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That this new film The Impossible leaves a nasty taste in my mouth?

(60 Posts)
CatPussRoastingOnAnOpenFire Sun 30-Dec-12 23:09:48

Ive just seen a trailer for this. Its about the 2004 tsunami.
About a blonde haired, white family, caught in the disaster, and their fight for survival.

I have then loked at the reviews. Here are a few snippets:
When not fully engrossed in our characters' plights and emotionally tied to their survival, we are thoroughly repulsed by the graphic scenes of bodily destruction that blood soak the screen. Director J.A. Bayona is no stranger to horrific make-up effects as he was the genius behind the camera for The Orphanage (2007) and he pulls no punches here. Some audience members were seen turning their heads unable to ingest the graphic nature of effects and few were even seen exiting while the scenes played out in long detail.

The downsides; there's something a little off-putting about choosing a white, privileged family as a focus, while at the same time showing almost exclusively other white people as suffering and afraid in a disaster that killed far more local people than tourists. The Thai's are certainly shown in a good light, kindly helping all these suffering whites, but even in the hospital, almost every face we see in a bed is a white one. That hint of odd racial insensitivity is also underlined by replacing the original family, who were Spanish and dark, and making them into a gorgeous blond English family, a telling choice in a 'true' story.

The film pretends to be about "universal goodwill", about how "tragedy brings people together". It's also relentlessly dehumanising. People do not matter unless they're white, the film filled with white victims and the white dispossessed. Local characters are either invisible or reduced to a couple rescue units at the bidding of white sufferers. Whilst many have complained that our foregrounded characters are white, that's not really the problem. The problem's that background characters are likewise. The fact that the vast majority of the dead, injured and displaced were Asian never registers. This has an interesting effect. In the way the film panders to white audiences whilst pretending to be about the universality of suffering, it's message becomes, unconsciously, that whites don't care about non-whites and target audiences identify only with their own. It's not economically feasible to cater to the Other. Of course it's fitting that a film about universal goodwill largely ignores the suffering of non-white characters. The real life event hinged on a similar social dismissal. A film about the plight of wealthy, vacationing Westerners which turns a blind eye to the deaths of thousands of locals perfectly sums up the lesson of the tsunami itself; they don't matter.

pawpawya Mon 21-Jan-13 09:11:25

I don't believe in the "too soon" thing as a general principle, it is for those personally connected with a tragedy to decide when it is too soon for them to watch something for entertainment that depicts or plays off of it. If it interferes with their grieving and recovery process then they can find something more appropriate for them.

I am somewhat more concerned about the racial issues, though Django Unchained has been monopolising the talk of race in cinema over these past months... if you want to watch high-quality narratives without a Eurocentric/white bias I would recommend the films of Thailand, Japan and South Korea: there is a whole range to be explored from those regions.

People get different things out of the cinema, which is fine- there is not one regimented "correct response" to it. Wrt Startail the majority of people do seem to want escapism at the cinema, which is why they make money putting on fantasy blockbusters, supernatural horrors, grand historical pieces and fluffy/gross-out comedies at your average multiplex in your average city. As for me, I associate the cinema with philosophical discourse and multicultural exploration, and so you'll find me in the smaller specialist or "repertory" cinemas. Both ends of the spectrum and some in between can all be profitable even in an age of Blu-ray, full HD and tablets- the social experience is something not replicable by home ents technology.

stickingattwo Sun 20-Jan-13 22:05:57

Oh and all that about them being rich, hiring a private jet etc = that's all rubbish. They were a fairly ordinary middle class Spanish family living in Japan because the dad had a job there, they took a holiday in thailand. the mother was a DR who was on a career break looking after the kids. They get a medical flight to Singapore provided by their TRAVEL insurance because she was still very ill and needed more treatment. Which is kind of the point of travel insurance. The Thai hospitals were totally overwhelmed by the numbers of critically injured so I guess staying there really wasn't an option.

stickingattwo Sun 20-Jan-13 21:56:46

YABU - you should actually watch a film before you judge it.

