A brief understanding of journalism through Christopher Nolan’s “TENET”

John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson star in Tenet — to be released in July 2020

ou have to start looking at the world in a new way” , she says somewhat pensively. Someone else, in voice-over, opines: “Don’t try and understand it, feel it”.

A car speeding down a carriageway flips out of an accident into its state before the spectacle. Time is playing backwards for our progenitor. Glimpses of the future recompose memory.

What. Can. You. Believe? 2020, an emblem for ‘strong vision state’, is a fitting time to review the world. It’s bent-out-of-shape simulacrum has become the norm. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan, a de facto artist and philosopher, provides the petri-dish in what looks like a return to his mind-prodding genre in Inception and Interstellar with Tenet.

There are few clues to the plot script thus far, but one thing is certain, Nolan’s form in existential questions, and holding a mirror to society comes at a time when the dooms days clock needs a hand.

Nolan revives that technique to aplomb in a 21st century way. For some critics the result is messy. Three stories from which characters face a series of jeopardy, edited as page turners in a novel, run alongside and into each other.

There’s an elasticity to this so it’s deployed to, as Tarantino once put it, for audiences to ‘chase the movie’. That elusive edit is brought into the film to close down the chase. To capture this as a videojournalist requires the use of a second camera in real time and a reckoning of the relevant linking shots.

Whilst journalism seeks to record the world, now often destabilised by its own inadequate methods, it’s abdicated its grand vision statement. Our memory in the world, and about it, is under attack from dark forces, who know its “play” and “erase” button.

In times of crisis, it’s been the artist who mimics the canary in the mines. Luca’s Star Wars captured the tensions of USA Vs USSR cold wars. Spielberg’s ET enveloped the allegory for humane treatment of strangers. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing pierced race and race relations when the much loved Cosby Show had saccharined it. Nolan’s expanse on human decay: memory, time, behaviour, story tells against journalism’s no show.

Journalism’s broken arrow needs repairing, yet attempts to put it together resemble a Dickensian tale of celebratory traditions. We ascribe trends from the past, language that is tired to cater for evolutionary standards. We do so because often we’re blithely unaware of shifts and how to cope with them.

Just like Art and the impressionism movement breaking classical art, or the novel being impaled by different forms that played with time and space like Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, we resist change. Where is journalism’s exaptation?

If only we could start looking at the world in a new way? If only we could make good on how our sense of emotion is a fundamental, but ignored aspect of journalism. “Don’t try and understand it, feel it”. If only we could, and we are. Quietly, small but burgeoning groups are adopting cinema into their forms. I don’t mean fiction, but that which makes cinema unforgettable, that often we’ll watch a film again and again and again. When was the last time you did this with a memorable piece of journalism?

Over three years, from putting together a lab one at a London University, and now at Cardiff, I’m looking forward to probing and showings its findings. As I wrote in an open letter to Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us what, amongst others, can we learn from cinema? That is the new and unfurling world o cinema journalism, that I have travelled the world over to investigate.

“What’s happened here?” says Robert Pattinson’s Character to John David Washington in the film, as he inspects bullet pockmarks. “Hasn’t happened yet” is the response. Except it has — a warning sign of the future.

Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is an international award winner in Innovation in Journalism and videojournalism. More on him here. Promo shot in Chicago

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.