Gifts declare to the world a material mercy. What may be gifted, either in object or body, gives well only because it is given, offered — the object or body can transfer truly in the spirit of sacrifice. Or so we like to hope. Sometimes gifts come from what seem like empty, arid places in us, in our anxious humanity. They are perhaps given quickly, and given to excite, entice, convince. Sometimes gifts don’t feel like gifts. But is a gift always prone to this aridity? Can even the most desperate, holiday-crazed alms find themselves coated in this mercy, the same? Why do we give the gifts, anyway?
Filmmaker Leif Ramsey, in a fit of awe over the Black Friday phenomenon—the world’s largest shopping day, grossing in 2010 $45 billion in the 24 hours of itself just here in the United States (according to Ramsey’s Kickstarter)—wants to navigate that. Ramsey and his team are in process to complete a documentary film about the mercy they found in the hullabaloo of Black Friday. It’s sort of a This American Life meets moving picture deal, a sought-out family beatitude framed within the economic materialism of the holidays.
A traveling Santa Claus, Richard, tires of his constant movement during the holidays and longs to spend them with his family. In the film, Santa Richard does what any travel-exhausted Santa would do: he plants his feet and opens a small business. Ramsey says in the Kickstarter video, “he must face the unexpected frustrations of pitfalls” of doing this.
Heather is a compulsive shopper in the film. She goes so far as to dress homeless, apply stinky root hormone, and uses her “homeless” wiles (startling others away) to get at items in stores. And all this for her 7-year-old daughter, who she wants to have a special Christmas this year.
Both visual dossiers, in the style of This American Life, propose a new look at the well-seen seasonal huff of Black Friday, but the film doesn’t propose to speak on the “greed” we perceive about Black Friday, or the spectacle of it. Instead, it proposes to redeem, out of the hustle, the meaning of giving. It is about the gifts these two people wish to give, the sacrifices they make to give them, and the mercy (and/or root hormone) they coat their actions in or, in some sense, find their actions coated in. BLACK FRIDAY is a film about the truth of the gift: that mercy exists, can exist, at any velocity.
The film still needs backing, though. Ramsey and his team are in the post-production phase. They have 4 months of editing to do, a composer and license for music to secure, and other tinkerings. The team’s on the curb-edge of this. I highly recommend watching the video on the Kickstarter page, as well as making a financial contribution.