Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

Screening Room, Americocentricity: Babel and Borat Force Us to Look beyond Our Culture

Magazine article Psychotherapy Networker

Screening Room, Americocentricity: Babel and Borat Force Us to Look beyond Our Culture

Article excerpt

face=+Bold; SCREENING ROOMface=-Bold;

face=+Bold; Americocentricityface=-Bold;

face=+Italic; Babelface=-Italic; and face=+Italic; Boratface=-Italic; force us to look beyond our culture

BY Frank Pittman

Almost everywhere we go, we're reminded that we're part of a global community--except when we go to the movies. Strange. After World War II, we were in the sway of Italian neorealism, the French New Wave, and Ealing comedies from Britain, and we saw life in other countries as increasingly familiar. In these Americocentric times, the only foreign films that draw a crowd here are the ones that ignore culture and reality and focus only on sexandviolence.

But there are filmmakers who try to expand our vision and force us to identify with the wider global community. The filmmaker most determined to show us what it feels like in other cultures (and even in other neighborhoods) is Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu who, with his screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, has created three of the richest, most fully alive films since the early days of Federico Fellini or the late works of Robert Altman. face=+Italic; Amores Perrosface=-Italic; in 2000, face=+Italic; 21 Gramsface=-Italic; in 2003, and now face=+Italic; Babel,face=-Italic; each intertwine several stories about interconnections between people in different circumstances and divergent places.

face=+Italic; Babel,face=-Italic; four overlapping stories of lives blown apart by a single gun, was filmed in Morocco, Mexico, Tokyo, and San Diego. It's spoken in Berber, Spanish, English, Japanese, and sign language. It has movie stars (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal), along with the real faces of real people from all these faraway places.

Like Altman, Iñárritu can keep us aware of many different people and story lines on the screen at a time, never letting them coalesce into just a chorus or a mob. The Felliniesque Iñárritu plunges us into alien environments and makes us feel almost immediately what it would feel like to live in them day to day. He uses an ever-moving camera to draw us into these unfamiliar, often crowded, often lonely worlds. Fellini has brought us to live in the seaside resort town of Rimini (in face=+Italic; Amarcordface=-Italic; ), the lavish world of Rome among movie stars (in face=+Italic; La Dolce Vitaface=-Italic; ), or his own life (in face=+Italic; 8 1face=-Italic; /face=+Italic; 2face=-Italic; ). But Fellini surrounded us with strange, bigger-than-life people, while Iñárritu finds magic in the faces of the ordinary.

In face=+Italic; Babel,face=-Italic; a Berber goatherd in the Moroccan desert gives his adolescent sons a rhino gun to kill jackals who prey on the goats. The gun came from a Japanese hunter, who'd given it to his Moroccan guide. The boys practice with the gun by shooting at a tourist bus and accidentally wound Cate Blanchett, who's on a tense vacation with her husband (Brad Pitt) as they struggle with the recent death of their son. Pitt tries to summon help, while his fellow tourists are merely inconvenienced by the heat or the foreignness of the village where they end up. The American government promptly assumes it's a terrorist attack and refuses to let a helicopter or an ambulance enter the dangerous area.

The illegal alien nanny (Adriana Barraza), with whom Pitt and Blanchett have left their surviving children back in San Diego, can't go to Mexico to her son's wedding. She commandeers her thuggish nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal) to drive her and the passportless young kids to the riotous wedding, where they radiate excitedly amidst the color and joy of the occasion. On reentry, Bernal runs from the border cops and dumps his aunt and her charges in the desert, where the U.S. border control is willing to kill them to keep her out.

Meanwhile, a deaf-mute Japanese teenager (Rinko Kikuchi), who's mourning her mother, a recent suicide, and her distracted father, tries to seduce fatherly men as she contemplates suicide herself. …

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