It's an extraordinary story because an entire family survived a direct hit from a tsunami - including 3 young kids. It isn't unnecessarily gruesome - but the mother was terribly injured, and that's shown because it make her survival all the more miraculous.
50% of the 300k+ people who died in South East Asia were "foreigners" tourists, westerners. The film shows all nationalities western and asian.

Go see the film then decide, if you still think YANBU fair enough.

FairPhyllis Sun 20-Jan-13 19:55:24

^And I think the Schindler's List question was a good one. Do the people who find The Impossible offensive find Schindler's list offensive too?

Both are true. Both are based on real people (Oskar Schindler/real Spanish family). Both show death.^

I think the difference is that I don't have any expectation of the Impossible (which I'm not going to see) being about anything other than the spectacle of the disaster. That feels ghoulish to me, to go to be entertained by things being flooded and smashed up, and wallowing in the sheer destruction, knowing that it was real so very recently. Same goes for Titanic. Schindler's List (which I actually haven't seen, although I know the story) seems more of a character study and about examining the moral choice Schindler and people like him were able to make. That seems like a film which at least has the potential to say something about the Holocaust and how people reacted to it morally - its not just about showing industrial scale suffering.

And FYI many Holocaust scholars are highly sceptical about the moral and social effects of the way the Holocaust is represented in film, including in Schindler's List. It's not necessarily a good example to pick, because some people do find it offensive.

ThedementedPenguin Sun 20-Jan-13 19:50:46

I've seen it. I thought the movie was very good and it was very sad.

It is a true story so this happened to someone. It was someone's reality at that point in time.

It can be quite graphic in times but no worse than other movies I've seen.

starlady Sun 20-Jan-13 19:35:58

yes amandine - and I think that last scene of them getting on the plane, and the body and leaving it all behind, made a really big point - about their surivors guilt mixed in with their sheer relief at being able to do this.

I really hope that Maria Belon hasn't read any of the unpleasant, kneejerk politically motivated criticisms, or at least, taken them to heart. She sounds like an amazing woman.

This was the world's biggest recorded natural disaster. I'd forgotten about that till this film. The Titanic sinking spawned so may films, perhaps The Impossible will pave the way for a larger audience for a film from a Thai perspective.

So yes OP, I think you have been a tad Unreasonable in your dismissal of this film.

amandine07 Sun 20-Jan-13 19:04:18

I'd like to add- I've seen the film and the family did not hire a private plan to get out of Thailand.

It was via their insurance company and it was a medical evacuation to Singapore as the mother needed more medical care.

I believe that the mother in real life, Maria Belon, had to have her leg amputated due to the severity of her injuries.

I'd say that people should watch the film for themselves- I didn't come away from the film thinking the family were rich/entitled/didn't help anyone else.
The teenage son (who was a very impressive actor) went round the hospital trying to help reunite other families...his mother, while seriously I'll on a makeshift hospital bed, had encouraged him to go and help others in any way he could.

HyvaPaiva Sun 20-Jan-13 17:46:19

I came on here to share the quote from Maria Belon that starlady has already provided. I also agree with Qod. It's not about nationalities - and in any case, it did affect 'blonde, white families' as well as Asian families. In the film, the family happen to be white, the chosen setting happens to be Thailand. I know locals in Sri Lanka who worked damned relentlessly to help both other locals and tourists. They certainly wouldn't care which particular nationality or family the film focused on: the focus was on how survival was possible and successful. The film does represent the sheer hard work of local communities to survive huge disaster.

Alisvolatpropiis Sun 20-Jan-13 17:43:34

Sinister 99% of the first class passengers on the Titanic were wealthy English people and Americans...that's historically factual.

People lived and died by the class system then in a way we wouldn't now. It's not racist at all.

QOD Sun 20-Jan-13 16:24:57

I've seen it, was horribly shocking but those comments about it being all about the white family was bollocks. We actually came out and were discussing with our teens about how utterly amazing the Locals where. They had nothing and gave everything to "the whites"

My friend I went with is a teacher and we decided, that a bit like The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, it should become a "watched during school" type of film at some point as the kids cannot grasp anything really unless they see it.

