Men Don’t Cry

Men Don’t Cry (Muškarci ne placu) was the first film in my Galway Film Festival experience. I saw it this morning at Pálás Cinema in Galway. This post is the first in my series of blogs from the festival, called Before & After. Men Don’t Cry dramatizes a reconciliation gathering of former soldiers from the Yugoslav Wars. The film confronts its audience with questions about the nature of truth, humanity, identity, and forgiveness. Here is how I experienced it.

From the Door to Lights Down

“The lights are off in the theatre,” says the green-shirted volunteer at the door. I’m not exactly surprised by this, it is a movie theatre. I glance quizzically (who knew that there were two z’s in quizzically?) at the older man and woman waiting at the door. I suggest that I could use the light on my phone to help us find our seats. “The lights are off in the theatre,” they echo. I get it now, the house lights in the theatre aren’t working and its a work in progress to bring them up so that we can find our seats. I think that we could probably find a seat in the dark, but I wait at the door, observing the social cue.

I’m a bit sweaty. I was late leaving for the theatre so I jogged a few kilometers to the cash box where I purchased my ticket. I can feel my Under Armour shirt, purchased when Westjet forgot my luggage in Toronto, sticking to my back. I shift my backpack to one shoulder, creating some air circulation. The cool kids used to wear their backpacks like this, I think. My door mates are also looking a little on the toasty side; there are a few beads of sweat on a couple of foreheads. It’s hot in Ireland, hotter than anyone is used to.

I chat with a nice British-y sounding man in a blue shirt, asking, “What has brought you here?” Just as his answer starts to take shape, the lights come up and we move into the theatre to take our seats. Oh the seats, the glorious seats! Before us are about eight rows of cushy, fleece feeling chairs with red names, likely supporters of the cinema, stitched into the back. I briefly consider choosing seat 15 in honour of Toronto Maple Leaf Tomas Kaberle, but there are only 14 seats in a row so I choose seat 11 right behind a seat marked with Bingham Ray’s name. I take out my laptop and listen to what’s happening around me. As I do, a little vertical ballot flutters onto my lap. It’s an Audience Award ticket asking us to rate the film. I turn to my next-door-seat-neighbour and ask, “So the real question is, do you tear all the way across or just a little?” We laugh and bond, as only next-door-seat-neighbours can. This ballot is like none I’ve ever seen; five options with instructions to tear to mark the score that you want to give the film. I should take a picture so that I can post it later, but I’m not going to, maybe tomorrow.

As the clock ticks past 12:00pm, I catch snippets of conversation. “Where’s this?” someone behind me scoffs, at a social media writer who wonders if the Galway Film Fleadh is in fact in Galway. “Where did you park?” asks someone to my left, before discussing the various options available. The lights dim, the red curtains around the edges of the theatre briefly jump out at me, and then the film starts.

Checking in with Adam

I’ve prepared myself for this film; I expect heavy. I ran here listening to the soul pleasing, Stupid Love, by Dan + Shay. I have a habit of listening to this song on loop when I want to check out for a bit. I ran because I couldn’t stop the beautiful breakfast conversation with my Airbnb host, Tess, about conflicting beliefs (especially the ones that stop us from working at coffee shops) and my parents. I have a fairy tale to write when I get home. I’m tired after last night’s writing but for the time being I’m wide awake. I’m riding the wave of finishing something, anything. I haven’t checked Facebook to see if anyone is paying attention to what I’m writing. I totally care. I have some residual scars from social media at the University Students’ Council, so posting anything is disturbing. I’m more scared of the comments, replies, and mentions than I admit. I’m grateful for my friend Aaron because he’ll tell it to me straight. I’m ready to talk to people today.

What Brought Me Here

I learned the word Yugoslavia when I was about five years old. I remember thinking that it was kind of fun to say, it had a rhythm to it. I started reading newspapers when I was quite young, but I didn’t come across Yugoslavia in the news coverage. I learned the word because it helped me to understand why my friend’s dad had a different accent. My dad probably taught me to say Yugoslavia. The highlight of that friendship, before we grew apart at the end of elementary school, was that day back in the mid-nineties when three of us all had the chicken pox at the same time. We stayed home from school, but we got to play together because we were all sick at the same time. Those memories made me stop when I saw the word Yugoslavia in the Galway film program. As I thought more about it, I realized that I was also thinking about a song that I’d sung as part of the Western University Honour Choir with a conductor named André Hayward. I don’t remember it exactly, but it it was an all-boys piece written by some sort of religious figure, in the name of peace.

