Screening Room

Screening Room

Americocentricity: Babel and Borat force us to look beyond our culture

By Frank Pittman

March/April 2007

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. Amores Perros in 2000, 21 Grams in 2003, and now Babel, each intertwine several stories about interconnections between people in different circumstances and divergent places.

Babel, 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…

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Topic: Families

Tags: Motion pictures

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