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Author Topic: Top 100 Club: JDC  (Read 7671 times)

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #120 on: February 15, 2021, 10:18:26 PM »
The New World is also what I feared it could be, which is of a distinctly white, male gaze about a topic maybe the creator should not be touching.
I disagree strongly. I've took a lot of the John Smith parts to be Smith's subjective recollection of events. Then it seems to shift towards Kilcher's view more in the back half, when she lives in Jamestown and especially when we enter England and see that world through her eyes.

Yes, issues of colonialism are important, but I don't think the film is dismissive of those ideas it's just not focusing on the larger conflict as what this story is about. This film went to a lot of lengths to include American Indians as actors and also to have them speak in their native tongues. Malick also shows how the core conflict between the groups is one where the two have different ideas about community, possession and wealth.

It is a love story, not one about trauma or war. You seem to be critiquing it for something it's not while also ignoring a lot of good representation done here for a people group that have historically only shown up in American movies as the villains who kill white cowboys or sidekicks to white heroes.

Also, it is worth noting that these are historical events and a lot of lines are passages from writings from John Smith and John Rolf. Whether or not those writings are accurate to what actually happened is debatable but Rolf did marry Pocahontas. She did take a trip to England and the events thereafter did transpire as a historical fact.

I think we do a great disservice to depictions of history when we want to impose our value structures on historical contexts in which we did not exist. I am not saying what people did in those times was morally right, but we have the advantage of a perspective that those people perhaps did not have. In other words, we like to go around critiquing these stories as if we wouldn't make the same exact mistakes as the characters here. I think that's the lie we tell ourselves from a distance.


All that being said, I wonder what you'd think of Thin Red Line, which is Malick's most violent film. It's a war film where the carnage makes a lot more sense but the Japanese are mostly nameless characters.
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jdc

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #121 on: February 15, 2021, 11:21:02 PM »
I worry that any idea should fall into a “topic that the creator should not be touching”  due to it imposes limits or controls to those that want to create or express something. Especially when the story is  not specifically of a privileged group telling the story of a marginalised group as the story cuts the across both, though mainly from John Smiths’s perspective. I feel like it becomes a no win situation, would it be more acceptable for a White American director to tell the story from purely a marginalised culture’s perspective without being accused of appropriating their culture?

I’ve already read Sam’s reply so will not try to cover any of his points but think it is quite reasonable.

I don’t find it paints John Smith as a very good person in the end, too worried of image and opinion that causes him to lose what really should have mattered in his life once he is restored to his own culture. My wife hasn’t watched it so I might be rewatching it this week if we can find the time. So I may offer more thoughts after another viewing.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #122 on: February 15, 2021, 11:42:42 PM »
The New World is also what I feared it could be, which is of a distinctly white, male gaze about a topic maybe the creator should not be touching.
I disagree strongly. I've took a lot of the John Smith parts to be Smith's subjective recollection of events. Then it seems to shift towards Kilcher's view more in the back half, when she lives in Jamestown and especially when we enter England and see that world through her eyes.

Yes, issues of colonialism are important, but I don't think the film is dismissive of those ideas it's just not focusing on the larger conflict as what this story is about. This film went to a lot of lengths to include American Indians as actors and also to have them speak in their native tongues. Malick also shows how the core conflict between the groups is one where the two have different ideas about community, possession and wealth.

It is a love story, not one about trauma or war. You seem to be critiquing it for something it's not while also ignoring a lot of good representation done here for a people group that have historically only shown up in American movies as the villains who kill white cowboys or sidekicks to white heroes.


It depicts events that are traumatic, but is not about trauma? That is not a decision one gets to make. It just is a film that contains a lot of trauma, so it is about trauma.

To be blunt, white men should not be making films about indigenous people without going through incredible due diligence to make sure they get every detail correct from the perspective of the people who suffered most, or they should not make them. Praising him for "including" indigenous people on the project sounds more like paternalism than anything else. How nice for him to include the people whose land was invaded and people slaughtered by people who looked quite like...him.

The point about imposing our value structure on the past makes no sense when the movie was made in 2005. If it was a book written in the 1600's, that may make sense, though I would not just overlook it if its prose was pleasant, but 2005 isn't too long ago. I think our consciousness was raised enough by that point to realize what to and what not to touch, and how to go about it.

Just brings me back to this point: Why make the story he want to tell in this manner? Couldn't he find any other loving relationship that wasn't just absolutely fraught with historical problems, i.e. the race of one begins its attempted annihilation of another? Actually, I think A Hidden Life is the film I would've wanted. It's about love and resistance to tyranny in a strange and wonderful way. And there are no power dynamic issues that require me to ignore history to endure.

