Poverty and Hollywood…

Hi all…

Until recently, I had never really given poverty much thought. But with Blogger Action Day coming up, it’s made me think about it some.

If you go back as far as the silent movies with Charlie Chaplin, one of his best loved characters was the Tramp. He never had enough to eat and lived in hard times. But many people were facing hard times back then, so it was good to see a character you could identify with and see the humor in things.

Poverty in movies today isn’t quite as easy to see. There are a few movies here and there focusing on poverty or hardship growing up, but the blockbuster makes more money, so we see more of those from the big studios. Documentaries don’t make money (unless your name is Spurlock). And so it seems to have fallen out of the public eye.

I know I’m guilty of avoiding documentaries where I am not entertained. I go to the movie to enjoy myself, not to be educated or guilted into feeling bad. It doesn’t take much to make me feel bad at the movies. I’m a sentimental fool. And yet it’s interesting how often you see poverty slipped into even modern blockbusters.

Babylon A.D. starts in a war-torn area of Russia. People are trying to sell guns to get money for food.

Death Race is set in a world where the economy has crashed, everyone is fighting over jobs, and too many people are put in jail because they have to fight to survive.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden focused on finding Bin Laden, but showed us some of the hardship facing people living in Afghanistan. They had to buy tents on the black market.

Even in the background of The Incredible Hulk, you got to see the poverty and crowded conditions in South America where Bruce Banner was hiding.

So though we’re not seeing “movies about poverty” from Hollywood, the writers and directors are showing us slices of the world that includes poverty. They may not talk about how to solve it. But it’s there.

It’s just sad that these “powerful” people in Hollywood can’t see their way to directing some of their resources to raising awareness of the problem as a way to help solve it.

Can you imagine if Warner Brothers Pictures took part of the $900+ million dollars raised so far by The Dark Knight and [gasp] donated it to a worthy cause?

What would happen if every studio, for one year, decided to donate 10% of the income generated by all their movies? Think about the millions of dollars that would go to worthy charities.

But the odds of that happening are slim. Movie making is a business. Giving away profits is something the little fish do for publicity, not the big fish. But it does pose an interesting what if…

So the next time you watch a movie at the theater, keep an eye out for the signs of poverty. It’s there somewhere.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

Hey all…

I can’t say I was a big fan of Super Size Me (I still get longings for McDonald’s now and again), but with his latest movie – Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?Morgan Spurlock again makes us do something it seems that Americans hate to do sometimes… think.

[rating:4/4]

In his travels around the world (Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and finally Pakistan) he shows us that intelligent, reasonable people exist everywhere in the world, even in those places the media may tell us otherwise. It doesn’t matter if you are Islamic, Christian, Jewish, or any other religious denomination, madness is madness wherever you are.

Where in the World - Picture 1This type of documentary is a great reminder of the great “War on Terror” debate. How do you declare war on an idea? These radicals, wherever they may live, whatever gods they may pray to, live among good people in their nations and do unspeakable things in the name of their organization’s goals. By saying we have gone to war with these insane people, we have legitimized their role in the world — if I blow stuff up, I get attention, and my drawing attention to myself and my cause, it will bring change. Unfortunately, it’s not always the kind of change we need.

Spurlock asks everyday people in the Middle East simple questions like what they think of the Islamic radicals blowing themselves up in the name of Islam. And the answers are sometimes interesting.

Where in the World - Picture 2One of the most surprising things to me was the way the Hasidic Jews in Israel treated him at one point during his trip. They were physically pushing him away and out of their neighborhood and being verbally abusive. He was eventually helped out of the situation by Israeli police. But to see such intolerance even there makes me understand that there are radical Jews as well as radical Muslims, and though they may not be as violent, the potential for violence is there. Intolerance is scary stuff.

A telling quote from the movie was from Father Nabil Haddad of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Jordan. I’m paraphrasing a little here, but he said “What our American brothers and friends need is a cultural strategy. Without understanding each other, without mutual respect and understanding, there is no peace.”

I’m not a religious man, but amen to that.

One of my favorite segments was the one of Spurlock touring a Saudi Arabian mall. Nothing like beating you over the head with cultural differences in one of America’s favorite places to go — The Mall!

And his coverage of Afghanistan is heartbreaking. So much damage, so much money spent, but nothing to show for it. It all stays at the top. But beyond that, Spurlock as an embedded journalist was incredible. When the military tells you to get your butt back in the convoy, it’s time to go, no questions asked. They are still a war zone, and it looked the part.

Where in the World - Picture 3Spurlock has done a good thing by raising the awareness of cultural differences in this “war on terror” so that we can see that it’s not the world that has gone mad, but a few misguided souls causing heartache for us all.

The ultimate question may not be “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” but will finding him make a difference or do we have to figure out what’s important to us as a people, as a world?

Watch it and give it some thought. It’s definitely worth the watch. Plus, it has some cool extras, including the history of Afghanistan done in animation. 🙂

This gets a solid 4 out of 4 for me. Was it enlightening and educational? Definitely. Was it entertaining? Yes, and even though I prefer flights of fancy to flights of fact, I think it should be watched by any American wanting another perspective on America’s role in the Middle East.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden is available for purchase on DVD on August 26, 2008. Check it out!

I wonder what Spurlock is up to next. 🙂

Until then… Go see a movie!

–Fitz

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