Foreign Films and Society
The world is diverse in several ways, each country possessing its’ own culture and set of values, which can portrayed through cinema.
In America, freedom of speech is applied to cinema, therefore there are not any subjects off-limits to be filmed, but this could not be said for foreign countries. Jafar Panahi, an radical Iranian filmmaker, has received much criticism for his liberal portrayals of Iranian society, such as in the movie “Offside”, where a group of women disguise themselves as men, in order to attend a football match and are caught and arrested.
In addition, “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation” by Brazilian filmmaker Cao Hamburger, is an auto-biography which clearly depicts how instable the Brazilian government was during his childhood. These films are unique because they seem to have a documentary perspective, helping the viewer analyze different societies and showcasing how different the culture is in that respective country. From watching these two films, I have learned a lot about Iran and Brazil and how different these societies are from America.Firstly, in Panahi’s “Offside”, the title is fitting because the women who dress up as men and sneak into the football game are literally “off-sides”. In Iranian society, it is deemed inappropriate for women to attend live men sporting events.
In the Middle East, it is commonly known that women wear burkas (a garment that serves as a head-cover) because they are not allowed to show their skin, because Muslims place importance upon purity and are very conservative towards females.Therefore in Iran, they believe that it is not acceptable for women to enter the football stadium because cheering, cursing, and possible fights will take place, and that does not fit the standards of what a lady should be in Iranian society, although this conservative standard is not held for men. Men allowed to paint their faces, curse, and shout during the game all they want.I noticed this in the very beginning of the film, when one of the women sat on bus filled with men, she was politely sitting down trying not to be noticed, while all the men were standing up on a moving vehicle, shouting and sticking their heads out the windows, acting like animals. Furthermore, one of the girls tried to sneak into the stadium, she persuaded one of the vendor’s to sell her a ticket, but he overcharged her and forced her to buy expensive merchandise from him as well.This seemed very unfair because he charged extra because she was a women and took advantage her situation, knowing she was in dire need of a ticket. Contrastingly, in America, women are welcome to attend men sporting events and are even encouraged to play sports themselves.
Although, women and men are placed in separate teams based on gender, they are still able to play sports that men originally played, such as basketball. The WNBA (women’s basketball league) is very big, but in Iran it would not even be possible for women to play.Iranian society places traditional values upon women and believe that is it their duty to serve as only mother-wives and to cater to their families. Personally, I have never encountered this degree of sexism before, I have even participated in sport games with my male friends. In addition, Panahi dares to challenge the way Iranian society functions by portraying how unfair the government is towards women who simply want to enjoy the fun festivities of football, and shows how a desire for fun turns unnecessarily criminal when they are arrested and sent to the vice squad for punishment.It is obvious that Panahi disagrees with the treatment of women in Iran because the film is based on the experiences of the five arrested women and does not spend any time on the football game and filming of the athletes. In America, while women reign positions as doctors, lawyers, and politicians, women in Iran are struggling for equality and independence and simply to attend events such as football matches.
I have learned a lot from this film and being a women, I am more grateful of the privileges I hold in America.Secondly, in Hamburger’s film “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation” portrays Brazil during his childhood and how the country was under military dictatorship and shows the consequences if you openly rebelled against the government. Mauro, the child protagonist, was abruptly abandoned by his parents and it was unclear why, but the reason arose when Shlomo, the elderly man who takes care of Mauro during his parents‘ absence, walks passed a fence, spray-painted with graffiti which represents rebellion against the Brazilian military government.Therefore, it was obvious that Mauro was suddenly abandoned by his parent’s because they were trying to hide from the government due to their participation in political rebellion. In addition, it seemed that many citizens stayed away from radical affairs because they were scared of the government, and only the university students were very active in politics. And further into the film, the university was raided by officers and many students were arrested, but a friend of Mauro’s parents managed to escape arrest but told Mauro he had to soon go on “vacation” just like Mauro’s parents.In addition, Shlomo was taken captive and questioned by the police because they believed he knew information about political affairs, although Shlomo was innocent his capture illustrates how any opposition towards the Brazilian government will not be tolerated.
Also, it shows that the citizens were not allowed any representation in how their country was ran because the military controlled everything. Contrastingly, any American could criticize the government and will not be arrested.For example, in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” he directly criticizes the U. S. government and many American businesses without any legal punishment, but Brazilians do not experience this luxury. From this film, I have learned how corrupt foreign governments are, and how they dictate society and culture. In Brazil, although communities are very diverse and consist of many ethnicities, such as Jewish, Latinos, and even Africans, the government does not acknowledge these different cultures, but only the military dictatorship.
Before this movie, I never viewed Brazil as a corrupt country, although this was film was a portrayal of Hamburger’s childhood, I never perceived that they struggled with their politics so harshly in the past. I did not know much about Latin-America beforehand, but this film allowed me to shed light on how different Brazilian society is from America and how the government greatly influenced society and the way people acted. These films share many commonalities; they both have radical views upon society.Both Panahi and Hamburger portray negative aspects of their countries and dare to criticize society through their artwork. I learned a lot about Iranian society and how women still struggle for gender equality, which is legally-based from Iranian culture, but in Brazil, it is the opposite, the government is the one that influences society, not society influencing the government because during military-dictatorship, Brazil was under the strict influence of the government.These societies are diverse from American society and I have learned a lot about these two foreign nations simply by watching these films. Cinema has a unique way of sharing cultures through media in a very engaging way and I am encouraged to continue to learn about foreign societies through film.