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Author Topic: Nomadland  (Read 604 times)

Eric/E.T.

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Nomadland
« on: May 04, 2021, 10:45:11 PM »
Maybe this is the wrong place to talk about this because I'm not pursuing a discussion about spoilers, but the only worthwhile film-specific discussions on the forum seem to happen in this area.

I loved this film upon first viewing, and am generally immune to the "poverty porn" criticism, because I think filmmakers can tackle poverty in honest, humble ways even if they aren't poor themselves. (And since they're making films, they are destined to have some level of privilege over their subjects in these cases.) Now, Letterboxd is not the home to the world's finest criticism (what website is?), but I also think you can find some good stuff if you spend a little time on the site. Several negative, but decent reviews have this pegged as exploitative of the real-life nomads, and find a rich woman such as Frances McDormand portraying one of them as vain. There were some assertions I came across that in particular scenes, the people didn't even know McDormand was an actual famous actor, and that the power dynamics at play made mockeries of the non-professional actors and their stories.

The film came off as genuine, well-researched, and empathetic in my point of view. I know the answer is generally to use your two eyes, trust what you see and know, but I find that can lead to myopia. What do you all make of the idea that Nomadland is a problematic, exploitative, bourgeois piece of filmmaking? (TBH, also hoping oldkid will kick in some wisdom, as he's worked with the homeless, which I get are not necessarily the same thing here, but I think at least in the same ballpark.)
A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire

Bondo

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Re: Nomadland
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2021, 11:57:04 PM »
I hear the "rich people playing poor people is exploitation" in the context of the x can't play y people, only y people can play y people critiques as kind of proof of concept of the slippery slope. It really is reaching out toward the event horizon of The Invention of Lying where people can only be exactly who they are.

But moving beyond the who can tell these stories thing, I guess you could say that by making it seem like a lifestyle choice rather than deprivation per se, it defangs it, if the contention is that this community it tries to represent is merely a manifestation of deprivation instead of lifestyle. If that were the case, then I could see it as being an Eat Pray Love kind of vehicle for wine moms to briefly fantasize about a life free of all connections and duties. They just want to roam the gorgeous vistas of the West and float naked in rivers and not want to answer to husband or kids for a spell.

jdc

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Re: Nomadland
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2022, 05:57:10 AM »
Just got around to watching this last night with my parents.  As far as Eric’s question, I just think we start taking this too far if we are trying to pigeon hole roles to only those that somehow respresent the character of the role into those roles when it pertains to certain subjects. Not to say that lines can’t get crossed but then I start thinking we are creating more lines where there doesn’t need to be.  Otherwise, how do you even make some films or write some books.  Can you make Parasite if we think this way?  Maybe Kids is a rare exception of a film that is written and stars people that fairly respresent the community within the film since non had any professional experience at that time. 

I do want to read a bit more on the political thought of the film and to what Bondo alludes to around a lifestyle choice vs that this is the only choice for these people.

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Eric/E.T.

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Re: Nomadland
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2022, 01:47:01 AM »
So, it's not necessarily about pigeonholing, but being conscientious about your casting procedures. The big thing here is using the nonprofessional actors for their authenticity, just to endow the plus well-decorated A-list actor with the central role. That's obviously reading intent that I obviously don't know for sure. But there is a power dynamic there that seems questionable, especially if the nonprofessionals thought she was living the nomadic life instead of being in huge, often prestigious films, and quite rich.

That said, it is definitely a bourgeois piece of filmmaking, bringing more prestige to both director's and star's name than leaving an impression on the WHYs and HOWs of the nomadic lifestyle.

I wish Sean Baker had made this film. This material was made for him.
A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire