A Hasidic Jewish man approaches a Muslim man on the streets of New York City. It sounds like the opening line to an inappropriate joke, but it’s actually a scene in a campaign put out by Tribeca Film Festival called “See Yourself in Others.” The stunning one-minute short film, which is posted below, features a diverse group of people walking around Manhattan wearing mirrored boxes on their heads to make the point that peacemaking begins when we learn to empathize with “the other.”
I was so impressed by this provocative short that I tracked down the director, Jared Knecht. Still in his twenties, he has already compiled an impressive resume with clients ranging from Redbull to Victoria’s Secret, and Compassion International to Crossway. Knecht’s short film “Skumaskot,” shot on location in Iceland, was a selection at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. (It’s stunning, and you should watch it too.)
Here we discuss the imagery featured in this campaign and why he believes society is failing to foster empathy.
RNS: Tell me about the mirrored boxes as a symbol. What did you hope to accomplish with this image?
JK: Movies kind of resemble mirrors. Living through someone else for two hours and seeing the world as they do is how I fell in love with film. The mirror boxes were a fun idea to make that experience literal. It provoked a curious interaction with the hope to literally see yourself through the eyes of someone else.
RNS: Where is society failing right now in terms of empathy?
JK: I think we are innately selfish,and at times, scarcely sympathetic for others. There is a big difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy says, “I hate that you are going through that.” Empathy says, ” I’ve been there, and I know how you feel.” In a world where we may not fully comprehend our differences, we are all the same. We have common ground. It’s through our differences that we have the chance to get there.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service