Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Philosopher Kings

by Drew Martin
So after watching Examined Life this morning, a film about philosophy approached by some of today's most accomplished philosophers, I watched The Philosopher Kings, a thoughtful film, which examines the lives of custodians/janitors who work at elite universities. If Examined Life questions our existence and lives, The Philosopher Kings gives some answers with the profiles of eight custodians. The stories are told by the janitors themselves and by observing them at and after work. We first follow Michael Seals on the campus of the U.C. Berkeley en route to the Genetic Plant Biology facility to respond to a call to restock a bathroom. Corby Baker tends to the facilities at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. He gets inspiration from the students and their works for his own art projects. Melinda Augustus is one of 15 kids and had a mother who went into and stayed in a coma during the last delivery. She works at the University of Florida in the Florida Museum were she cleans around the displays and says she likes cleaning and the environment. Jim Evener at Cornell University is a Vietnam veteran who says he has learned more in the seven years cleaning up around Cornell (i.e. the nanotechnology lab) than he did in school. Oscar Dantzler works in the Duke chapel and says that no one can straighten the chairs like he does and is happy to work in such a mystical space. Josue Lajeunesse cleans at Princeton University. He is a Haitian immigrant who sends money back home to dozens of family members and says he works 24/7. Luis Cardenas works at Cal Tech. He lost an arm in a car accident on the way to work but received no compensation for it. He thinks one's life is already written and says the hardest part of his job is changing the office trash bags with one arm. Gary Napieracz also works at Cornell University and says his relationship with the students is amazing. From his brief appearance it is immediately obvious that he also sees himself as a custodian of the students, not just the facilities. This is an authentic film that honors the lives of these eight custodians and has much more emotional depth than Examined Life, that is perhaps too conscious of itself.

Click here to see the trailer for The Philosopher Kings