Questionable Cinema (Full Version)

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KnightofZyryab -> Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 4:32:14 PM)

By questionable I mean ethically or morally insensitive films, or ones that trivialise real world matters or events. Which is a very general definition, but I'm thinking recently of the film The Impossible, based on a family of real life survivors of the 2004 tsunami. By and large it seems the film has received critical acclaim for the performances, effects and the representation of human drama in one of the worst natural disasters of the century, but I've been quite surprised more people haven't brought attention to the decision to make a film about the plight of a Western, non-native family - who were in actuality Spanish, portrayed as English here - at the expense of the masses of people who perished in Thailand.

Now, I don't want to turn this into a pointed exercise in post-colonial criticism, and I don't want to fall down instantly on the side of condemnation, but I think films like this tend to obfuscate the origin of the tragedy in Thailand, co-opting it, in critical speak. On the other hand, you could argue the director is simply representing on screen the remarkable story of a Spanish family who survived the tsunami, and stories like that deserve to be told. Thoughts?




DancingClown -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 5:58:59 PM)

I understand completely what you're saying, and I do have my reservations about watching it based on the issues you mention. However, I guess when it comes to creative choices on screen it makes more sense commerically to focus the story on a Western family so they can cast recognisable actors. Sad, but true. But the story is still a true one, and I guess their particular tragedy can act as a microcosm for all the other tragedies that day, regardless of ethnicity. I guess the film-makers didn't want to make a kind of non-specific overview of the entire event for although that might be more accurate in general it wouldn't serve the specific human elements of this particular story and have it mirror others dramatically. Plus they carry the point-of-view of outsiders, which I guess lends a unique perspective.

I do find re-casting them as English as opposed to Spanish slightly harder to justify, for although it might not make much of a difference to the power of the story it does throw up some odd questions. I can imagine quite a hoo-hah if the family had been English and Hollywood had made them American. U571 anyone? Having said that I'd rather hear from the film-makers - and the original family - about these decisions before I cast any judgement.




elab49 -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 6:21:38 PM)

In fairness, it's a Spanish director telling the tale of a Spanish family - there's no real criticism of a director covering their own national narrative although Bayona choosing to get the story a wider release by recasting the nationality is maybe a bit different. But at least he's a Spanish director choosing to do so.

I'm trying to remember the name of a film made more locally which looked at it in that context too (not overtly about the tsunami but about the shock of the unexpected) - but it was a local story by a local director.

Another example might be Zero Dark Thirty and the controversy about the respresentation of torture within the film as useful and not looking at it in any kind of moral or ethical context.




Deviation -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 6:32:27 PM)

I'm going to echo DC and say I don't have much problems with the perception of a Western outsider in the tsunami, it's still an interesting perception.

The Impossible is a Spanish film from The Orphanage director, and the reception the film had in Spain suggests that much not hoo-ha happened there about the change and I haven't heard of any protests from the Spanish family itself (it does reek of changing it just for the chance of greater success though).

Also, this might be a stupid, offensive opinion but I'd rather see some films from Thailand (or any affected country) itself do a film about their own nation's disasters. I tend to think that somebody living in Thailand, a person who lives and breaths in that country will possibly do a more personal and in depth movie about the disaster from the nation's and citizen's perspective then an outsider who is not really living in the area. It's not an absolute thing, Boyle (and the other Indian director aiding him) made a good half-film about kids in India even if he doesn't live there, but I think there's a nuance that can be found in the man from the nation itself about the nation's locals condition that might not be found in that an of outsider's.

Plus, it cannot be as offensive and manipulative as Hereafter's abuse of tragedies to pass a facile point and some psuedo-mystical bullocks.




KnightofZyryab -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 9:57:06 PM)

Hmm I guess I can come round to the idea of having a Western perception on the Tsunami, but the decision to change the family's nationality is certainly a moot point, since assuming it would be Spanish actors speaking in Spanish, it would push the film into the 'foreign cinema' category, one which is more often avoided by average cinema goers and hence is to the detriment of commercial representation. I think in terms of fidelity to the actual events it looks very suspect when the family's national origins are changed, even if the director himself is Spanish.

Regards Zero Dark Thirty - which I haven't seen yet - Bigelow's an interesting director in that she almost seems to refuse to pass any kind of ethical judgement on the actions which happen in her films - I'm thinking of The Hurt Locker which (from what I can remember) if anything leans towards a military dedication. But then again, perhaps it's perfectly 'legitimate' just to portray events without passing a judgement. I suppose it depends on the material - when it's something as politicised as the current War on Terror, it's a difficult position to maintain by evading any kind of critical response.




elab49 -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 10:07:05 PM)

But British people did die in the tragedy as well. If, say, Attenborough chose to make a film about the dreadful loss to his own family, would anyone suggest it was intruding on another countries narrative? Bayona is an outsider and would likely understand the tragedy as an outsider - that's still a story he's entitled to tell. 