Who Is With Me?

That friend from elementary school is next to me as the film starts. I wonder what her family would think of this movie? I wonder what she’s doing with her life? Maybe I’ll send her a Facebook message?

[I’m Watching the Film Now…]

Lights Up to the Door

A few slow breaths, exhaling through what feels like a straw. I want a few beats of silence. No such luck. The last credit hits the screen and a giggle crashes in, a bar or two earlier than I want it to. I feel like the fleece seat has molded itself to my lower back. I peel myself out of the chair and walk to the door. As I reach the door I meet the guy in the blue shirt who I talked to on the way in. I don’t have anything to say, but I make eye contact anyway. We’re out into the cement stairwell now. I see the green shirt next to the door and remember the Audience Choice ballot. I set down my backpack, pull out my brown notebook and extract the slip of paper from its pages (it’s shocking that I actually find it). As I’m about to rip the ‘5’ out of ‘5’ I notice that the volunteer is holding a ‘2’. Seriously, who was that person? But, wait, maybe I’m not being critical enough? Whatever, definitely a 5; I felt that film. Down the stairs we go and out onto the street. I have absolutely no idea where I’m going next. I wander along with my blue-shirted friend, mumbling something like, “wow, that was something.” He mumbles something back. We’re not ready to talk about it. He mentions his Airbnb. I turn right, he turns left, “we’ll see each other again,” we say. I don’t snap into conscious walking until I reach the band playing at the border of the Latin Quarter. It’s time to get a scone.

Checking In With Adam

I’m sitting at my writing desk, looking at the rooster in the window and I have the Yugoslav Wars tab open in my browser. I’ve just skimmed through the opening paragraphs, cautiously. I’m not absorbing too much yet. I crave context, but I want some real-life guides, like in Northern Ireland when I started to really learn about The Troubles. There’s a light on in my mind now. I’ll never forget that these conflicts exist. I’ll read newspapers differently. I’ll scan social media differently. New worlds will jump out of daily news coverage. I know words that describe ethnic groups. I know that there’s so much to learn.

I’m not holding the tension that I held in the film anymore. I’ve unfurled my limbs and exhaled.

I’m reminded of men getting drunk, playing war, breaking mirrors with foreheads, burning trucks, self-medicating, and being so damn afraid of seeing themselves. I’m inspired by grizzled, destroyed men re-enacting their traumas; literally playing the trauma back in collective scenes, with the hope of saving the next generation of boys.

I’m drawn to these stories; it’s just the truth. I want to go to these places, talk to these people, feel the land; there’s so much to feel.


Where It’s Taking Me

After seeing this film, I’m on my way to…

  • A discussion with my friend Emma Blue about facilitation
  • A reflection on the benefits and dangers of using theatre to re-enact trauma
  • Confidence in advocating for risk tolerance (like burning cars, group members leaving, physical violence, financial risk) when doing deep healing work
  • Many conversations about how to or whether to participate in creating environments that invite people to choose to push their limits, to the point of what feels like breaking, in pursuit of discovering that some aspect of humanity could be on the other side
  • Reflections on the facilitator training that I helped to lead in Rama First Nation with the 4Rs Youth Movement last year and my experience as a facilitator
  • Trusting simple concepts in film making

Who I’d Like To Watch This Film With

  • Emma Blue, my friend and occasional co-conspirator, because we have an ongoing conversation about danger and risk in facilitation.
  • Marc Langlois, my mentor, friend, and partner in Twelve Canada crime, because I know that he’d appreciate the facilitation demonstrated in the film and would do what I did, start thinking about how to get to Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to create an exchange of knowledge between real people doing this work.
  • Jessica Bolduc, Executive Director of the 4Rs Youth Movement (among other things), because I’d love to know what it makes her think about, what she’d critique, and what she’d teach me after watching it.




2 responses to “Men Don’t Cry”

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