I worry that any idea should fall into a “topic that the creator should not be touching”  due to it imposes limits or controls to those that want to create or express something. Especially when the story is  not specifically of a privileged group telling the story of a marginalised group as the story cuts the across both, though mainly from John Smiths’s perspective. I feel like it becomes a no win situation, would it be more acceptable for a White American director to tell the story from purely a marginalised culture’s perspective without being accused of appropriating their culture?

To me, the point is to make cinema accessible to all, so that everyone can tell their own stories. I definitely don't think we need white American directors telling a story purely from the perspective of the maginalized culture. Get them cameras and and microphones and let them do it. I will say, there are a few movies where the white person/person from a different culture use the experiences of the marginalized to make films and get it right, but it usually involves a ton of research and care. It's not like white America doesn't have any stories, or that there aren't any stories that are multi-cultural that a white person can't help telling. It's just good to know which are yours to tell, and which aren't.

Just going into the film, I thought there was a chance something could be made of this premise, which is why I chose it in the first place. I certainly got a bit more educated on the story, but that story, with its incredible bias toward the British, perhaps could not have been done right. Maybe if there was more processing of what Pocahontas lost in this whole transaction, it could've been better.
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jdc

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #123 on: February 16, 2021, 02:48:30 AM »
I will probably try not to do down the rabbit hole just yet, maybe after a rewatch as it is fresher in your mind.  Just not sure I agree on the topic what is “yours to tell, and which aren’t” when I don’t believe he is making a film “about indigenous people” any more than he is making a film about white colonist. But he is making a film around an event that involves both which is the focus of the story. 

A film like Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto would be for close to be about indigenous people but doesn’t involve any colonist unit the last scene so doesn’t touch upon the injustices that incurred.  Can’t comment on any of its history though, I am sure it has for more problems.

 But you do mention some films that get it right, any examples that you care to give? 
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #124 on: February 16, 2021, 09:23:29 AM »
et, you seem to have a restrictive view of cinema that puts political justice at the forefront. Of course the problem becomes then who decides what is just and if that changes over time are we just constantly chasing a moving target?

And saying Malick is "including" indigenous people after I already laid out how he did the very thing you said he would need to do to depict them respectfully makes me think you need to learn more about both the process of the film being made and indigenous people before making such harsh accusations.

Also, I was talking about the actual context of the historical setting of the film, not 2005. Depicting historical events is not the same as condoning them and I think there's a lot that happens here that Malick would not personally condone.

I hope I'm not coming across as too confrontational here, I just think your reading of this film is a bad faith reading at best and at worst a flawed value system that privilages you political power system over an artist's creative expression.

I mean, at the end of the day these are just movies so you're free to have your opinion, I just think your political framework is going to strip away cinema's power to challenge us by empathizing with people regardless of their time and politics. There are certainly many films with gross political messages but I think you're stretching to make this one of them.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #125 on: February 16, 2021, 08:10:30 PM »
First, I don't want to hijack JDC's thread too much more, so this is my last response here. It can be taken to messages if need be. It is a month to celebrate his favorites, and I tried to do so by giving a forthright, earnest view of one of his films, because I know that he would appreciate the openness with which I expressed my views. I appreciate him hosting and putting his favorites out there, it's not easy.

That said, there's a few sticking points here that bother me, areas where I feel that people are misunderstanding me. So I'm going to do a point-by-point here to hopefully clarify where I'm coming from.

et, you seem to have a restrictive view of cinema that puts political justice at the forefront. Of course the problem becomes then who decides what is just and if that changes over time are we just constantly chasing a moving target?

I believe in cultural competency. Anytime someone is going to create something that includes cultures outside of their own - and especially when they are a member of the dominant culture and are touching on minority cultures that their own culture have worked to oppress - they must do their due diligence on the issues at hand, potential pitfalls given their positioning relative to the cultures they are covering, and this has to show up in the work itself.

The idea that my view is restrictive is odd to me. Is this to say that we should excuse works that are culturally incompetent? It's not going to happen with me, and I don't know why anyone else would let these things slide. Thousands upon thousands of films exist, so the idea that I find a fraction of a percent of the films I've seen as culturally/politically problematic, and thus rate lowly, as being overly restrictive is at minimum inaccurate, unless you find just any restriction for personal values at all to be restrictive (literal vs. connotative meaning here).

