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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There may be good reasons to not like Ballast, but the fact that a "white" director made it should not be one of them

Here's my comment re: SpoutBlog's post Does Ballast Really Deserve a Backlash? In that question lies another question - is it acceptable for a director to make a film about people who belong to another social/ethnic/political/economic/"racial" group? Here's what I said about it:

I don’t see any problem with a person from one group making a work of art/entertainment about a person or people from another social/religious/political/national/ethinic/”race”/whatever group. We (humans) have been doing it for thousands of years. Some do it well, others don’t. But either way, it’s alright to do.

I thought Gandhi was well done - not that I am an expert on the life & times of Gandhi - but, as a movie goer - what I saw & heard seemed like a good reflection of what I knew about Gandhi, even though the movie was made by a non-Indian & “white”, British director. So, it is possible, I think, for a person to make a good movie about a person or a group of people from another group/nation/time, etc.

Back to Ballast: within any large group of people there is a lot of variety in personalities, reactions to the world, etc. It would be impossible to prove that a certain character trait does not exist or has never existed in a given group, as portrayed (sp?) in a movie.
Have not seen Ballast yet. If I end up not liking it, it won’t be for the fact that a “white” director made it even though it’s about “black” people. Say NO to segregation in art making ya’ll.

For the Spout post & all the comments, go here.

- Sujewa

5 comments:

ScripTeach said...

You tell 'em Sujewa!

I am so TIRED of this bullshit: "You're not one of us, so you can't tell our story!" Yes I can. And feel free to tell your version of my people's story too.

It's all about creating art and reflecting the artist's vision. It might not be accurate or the most informed or most nuanced, but it is that artist's vision and they're free to go ahead make their it, just as I'm free to disagree with it, boycott it or write my commentary on it. It's called free speech and mature adults have to learn to deal with it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know ... there's a bad history of minorities not having been able to be in control of telling of their stories. That was wrong, plain and simple. But people are more empowered today. You gonna live in the past or are you going to go out there and tell the story you want? I won't stop you, don't stop me.

Bill

The Sujewa said...

Fortunately for artists, we are dealing with deeper & broader things about the human experience than the limited area of knowledge that politically motivated ethnic group/race/tribe type thinking has access to.

Both "white"-ness & "black"-ness are recent phenomenons. The concept of White people vs. rest of humanity goes back to the days of European colonization (less than 500 - 1000 years) and the concept of Black people goes back to around the same time - and becoming more pronounced & relevant, for us now, after the formation of the US in the Americas, etc.

But, underneath those political identities (i see both White & Black primarily as political identities - created for the purpose of managing people, power, etc., not organic things but man made intellectual concepts) lies the more eternal human identity. Humans are at least 200,000 years old (modern humans, with our kind of brain/mental capacity), so, when artists make work about people - they/we are dealing with stuff that goes far beyond relatively recent & temporary political identities.

A good artist, with enough research & skill, should be able to make a complex work - a movie, novel, etc. - that not only meets the expectations of excellence that a certain group of people (ethnic, national, etc.) may have of the work and also appeals to broader humanity - to people who may not know about the particulars of a certain ethnic group's/tribe's/nation's existence but, being human, is familiar with details of human existence.

As an example of such cross boundary, even relevant across time, work I'd say to look at the novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Published, I believe, in the mid-1800's in France, written by an author who we could now classify as African-French, the book is popular world wide to this day BECAUSE the work taps into aspects of the human experience that is not limited by narrow political boundaries such as race/ethnicity/nationality, etc.

So, yeah, to put it simply, it is in everyone's interest to allow artists to make work about anyone they want. When we turn to art/entertainment we (at least most of us I hope) are looking for more than ethnicity based political propaganda. We are looking for interesting reflections of the human experience, and most good (skilled) artists should be able to provide that.

- Sujewa

The Sujewa said...

A little bit more re: The Count of Monte Cristo's author Alexander Dumas, pere:

from wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Dumas,_p%C3%A8re

"Despite Alexandre Dumas' success and aristocratic connections, his being of mixed-race would affect him all his life. In 1843, he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism."

and

"Buried where he had been born, Alexandre Dumas remained in the cemetery at Villers-Cotterêts until 30 November 2002. Under orders of the French President, Jacques Chirac, his body was exhumed, and in a televised ceremony, his new coffin, draped in a blue-velvet cloth and flanked by four Republican Guards costumed as the Musketeers - Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and D'Artagnan - was transported in a solemn procession to the Panthéon of Paris, the great mausoleum where French luminaries are interred. In his speech, President Chirac said:

"With you, we were D'Artagnan, Monte Cristo, or Balsamo, riding along the roads of France, touring battlefields, visiting palaces and castles—with you, we dream."[6]

In that speech, President Chirac acknowledged the racism that had existed, saying that a wrong had now been righted with Alexandre Dumas enshrined alongside fellow authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.[6] The honor recognized that although France has produced many great writers, none have been as widely read as Alexandre Dumas. His stories have been translated into almost a hundred languages, and have inspired more than 200 motion pictures.[7]"

So, there you go, had Dumas decided to write only about people that look like him or are a part of his "racial"/ethnic/whatever group, the world & France would be without some great stories.

- Sujewa

ScripTeach said...

Thanks for the follow-ups, they're great!

The Sujewa said...

Glad you like them ScriptTeach.

- Sujewa

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