Daily Stream—Historia Calamitatum (the story of my misfortunes), Part II: The Crying Game

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Sep 03, 2020

An extreme close up of a brown-haired man's right eye as he tears up

Filmmaker and Ohio State professor Roger Beebe has been behind some memorable live film experiences at the Wex and other venues in Columbus and around the world, whether presenting his own films, sometimes on multiple projectors, or sharing snippets of his expansive Super 8 and 16mm collections. With travel limited over the summer, Beebe decided to release one of his rarely seen works to the public: Historia Calamitatum (the story of my misfortunes), Part II: The Crying Game from 2014.

In the film, Beebe shares some thoughts about men and tears, inspired by a moment in which he found himself crying over the loss of a contestant he was rooting for in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. He's inspired to start a diary of his tearful moments, brought on by meaningful life experiences but also by sporting events, reality competition shows like Tool Academy and Top Chef, and the television oeuvre of Dick Wolf (Law & Order). His candid entries are supplemented with observations on iconic moments in male crying, a variety of found footage, and appropriate song choices (Johnny Cash's "Cry Cry Cry," The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," etc.).

The assembled elements form a funny, charming, thoughtful, and touching work that will strike a chord with anyone who's ever caught their eyes welling over a TV drama, a manipulative ad campaign, or an athlete talking about a career highlight. And its arrival to the public in 2020 feels meaningful, as so much of the divisiveness surrounding issues such as mask mandates and policing are tightly bound to very traditional (and often toxic) concepts of manhood.

We're excited to share a link to the film for #TBT, courtesy of the filmmaker. Below that, Beebe answers a few questions about the film. 

Watch Historia Calamitatum (the story of my misfortunes), Part II: The Crying Game on Vimeo.

How would you describe your relationship to tears/crying before your epiphany watching the spelling bee?

It’s hard to remember vividly the time before I opened the floodgates more than 20 years ago, but I do have a vague memory of “fighting back the tears” in the way that traditional masculinity would prescribe, at least when in public. As I say in the film, there were some pretty intense bouts of private crying in my life before that breakthrough—and my Mom reminded me of another, when I came down bawling after reading Les Misérables in high school—so I suspect there were already imperfections in my indoctrination as a man (in that traditional clench-jawed version) that allowed me to embrace crying when I did.

How did you go about collecting footage and songs for the film? Did you have any particular incidents or songs in mind to start?

The film came together really slowly—I had it in mind as a future project and was collecting materials for years. I know I have a VHS tape of the spelling bee (although, sadly, not the spelling bee that produced those first tears), another with that SportsCenter Jim Mora crying footage, and a third tape with Taps that all made it into the final video. (And, yes, the fact they were on VHS tells you something about the era when I started gathering the materials.)  The songs came later—when I started putting together an edit in earnest toward the end of October 2013 during a two-week residency at MacDowell, I first just raided what I had on my computer and iPod and then supplemented that with a handful of downloads. So much of the stuff—like that scene in A League of Their Own—had just been rattling around in my brain with the rest of the world of pop culture, so when it came time to assemble the film and try to find a shape for these materials, I just had to go online and track them down in one way or another.

Looking back at the film now, do you have any thoughts about the subject in relation to the present and the strong emotions that seem to be dominating a lot of discourse?

Honestly, I’ve had lots of moments in these last years where I’ve had to recognize there’s a dimension of my crying that’s not represented in the film. I wanted the film to reclaim tears as a source of pleasure instead of just pathology, and I still feel that. But I’ve also encountered moments over these last years—and maybe an increasing number of them in Trump’s America, post-Ferguson, etc.—that don’t feel euphoric or cathartic. I’m not sure exactly how to integrate those kind of tears with what I was exploring in the film (where it often seems that the sources of my tears were more trivial). I still have to believe that being in touch with these feelings and letting the tears flow is better than fighting them back or feeling nothing at all…

Image courtesy of the filmmaker

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