• The Happy Film - Film Review

    I recently attended a film screening of Stefan Sagmeister’s “The Happy Film” hosted by RGD, (Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario). It was held at the IMAX Theatre, at Science North.  


    “Austrian designer Stefan Sagmeister is doing well. He lives in New York, the city of his dreams, and he has succeeded in his work, designing album covers for the Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, and the Talking Heads. But in the back of his mind, he suspects there must be something more. He decides to turn himself into a design project. Can he redesign his personality to become a better person? Is it possible to train his mind to get happier? He pursues 3 controlled experiments of meditation, therapy, and drugs, grading himself along the way. But real life creeps in and confounds the process: art, sex, love, and death prove impossible to disentangle. His unique designs and painfully personal experiences mark a journey that travels closer to himself than ever intended.” - IMDB.com 


    The Happy Film

    Image from https://www.thehappyfilm.org


    You can watch the trailer here.


    When I saw the announcement on Facebook for this event, I was so excited! I remember seeing Stefan Sagmeister at a Design Thinkers conference years ago. I think it was in 2012. I was fresh out of college, and being able to see a lecture by a design rockstar was exhilarating. His presentation was an inspiration, showcasing his past work, which included a work in progress; The Happy Film. He showed us a little clip from it, specifically the part where he tries to talk to women on the street, with the goal of getting a woman’s number. It sounds a little terrible as I type it out, but it was all about stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to people. I remember the awkwardness as he tried to give a little flower to someone. At the time I remember thinking; “I really want to see this when it’s finished”. 


    Stefan Sagmeister holding a yellow flower

    Image from https://www.thehappyfilm.org


    Apparently, it took a really long time to finish. The film itself came out in 2016, by which time I had completely forgotten about it. According to the film’s promo website,  it took 7 years for this documentary to be completed. It was also backed by Kickstarter. (Fun Fact!) It is a design project as much as it is a documentary. The film itself is beautiful, with a great many examples of Sagmeister’s creative eye throughout it, as we follow on Sagmeister’s journey. His attempts to make himself happy using meditation, therapy and drugs are introspective, funny and at times a bit heartbreaking. I left the theatre thinking that I needed to take more time to play in my work, experiment more, and take the time to do things that make me happy. But the film itself didn’t make me happy. 


    I did have a great time at the event though, meeting new people as well as seeing old friends. It was also great to see the film on the big screen. I do hope that more events like that happen, to bring our design community together. I am very happy that I finally got a chance to see The Happy film!


    Have you seen it? or maybe visited The Happy Show (Stefan Sagmeister’s corresponding art exhibit)? What did you think? Did it make you happy?

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