1,000 Journals pieces together a picture of the world

By Silvia de Somma

Sometimes it seems young children are all budding artists, composers and writers. Somewhere along the line, most lose their affinity for creativity. Growing up and maturing is almost synonymous with stagnating imaginations. Probably around the same time, most stop relating to people freely and get a bit jaded about the human condition. Over the past seven years, though, hundreds of strangers defied these norms and joined together in the ultimate display of unique thought and solidarity.

1,000 Journals introduces a project started by “Someguy” who, in 2001, decided to randomly send off 1,000 journals into the world, have people from all over fill them up and send them back. Inspired by the uninhibited graffiti found on bathroom walls, the concept was that whoever got hold of a journal could express themselves freely and would therefore more accurately reflect their thoughts. By passing it on, they would create a connection between everyone who made a mark in the journal. Of course, social experiments rarely go as planned and the documentary highlights the successes and failures of Someguy’s plan.

The documentary follows about a dozen people who receive the journals and explores the journeys they went through while having one in their possession. The perspectives explored include a conscripted soldier in Singapore, an independent artist in New York, a world traveller from Croatia, a teenager in Toronto and an Australian businesswoman, among a completely random array of people linked only by the website they all visit. Some kept it for years, some lost it, some never wrote in it, some passed it on carelessly and some altered previous contributions.

While the film itself lacks a bit of forward momentum, the stories from all these diverse and unrelated participants are truly amazing. The sheer number and diversity of everyone who expressed themselves within each journal is mind boggling and while the story sometimes lags under needless narration and awkward silences, the impact this simple idea had on an international scale is amazing to see. The greatest attraction of 1,000 Journals is undoubtedly the incredibly beautiful finished result of the books. Sadly, the journals, which should have remained unedited, were eventually commercialized into a book. The meetings and deliberations, which were all filmed, come across as not only contrary to the spirit of the project, but also as a creativity-numbing disappointment. Curiously, a second sister trial (1,001 Journals) is underway, despite less than 50 journals from the original undertaking having been returned.

The ability of these blank journals to encourage creativity and foster a sense of community across several different nations, language barriers, religious backgrounds and age, gender and socio-economic classifications displays that deep inside, we all still possess the imagination and trust of children. 1,000 Journals, both as a project and a documentary, is powerful and inspiring.

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