Whenever I go out of town, I bring movies with me. Usually, it’s the same handful of films. I rarely end up watching most of them, even though I always intend to; I just like having them around, in case I might need them. Up until recently, I hadn’t really stopped to ask myself why I still do this, especially now that the media landscape has changed so drastically—with thousands upon thousands of movies instantly available to stream from any device, anywhere, anytime. But once I reflected on it , the answer was obvious: they’re part of my survival kit.
The movies I I tuck into my bag before each and every trip probably say a whole lot about me and what I value, both in art and in life: Wild Strawberries, The Tree of Life, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Joe vs the Volcano, and Synecdoche, New York. Each one, in its own way, at one point or another, has either helped me make sense of this life, or reminded me of why it’s worth living. I bring them along like my toothbrush, my medications, or my writing notebooks—like anything else I need while I’m gone. And this year, I find that I’m needing them more than ever.
There’s no real way around it: it’s been a tough year for a whole lot of us. The past twelve months brought about a kind of politics—and a kind of president—the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Alongside this new administration, a new wave of cruelty, disorder, and ineptitude has swept in as well. Modern life, anxious enough to begin with, now feels almost impossibly chaotic and frazzled; simply trying to keep up with the news has become a full-time job. Those of us who felt it would largely go the way it has gone can take little comfort in saying I told you so, because the result is a country barely recognizable, a civic discourse ripped to shreds, a careening ship without a rudder.
In times like these, art becomes more important than ever. In an increasingly ugly public sphere, as 45 renders everything around us more coarse and less human through both his actions and words, it’s vital that we continually seek out the people, places, and things which can fill us back up. And for me, like so many of you, movies will always be one of those places.
So, when it came time to choose a theme for this issue, we decided to put together our own “survival kit” of sorts—an issue that looks at things that still matter, reminding us both how and why movies are more important than ever, both as instruction and escape.
The issue you’re about to read is our 50th issue—a remarkable milestone for us in all kinds of ways. When we first started this little magazine back in June 2013, we were a small staff of four armed with a fierce passion, surviving on scant resources and huge dreams. Our main concern, initially, was just keeping the lights on—to put out a quality issue each and every month and somehow find a way to make this whole thing sustainable. Doing it for 50 consecutive months seemed unfathomable, yet here we are. We’ve crossed a whole lot of things off our bucket list over these past four years, and I want to personally thank each and every person that helped make Bright Wall/Dark Room what it is today, from the (amazing) staff, past and present, who worked their hearts out every single month, to all of you who read, subscribe, or interact with us online. It’s been immensely rewarding, and a whole lot of fun. And so of course, now we’re going to change everything. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
Beginning the first week of September, we’ll be making a few changes. Rather than dropping 10-12 essays on you all at once, we’ll instead release the same number of features—plus additional, smaller pieces and staff posts—gradually over the course of each month. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, we’re immensely proud of each essay we put out, and we want to give each one the time, space, and attention it deserves (both during the editing process and once it goes online), rather than risk it being swallowed up by all the others in the same issue. Secondly, we’d love for Bright Wall/Dark Room to be a place you want to continuously revisit, rather than checking in on once a month after (relative) radio silence.
Our website design will change alongside this new publication schedule, placing an even greater emphasis on readability and discovery. With this 50th issue, we’ve officially crossed the 500 essay threshold, which means there are a whole lot of great pieces just sitting in our archives. And so we hope that, in addition to staying with us each month, you might discover some hidden gems buried in there, too.
Of course, if you still prefer the magazine or ebook format, that’s fine—each month will still be organized around a particular theme, and at the end of each month we’ll have links to download ebook editions of the month’s essays. And rest assured, our vision is still the same: no clickbait, no sensationalism, no hot takes—just honest, insightful, intelligent film writing with a heart.
We’ll be sticking with Piano/Tinypass, our paywall provider, so if you’re currently signed up, then your subscription will carry over to the new site seamlessly. But if you’ve been on the fence about subscribing, now is the perfect time to join us and help support independent film writing that isn’t afraid of exploring the unknown, taking a moment to slow down and breathe, or focusing on insight over instinct.
So kick back, enjoy the new issue, and we look forward to seeing you on a much more regular basis, starting next month!
—Chad Perman, Editor-in-Chief