Saturday, December 22, 2007

Freedom Writers

Hundreds, if not thousands, of cinematic minds have broached the sensitive topic of racism and community violence with varying levels of involvement, intensity and effect.
One of the better among those that comes to my mind is 'Crash'. It left me with a tinge of sadness, but a lot of optimism. And it enchanted me with its cinematic excellence with regard to its screenplay. The idea of multiple stories interwoven into each other and running parallel isn't new. But Crash did it in a smooth classic way that just doesn't ruffle you.

'Freedom Writers' (2007) touches the same topic, and after almost everyone else has done it. Just when you feel that no facet of this issue has been left untouched, Freedom Writers comes with a solution.

Its a true story based on Rene Gruwell and her class of Woodrow Wilson High School freshmen. The movie is based on the journals she motivated her students to maintain.
Its an inspiring tale of how she converted a group of disturbed violent teenagers, each of whom had been pointed a gun at, lost at least one close friend (if not 4 to 5) to community violence, and had no faith in themselves or the system around them, into inspired souls who learnt how to respect themselves and respect others.
She finally got them to compile their journals into a book. The name of the book, 'Freedom Writers', was inspired from the 'Freedom Riders' of 1961 who challenged the apparently senseless Jim Crowe laws that mandated a 'separate but equal' status for black Americans.

A little bit of support and understanding can go a long way. What struck me most was her method. She shared their lives, and she shared with them the lives of many others who had faced similar and sometimes worse situations. She took them through Schindler's List, Anne Frank's story, the Holocaust, the Freedom Riders, everything. That she effected this change through 'sharing' reminded me of Avanoo.

I honestly cant relate much to racial discrimination as I have not faced it personally. And I don't remember when was the last time a movie made me cry. This one did.

It leaves you touched, inspired, glad, motivated and happy by the end of it. It must be special.

Originally published on Crimson Feet - Avanoo

Stranger Than Fiction

I saw this movie recently.

Earlier, I read a football champion and a wrestler, narrate his experience of coping with the "Central Cord Syndrome", as a result of a wrestling match accident. He explained how the toughest problems in life seem quiet manageable, only if we put them "in a little bit of perspective".

Expressing gratitude for simplest of things in life doesn't really come naturally to us. Nothing is too big and unsurmountable to die worrying about. And nothing is too small and insignificant to not be thankful for.

Many have spoken about it and felt it. And still, possibly, all of us tend to instinctively forget it.

I love this film for its simplicity, humor, extremely intelligent and engaging story telling and finally for the message. (There is an undertone of 'Douglas Adams' throughout the narrative approach of the film. It only adds to the whole impact.)

Sharing three quotes from the film -

Dr. Jules Hilbert: Hell Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
Harold Crick: What is wrong with you? Hey, I don't want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind, in a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you pause to think, you'd realize that, that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.

Kay Eiffel: "If a man does know he is going to die, and dies anyway, dies willingly knowing he could stop it, then, isnt that the type of man you want to keep alive!"

"As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick."

Originally published Crimson Feet

Afterlife / Wandafuru Raifu (Japanese)

If, at the time of your death, you were asked to pick just ONE memory of your life, and you were given an option to live/stay in that memory for ever, how easy or difficult you think it can be?

Afterlife is a film that moves you with its answers. It shows how tough the above question can be for some, because they don't think any of their past experiences is worthy enough to live in forever. And it can be equally tough for others, who feel they have so many such experiences that living in just one would mean losing out on all others.

Its a wonderfully simple movie, that makes you sit back, question and not take life for granted.
The pace of the movie reminds you of a gentle brook and the screenplay is like hide and seek in the woods nearby.

Simple Japanese cinematic excellence.

Originally Published on Crimson Feet - Avanoo