The trip back from Canberra was reasonably peaceful. Well, aside from the first half-hour where the bloke behind us had a very loud work-related conversation on his mobile phone. Ordinarily, I would have turned around and asked him to keep it down. But since he identified the company he worked for so early in the piece, the journalist inside won out, and I decided it was far more interesting to listen than not to listen. I learned a lot about how incredibly bureaucratic this particular private-sector organisation was, and how someone (named) was about to be shafted, amongst many other interesting items. It was all a bit too in-house to make a half-decent story, but it was a good reminder about how you should never discuss work-related matters in a public space. You never know when there’s a journalist listening in to your conversation. Well, the whole bus was listening in, so I could hardly be blamed if some of the information ends up in the public domain.
It was an interesting end to our final day in Canberra which started off with a mid-morning coffee at the Canberra Centre, followed by a screening of “Slum Dog Millionaire”. Sam and I were both surprised at how busy the cinema was at ten o’clock on a Tuesday morning. Although we both had a basic idea of the plot-line, neither of us was really prepared for the emotional onslaught that came with the movie. The basic plot-line concerning an impoverished young man from India who wins “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” sounds like a reasonably easy, feel-good kind of film. But of course it’s much more complex than that. And I’d read some fairly damning reviews of the film describing it as “poverty porn”. “What did that mean?”, I thought to myself as I watched some of the more graphic parts of the film. “How could you possibly ‘get off’ on poverty?” I asked myself.
It was then I came to the conclusion those who felt that way had no feeling at all. They were somehow trying to dismiss something quite distressing as some kind of insincere filmic device. I came to the conclusion reasonably quickly the film-makers wanted to show the incredibly complex nature of life in India where some parts of the country have been radically, economically transformed.
“You want to see the real India”, one of the characters says to an American tourist at one point, “well here it is….” Thus recognising and addressing head-on the almost-voyeuristic nature of some forms of Western tourism, where it’s all about the Western-person’s experience of the poverty, rather than the poverty itself. Actually, that’s a complex discussion I’m really not in a position to go into further. It’s probably best that I stick to what I know, and by that I mean my experience of the film.
For about two hours my stomach was in knots. The film has a great narrative, as the drama builds about whether or not the young orphaned man from the slums will achieve “the dream” of money and romance. Because of all the tension I was deeply moved. I think it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in the last five years. It engages both the heart and the mind. What could be better?
After the film, we caught up with a colleague who I’d hoped to see while visiting Canberra, and then had some lunch.
And before you knew it, it was time to catch the bus back to Sydney.
The bloody internet company still hasn’t resolved my problem, and so I’m still without the net at home.
It’s okay though, since I’ve had time to catch up on my blog, and to enjoy being back home after a few days away.
5 responses to “Back Home”
Re the bus story… on the way home from school I once sat in front of two ladies from church discussing my mother for the whole journey. I had lots of time to think about what I was going to do, so as I got out I leaned over and said “They say her daughters are very good looking.” I think they would have recognised me!
I loved Slumdog Millionaire and was stunned when a friend told me later she was traumatised by what was depicted in the film.
Gawd, for a moment I thought your shot of the view from the bus was a view of the Serengeti – it has really dried out in the past few weeks, a few giraffe would be right at home.
It was great to see you x
This Film calls a brilliant poor boy sleeping in Bombay Slum a Dog.
Indians all around the world are getting wounded.
If a white man is called a dog or a black man is called a dog, there will be protests.
It will become racism, but when an Indian is called such, its getting all Awards round the world. Pitty on these racists.
Dear Mr Ansari, I take on board your criticism. However, in the context of the movie the phrase “slum dog” is used by Indians to describe Indians. I therefore don’t consider it an issue or racism. Of course, there is the issue of the caste system which is a form of racism too. But in the context of this film, I think it’s an issue of class not race. I think the phrase is also used somewhat ironically – since the so-called “slum dog” is the hero of the film – so the intention is not to perpetuate issues of class or racism, but to highlight them. I think it’s also an issue of how the word “dog” is interpeted. In Germany, for example, a dog is the worst thing you can possibly call someone. And yet, the Swedish film “My Life As a Dog” (which is one of my all time favourites) goes without notice because it makes sense in the context of the film. It’s all about context, I guess. In Australia, for example, Aboriginal people often refer to each other as “black” which would be probably quite inappropriate in the United States. In this film, it’s my view the word “dog” is not a perjorative word, but a liberating word, though I appreciate you feel differently. I think the film also highlights in a very literal sense the difference between “Bombay” and “Mumbai”. In essence, as I said, I think it’s a very complex film. Aside from the title, what did you think of the film by the way? James