s desire for the film, nor does it generate such a desire. It is universally valid. A person making a judgment of this film as beautiful includes the expectation that others will also judge it to be beautiful. Any gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and ability can relate to the women’s movement and the beauty within its message and actuality. This film creates harmony within the free play of imagination and understanding as images of the protesters flash across the screen. It brings people together in solidarity and unites a spark of passion within. This film has purposiveness without a purpose. In viewing this film, the subject has an openness to the film in a contemplative and reflective relation to the self, as a man or woman or other. In addition to universal validity, this film involves an element of necessity. Not only does the viewer believe that everyone will judge the film as beautiful, but everyone ought to do so. There is a strong feeling of inevitability that others will be moved and judge the film as beautiful.
Ghertner’s film also has Platonic qualities of art, such as possessing and arousing divine inspiration. Divine, not in a religious sense, but it a moving, spiritual, and transcendental way. Ghertner was inspired to create her documentary film, to express the passion and devotion of the Women’s March protesters artistically. In this case, the protesters are the muse. Watching the film, the audience can experience the inspiration in Ghertner’s film and become inspired to make social change themselves. This is like Plato’s magnet analogy.
One could argue that the judgement of Ghertner’s documentary film is not of the beautiful but of the agreeable, the good, or the useful. Someone could view the film as useful because it spreads awareness about the Women’s March, or could view the film as good because it agrees with their moral values of women/minorities/refugee’s rights, or could view the film as agreeable because the cinematography was well done and visually pleasing. I judge the film as beautiful because its purpose was not for the agreeable, the good, or the useful. I think Ghertner’s motivation for creating this film was to create a beautiful piece of art from the depths of the inspiration, dedication, and passion of the protesters who had the courage to stand up and fight for human rights. As Henry Moore said, “To be an artist is to believe in life” – life for all.
Therefore, I judge this film as a beautiful conditioned artwork. Ghertner’s documentary film exhibits conditioned beauty rather than free beauty because it is heavily tainted by concepts, cultures, and historical references of our country. This film makes a powerful statement and sends a strong message to the audience. It is empowering, inspiring, and engages the viewer in a collective purpose and mission. It enfolds the viewer within a culture and community of loving and accepting women and men.
In conclusion, when an article covering Ghertner’s documentary calls up on the reader to “watch Zoë Ghertner’s beautiful protest film from the Washington march,” I think they are correct in judging the film as beautiful. Watching this short film, feeling the inspiration, feeling the disinterest, feeling the necessary universal validity, and feeling the purposiveness without purpose, brings about a moment of experiencing the beautiful.