KnightofZyryab -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 10:25:44 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: elab49

But British people did die in the tragedy as well. If, say, Attenborough chose to make a film about the dreadful loss to his own family, would anyone suggest it was intruding on another countries narrative? Bayona is an outsider and would likely understand the tragedy as an outsider - that's still a story he's entitled to tell. 


I'm not contesting their right to tell the story - as I acknowledged, experiences like that deserve to be told. I just don't understand the decision to change the nationality. Perhaps the perspective of British and Spanish would not be far different, but it's a difference nonetheless.




elab49 -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 10:51:24 PM)

It was more in response to your initial point - the use of a Western family to tell a story. [:)]




directorscut -> RE: Questionable Cinema (1/1/2013 11:07:11 PM)

The film cost $45 million which would make it the most expensive Spanish production ever made. This would require large amounts of pre-sales to distributors to make it financially viable, which means the film needs stars. The amount of international Spanish movie stars I can count on a maimed hand - Banderas, Bardem and Cruz. That's a pretty small field to pick from, so what happens if they don't want to do it or can't do it?

I strongly suspect it's a case of the film being made with Hollywood stars they can attract or not at all.

Also, as is the case of most films based on true events I think the filmmakers would hope that the film is a springboard for people to learn more about the real event rather than just be their only exposure of it.




Deviation -> RE: Questionable Cinema (2/1/2013 1:25:57 AM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: KnightofZyryab

Regards Zero Dark Thirty - which I haven't seen yet - Bigelow's an interesting director in that she almost seems to refuse to pass any kind of ethical judgement on the actions which happen in her films - I'm thinking of The Hurt Locker which (from what I can remember) if anything leans towards a military dedication. But then again, perhaps it's perfectly 'legitimate' just to portray events without passing a judgement. I suppose it depends on the material - when it's something as politicised as the current War on Terror, it's a difficult position to maintain by evading any kind of critical response.


If I remember well, Boal and Bigelow defended the way they used torture, never claiming it was useful for the find of bin Laden or not, simply claiming it happened. The focus isn't on torture is bad, but the psychological wieght Chastian's character is undergoing through the hunt.

Also, I kinda dislike the criticism. The criticism of Downfall not being somehow, "directly critical" to Hitler I've always found naff, and one of the best things about the Coens' True Grit is how it isn't concerned in criticizing the actions of revenge made by the characters, it's simply happening.

quote:

The film cost $45 million which would make it the most expensive Spanish production ever made.


It isn't, that would be Amenabar's Agora which cost a huge 75 million. And bombed everywhere outside Spain, making half the money even something by Almodovar is capable of doing (Volver was at least, huge). If we include productions made in collaboration with other non-Spanish studios, then Che would have also been bigger.




directorscut -> RE: Questionable Cinema (2/1/2013 1:40:20 AM)

Second, third - so sue me. The main point remains.




Deviation -> RE: Questionable Cinema (2/1/2013 1:57:19 AM)

YOU WERE WRONG ACCEPT IT FEED MY PEDANTRY




paul_lfc -> RE: Questionable Cinema (2/1/2013 2:49:02 AM)

Are you sure the characters definitely aren't Spanish? (even if they speak english) like the german characters in Schindlers List




Deviation -> RE: Questionable Cinema (2/1/2013 3:22:51 AM)

No, Spanish nationality shifted to English. Though tbh, it really doesn't matter. I can't imagine a Spaniard's experience being that radically different from an English one just because of his nationality. Or even a Chinese' persons, or anyone who was a tourist there.

Unless you weren't an Indonesian tourist and then went home to see your own country destroyed by the tsunami or something and got a double-whammy of despair.




Spiked -> RE: Questionable Cinema (11/1/2013 9:27:58 PM)

Depends on the sensitivities of the viewer, which naturally will differ from folk to folk.




great_badir -> RE: Questionable Cinema (14/1/2013 12:55:26 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: Spiked
Depends on the sensitivities of the viewer, which naturally will differ from folk to folk.


It also depends on the sensitivities of those affected by the real events portrayed. In The Impossible's case, am I right in thinking that both the family in question and many others related to victims of the tsunami have been very vocal about how offended they are by the film? On the other hand, if we take 9/11 as another "good" example, amongst detractors, plenty of victims' families came out in support of stuff like United 93, and even World Trade Centre and even-even Remember Me, a film which otherwise generally slated by critics and audiences alike.

I've no doubt, once The Impossible has done the rounds for a while, there will be victims' families praising the film. It is, after all, a true story with a true ending, and some will accept that amongst all the heartache with open arms.




matty_b -> RE: Questionable Cinema (14/1/2013 4:00:08 PM)

I'm sure I'd heard that the mother of the family had actually either specifically approved or requested the casting of Naomi Watts as she's her favourite actress.




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