1,000 Journals (2008) Documentary Film Review

Two months ago, I received a black journal. It was the project of a fifth grade class, and my task was to add my contributions and then pass it on in a week’s time. Although it was not a new idea to me, it was a lot of fun, despite the fact that this particular journal only made its rotation in the Seattle area.The film 1,000 Journals follows the project by Someguy, a San Francisco artist who one day decided to release 1,000 blank journals out into the world to see what happened to them. His journals, by contrast, ended up traversing the world.

I’m a huge fan of social experimentation and doing things to invoke the human reaction. This particular movie follows the route of the books as they make their way around the world and into the homes of random individuals. When I contributed to the journal I had in my hands, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of people contributed which pieces. This film puts a bit of an explanation to the anonymity behind the project, and answers questions on a very basic level. It shows that people of all walks of life, of all ethnicities and social classes (although not all countries), found this project to be interesting and life-changing. But the most interesting part about the project were the reactions from people that no one could have ever anticipated.

For example, the book was in rotation when September 11th happened, and it documented the state of the United States at that point. It showed how initially people were sad and shocked — with many of them having personal ties to the event — and used the journal to vent their thoughts. It progressed as political issues, paranoia, and distrust of the government came into play, and all of this was shown in one cohesive mass.

Even more surprising, though, were how human beings played off of one another’s entries. A pair of artistically-inclined women in Australia decided that the thoughts of others weren’t worth keeping because they looked artistically deficient, and they pasted over those handwritten thoughts with more visually appealing images. Another artist, based in England, created his own pieces as “dedications” to individuals who had previously posted in the book. Many of his dedications were serious and heart-warming, but some of his other dedications were downright mean.

Despite these few cases of maliciousness, though, the project is an amazing one that has touched the lives of many individuals, and films like these are important, because they humanize an idea that, to those who didn’t contribute, is kind of just a cool thought. 1,000 Journals is an enjoyable film for any individual who is a fan of social experimentation and human interactions; I suggest you watch this film and then go out and engage in your own projects.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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