And saying Malick is "including" indigenous people after I already laid out how he did the very thing you said he would need to do to depict them respectfully makes me think you need to learn more about both the process of the film being made and indigenous people before making such harsh accusations.

So you said This film went to a lot of lengths to include American Indians as actors and also to have them speak in their native tongues. Malick also shows how the core conflict between the groups is one where the two have different ideas about community, possession and wealth.

I'm saying: Having indigenous people present and letting them speak their tongues does not matter when their perspective - and especially Pocahontas's perspective - is not explored in any more than a perfunctory manner. I do not think the contrast you see Malick making between the indigenous people and the white Europeans is made all that strongly. The presence of natives, the speaking of their language, this is cultural representation, and while that is progress over white people in redface, it's not in and of itself full cultural competence.

I still haven't received an answer about why Malick needed to use John Smith and Pocahontas to create the effect he wanted. He's not doing justice to the indigenous perspective. Why not pick something less fraught, historically?


Also, I was talking about the actual context of the historical setting of the film, not 2005. Depicting historical events is not the same as condoning them and I think there's a lot that happens here that Malick would not personally condone.

I hope I'm not coming across as too confrontational here, I just think your reading of this film is a bad faith reading at best and at worst a flawed value system that privilages you political power system over an artist's creative expression.

I mean, at the end of the day these are just movies so you're free to have your opinion, I just think your political framework is going to strip away cinema's power to challenge us by empathizing with people regardless of their time and politics.

I don't think Malick is condoning anything, I just think he's not properly and fully assessing his own positioning as a white man relative to indigenous people at the time of contact with the European settlers.

There's no bad faith here. I read things as I see them. I did not pick this film out to dislike it, I picked it to like it. I see a fatal flaw in how Malick portrays natives and colonizers, and I expressed it.

Art and self-expression are not the ultimate values for me. Striving for a world and society that is egalitarian in nature is far more important than a guy who wants to use early colonization of the Americas by the Europeans to tell a love story. That's not to say he couldn't have done it right, he just didn't. I wrote to JDC:

Just going into the film, I thought there was a chance something could be made of this premise, which is why I chose it in the first place. I certainly got a bit more educated on the story, but that story, with its incredible bias toward the British, perhaps could not have been done right. Maybe if there was more processing of what Pocahontas lost in this whole transaction, it could've been better.

I almost wonder if her lived reality gets in the way of his seeking the transcendent. I think that's something that has happened a fair few times in cinema, where the reality of a situation interferes with the artistic aims of a creator. Then, they try to bend the situation to their purpose, and it doesn't work out.

We have no duty to openly try to engage and empathize with Confederates, slave owners, colonizers, etc, we've been doing that too long. Of everything cinema can bring to us, I find it a little odd that one of those things we'd focus on would be dominant culture perspectives. If you want to understand those perspectives, most any American history book can take you there. History.com and the History Channel can take you there. The average American education comes primarily from the perspective and values systems of old white American men. We need to focus on empathizing with people who have been victimized by dominant culture and start hearing stories from those people's perspectives.

One thing I would be interested in knowing is what films you think hold these important perspectives on behalf of the dominant culture that we need to see and understand.


There are certainly many films with gross political messages but I think you're stretching to make this one of them.

And this is where we'll disagree, and that's fine. I just hope you can understand why I think the way that I think.

If you respond and want to continue the conversation, I'm good doing it through our inboxes. It is a very worthwhile conversation, but like I said, I don't want to hijack this thread further.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2021, 08:12:32 PM by etdoesgood »
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #126 on: February 16, 2021, 08:47:14 PM »
I guess we should just end this then because I've no interest in PMing this conversation. Defeats the whole purpose of having a forum.
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Eric/E.T.

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #127 on: February 16, 2021, 08:55:30 PM »
I was also thinking it could just be moved elsewhere.
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Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #128 on: February 16, 2021, 08:56:28 PM »
Made a place just for this: Cultural Politics of Movies

jdc

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Re: Top 100 Club: JDC
« Reply #129 on: February 16, 2021, 09:52:44 PM »
Thanks, I don’t mind the discussion but maybe best to move it since it could branch out beyond the fine films in my list:).  Why Malik choose this story? I don’t know, maybe for all the opportunities to show fields, rivers and forests, but I wouldn’t deny his right to tell the story.  I do look at the film confined to the specific time and events that it is telling and not trying to about the larger inJustices that have occurred which would be a different film.. Nothing is perfect but hopefully he has brought justice to the story.
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