Was no more gratuitous than any war movie, schindlers list etc.
yes the STORY at the centre was about a western family, but it really did show how and what affect it had on the locals.

starlady Sun 20-Jan-13 16:16:44

I read this post, and then I saw the film last night so I wanted to bump this.
Just to say, if I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see a Thai language or even, truthfully, a Spanish language version. So I’m glad they did make The Impossible, as I have been tearily remembering all of the victims today. I very much hope that some cash gets back to the Thai victims.

This is a quote from Maria Belon which beautifully expresses her puzzlement at why it is that the story of a family which was blessed enough to stay alive had their story dramatised, and how she came to understand why it was. "Why our story if we survived? Why in a story full of pain and full of loss pick up our story in which nothing happened? But then we understood that it was the only way of explaining the others' pain was picking up a story of a family which nothing happened to," Belon said.

In other words, we need a flicker of hope in the horror, and yes, it’s part of human nature to look for our ‘own angle’ in a tragedy.

Also Belon expressing the casting of blonde, blue eyed actors:.
"I am fed up with this question all the time," Belon said quite strongly. "This movie is not about nationalities, not about races, not about colors. It's about human beings. One of the conditions we put is that there should be no nationality for the family. I don't care if they would be black, brown or green skin. I wouldn't care about anything."

FromParisWithLove Wed 02-Jan-13 13:33:55

There was a Titanic film released 29 days after it sank and there are still films made after the 1997 one.

theodorakisses Wed 02-Jan-13 13:23:32

I would say that in Galle it is getting worse. Aid has stopped and the news doesn't report on the corruption. They are silent victims now.

Narked Wed 02-Jan-13 12:00:28

I think the whole concept is pretty fucking vile.

DH said pretty much what Bisjo said when I mentioned it to him - 'I think the tv trailers and release date are incredibly crass and insensitive'

GothAnneGeddes Wed 02-Jan-13 11:57:27


I have massive problems with a disaster that affected millions of people, most of whom weren't white being turned in to a story about a rich, white family. There is no shortage of films about rich white people, it's pretty much Hollywood's stock in trade.

If you need someone to be of the same ethnicity and socio-economic status to relate to them, then you have issues and the film industry should not be pandering to your narrow mind.

YouOldTinsellySlag Wed 02-Jan-13 10:23:23

excellent post theodora. Very interesting to hear how it's still affecting people. The responsible thing to do would be for the film makers to donate a big chunk of profits to regeneration programmes.

theodorakisses Wed 02-Jan-13 08:03:18

I don't find the concept of the film offensive but as someone who has spent the last 5 summers in Galle, Sri Lanka, I think it should include the hardship and loss that people are still experiencing. Not only are there roadside graves everywhere and shells that were once people's homes but it is little known that the corporate hotel industry are buying huge swathes of this land from the government (who are not investing it in housing for the homeless) meaning people cannot even rebuild their homes. I have not encountered many families who have not been affected in this area, lost homes, businesses, parents, children and friends. By all means show a tragic western plot story but at the very least, some of the huge box office profits surely, morally, belong to ALL of those affected around the world.

Fairylea Wed 02-Jan-13 06:33:19

Well I think it's a good thing... my now ex dh was there at the time and he thinks it's good they are making a film as even now so many people mistakenly think it was just a big wave ! They just don't get how huge and terrifying it was.. people have said stupid things like why didn't so and so run etc.

I have an interest in tsunami and the weather and have studied the tsunami of 2004 and the film seems quite true to what happened. And sensitively handled. I don't see what having a white family has to do with anything. They chose a real story. That's all.

I think it would have been nice if they had given some of the proceeds to some of the charities still helping people maybe they are, I have no idea to be fair.

I also thinkelse ewan McGregor is very ccharity minded so I can't see him doing a gratuitous film just for the sake of it. Again I might be wrong but it doesn't seem to fit.

We had films coming out about 9/11 about the same time distance as the tsunami and this film. Films have the power to educate and share experiences. Good and bad.

