This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We Are All Slumdogs

Back in November, I was introduced to a little-known film from Fox Searchlight. Much of it was in Hindi, it had a strange title, no known stars, and a very modest budget for Hollywood standards. The film's original distributor, Warner Independent, had been shuttered by its parent company. For a time, the film was an orphan and its future was in limbo.

But, its destiny was written...

I could feel a strange electricity in the air. Thirty minutes prior to Boyle's Q&A that night, Producer Christian Colson, ducked into the theatre to watch the film's climatic ending. He'd seen the film countless times, but he said he never tired of it. A few minutes later, I met Danny Boyle. I was instantly sucked in by his untiring enthusiasm and the glimmer in his eyes as he discussed the experience of making what was to become my favorite film of the year: Slumdog Millionaire.

Like a bicyclist, Slumdog Millionaire has slowly but surely gained on its competitors in the Oscars race. I've heard that visiting India is an experience of overwhelming proportions. It has a cultural richness that few other places on Earth can offer. But you must be willing to accept India for all that it is-- its light and its dark. Slumdog Millionaire has been criticized as being "poverty porn" and/or "slum voyeurism" and parents of the slum kids have come forward to say that their children were not paid their due, especially considering the success of the film.*

Success rarely comes without controversy.

Boycott the film and you'll be missing out. Like India, you have to embrace Slumdog Millionaire for what it is, love it for all its dark and all its light, and embrace it like a person--like yourself. In a sense, we are all slumdogs trying to get by in this mess of a world we live in. Like Jamal, we all have the capacity to write our own destinies, regardless of our circumstances.

In the land that is India, there is poverty and torture, grit and grime, but there is also color and beauty, love and passion, dance and rhythm. Light and dark: one cannot exist without the other. Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire exposes both.


*The children depicting young Jamal and Latika in the film are now attending school at the expense of the filmmakers. According to Mr. Boyle and the film's producer Christian Colson,"financial resources have been made available for their education until they are 18." When they finish their schooling, they will receive further payment from a trust fund. To me, this was the best way to approach the sensitive subject of how to compensate these children. A large sum of money now would quickly evaporate, but an investment in their education will last forever and pave the way for future success.

*In Boyle's previous film, Millions (2004) production donated money to Water Aid, to build a well in Africa (like the family did in the film). (imdb/trivia)

*Among many other places in this world, I hope to one day visit India and my wish is that the place, the real place, is as invigorating and intoxicating as I imagine it to be.


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