It is true that they do have good plans in place in the event of another tsunami. However anyone that knows someone personally who has been there or who understands about the speed and power of a mega tsunami knows that these are more to appease tourists to keep tourism alive. As if a 100 foot wave tore towards the beach with the speed that it did you would not have the chance to make it halfwAy to a concrete platform even if they did get a warning out in time. What if you were asleep in one of the beach hotels at the time ? The sirens are not that loud. ex Dh (dds dad) has been back since.

The best thing to be aware of is a receding tide line and fish on the beach (dead but recently alive or actually alive). And birds flying in the other direction. People saw all these signs and didn't understand them.

I would like to see the film.

IDontKnowWhereMyMedalsAre Wed 02-Jan-13 05:54:00

Just a few clarifications. Firstly in the OP, the family in the movie are Australian living in Japan and vacationing in Thailand. Secondly they didnt hire a private jet to escape, the plane was provided by the Zurich the insurance company to rapatriate the family to Singapore for medical treatment. This is what you have holiday insurance for. All this is quite clear to anyone who has actually seen the movie. Thirdly not all the faces in the hospital are white by any stretch of the imagination. Yes I have seen the movie. IMVHO it is not gratuitous just for entertainment but went someway to explaining the unspeakable horrors that no person should ever have to live through. By watching the film I can quite understand the poster who talks about the changes in her sister that people do not understand, the horror and enormity are beyond any the comprehension of any normal person. I have holidayed in both Thailand and SriLanka since that tsunami. I have nothing but good things to say about the people who live in those countries, their kindness and compassion to others has always been legendary. Incidentally I have just asked my Philipina helper (we live in the middle east) how she feels about the film and she was not unhappy at the western family. And additionally she tells me that similar films have been made within the Asian film industry!

My thoughts on the movie, it was very harrowing, it made both Ds (17) and myself cry for not just the family but for everyone who was affected, the whole enormous tragedy. What lacked for me was any information about how much progress and what actions have been taken with regard to future tsunamis. All those islands and countries now have tsunami warning systems which work very well. During the Easter vacation this year there was a tsunami warning whilst we were in Sri Lanka, fortunately it came to nothing but the knowledge that everyone locals and tourists had time to prepare to escape was welcome.

Lovecat Tue 01-Jan-13 18:28:28

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the whole idea of Titanic awful, Startail. I saw part of 'A Night to Remember' on TV when I was a child and it traumatised me, watching people die, knowing that actually happened to real people, is NOT entertainment to me.

I've managed to miss ads for this film and had no idea what it was about - so thanks for this thread because now I know to avoid it!

Startail Tue 01-Jan-13 18:17:14

I've never seen Shindler's list or titanic.

Shindler' s list at home on TV, where no one can see me cry, I think might be very interesting.

The morbid fascination with the Titanic I find disturbing.

PrincessAnastasia Tue 01-Jan-13 17:40:23

How can people say it's too soon?

When is the exact time that it wouldn't be too soon?

Next year? 2023? 2053?

And I think the Schindler's List question was a good one. Do the people who find The Impossible offensive find Schindler's list offensive too?

Both are true. Both are based on real people (Oskar Schindler/real Spanish family). Both show death.

Nancy66 Tue 01-Jan-13 15:56:49

People who dont want to see the movie can choose not to.

Movies are made about real-life disasters all the time.

moisturiser Tue 01-Jan-13 15:53:05

It's an interesting one. I feel very sorry for those who are traumatised by having been there and who have gone to the cinema and seen this ad and been distressed. It does feel tasteless. But far fewer people would watch if it was about an Asian family (sadly) and I do think it's good to be reminded about it and how dreadful it was, if only to inspire people to donate to help areas still affected, or stop for a moment to appreciate what they have.

There was a (as I remember it) very tasteful tv drama about it all in 2006, so really not soon after (here) and I really was glad to watch it because it helped me grasp a little bit more just how horrendous it was. These things are so easily forgotten. I'm not going to go and see this film; far too upsetting. But I'm glad that it being out has made me stop and think and remember.

NaturalBaby Tue 01-Jan-13 15:51:18

What does it matter?!
Personal videos on Youtube can hardly be compared to a movie shown in the cinema for 'entertainment'.

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