Monday, June 23, 2014

Central Station

Central Station (Central do Brasil) 1998 is a film directed by Walter Salles. This movie is about a middle-aged woman who is a retired elementary school teacher. She starts working in the central train station in Brazil, writing letters for illiterate people. One day she is approached by a lady with her young son Josuè who is 9 years old and the lady asks her to write a letter to the father of Josuè. Dora sometimes decides not to send letters depending on the circumstances. The next day Josuè’s mother visits Dora again to re-write her letter and upon leaving she was killed by a bus leaving Josuè an orphan since he never met his father. Dora feels bad and takes the child in, although the child is rude. While the kid was at her home he discovered that Dora had a drawer full of unsent letters including the one she was supposed to send to the father he never knew. It wasn’t long before Dora got sick of the boy and sold him to what she thought was an orphanage that sends kids abroad to rich families. After Irene catches Dora in a lie over how she purchased a television set Dora tells her that she put the boy in an orphanage. Irene was not convinced with this idea and told her that the boy could be sold for body parts. And in fact this was a human trafficking couple that was going to hurt Josuè. Dora breaks him out and saves him, but by doing this she is no longer able to return to her apartment because they knew where she lived and threatened to kill her. She then takes a bus out of town with the boy to the address where his father lives and sets him up with money and everything he needs to get home to his dad. However the plan gets ruined when the boy gets off the bus and forgets his backpack where the money was. That was the beginning of a long adventure they embark to meet his father. After so many tries and so many failures they never find his father, however they find his brothers Isaias and Moises. They spend sometime and after a getting to know the boys brothers Dora felt like it was the right thing to do to leave Josuè with them. Dora left a note for Josuè. She and the boy feel sad, but realize that it was the best thing for him. They both have a little picture to remind themselves of each other. Boy is in good hands.

A major theme in this movie is love and friendship. Although its not evident at first, Josuè and Dora develop a beautiful relationship. As if she took over the role of his mother and he the child she never had. At the beginning of the relationship it’s funny because they are both always insulting each other and fighting. But as the movie goes on you see the bond grow between them and its just nice to see a total stranger so inclined to help this boy find purpose in his life. The ending is sad but with a positive ending. You also see love and friendship in the beginning between Irene and Dora and how they always kept each other company.

I enjoyed this film very much. It was astonishing to see how much illiteracy existed in Brazil. It is fortunate that we don’t really see too much of that here in the USA. The story line was fascinating, made me wonder what it would feel like to be in the shoes of that young boy. It was definitely and eye opener to make you appreciate what you have. Many up and downs, but has a happy ending. I recommend this movie.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Wedding Banquet

The Wedding Banquet (1993) Directed by Ang lee is a very clever romantic comedy. It is about a Gay Taiwanese immigrant Wai-Tung Gao who lives with his gay partner Simon in Manhattan, NY. They seem to have a very happy life together although Wai-Tung has been keeping this relationship a secret from his very old-fashioned parents. Mrs. Gao has her son registered with some dating company in hopes that Wai-Tung would meet a girl to marry and have a family of his own to continue the family name. Also, so that Mr. and Mrs. Gao can have grand children like they’ve always wanted. Once Wai-Tung’s mother finds a girl from the dating service and sends her to the USA to meet Wai-Tung he and Simon come up with a scheme to avoid the arranged marriage. Wai-Tung kindly tells the young lady that the mother sent to meet him the truth about his situation. She is also relieved because she also has a relationship that her parents would not agree with. The scheme Simon creates is that Wai-Tung will tell his parents that he is dating Wei Wei a chinese woman from the mainland, which is Wai-Tung’s tenant at the building he owns. She is an illegal immigrant and Simon figures that this scheme would also benefit her because if she gets married to Wai-Tung she can receive a green card and stay in the country. Once Wai-Tung revealed the news to his parents Mr. and Mrs. Gao flew across the world and came with $30,000.00 to arrange the wedding ceremony. Once they arrived Wai-Tung insisted on an informal ceremony at city hall. The mother was devastated. So in order to make-up for this an extravagant Wedding Banquet was arranged. Shortly after the Wedding Wei Wei has sex with Wai-Tung while he is super drunk and she gets pregnant. Simon finds out and gets very upset and the relationship between him and Wai-Tung starts to deteriorate. The lie about everything comes to light when Wai-Tung confesses to his mother. Almost immediately after the father the retired Chinese Military general speaks to Simon man to man and lets him know that he knows what going on and that he accepts it as long as his son is happy. He was just very happy about being able to have his grand child. The story ended Happily Wai-Tung and Simon fixed their relationship, Wei Wei gets to live with them in a comfortable home keeps the child and gets her green card. They decide to raise the child between the 3 of them. The parents are happy and they return to Taiwan with the Photo album of the Wedding Banquet.

One of the biggest themes that we see in this movie is Family value. The only reason Wai-Tung is lying to his parents is because of how he was raised. He knew that if his parents were to find out about his true lifestyle that they would not approve and perhaps disown him. Even when he chose to have a small city hall ceremony and the mother was not satisfied. For the honor of his family he went along with the extravagant ceremony so that he would not let them down. Another theme is Honesty, although it doesn’t show up until near the end of the film. Sometimes honesty is truly the best policy, ultimately they have a happy ending once the truth came out.  

I truly enjoyed this film. It was very interesting and the story line was captivating. Although it was a movie created by Taiwanese director I found it very easy to follow because there was a mix of English in this film along with the traditional Chinese language of Mandarin. Its always nice to see happy endings, and although there were a lot of ups and downs at the end you cant help but smile. I recommend this movie. Very good.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Bombay (1995) Directed by Mani Ratna is a love story between two people who want to be with each other and although they have different religions they put their differences aside to make it work even though this causes them to separate from their families. Shekhar is the son of an orthodox Hindu Narayana Pillai living in a coastal village in Tamil Nadu. Shekhar is a journalism student studying in Bombay, India. On one of his return trips home to visit his family, he notices Shaila Bano, a Muslim schoolgirl in the village and falls in love with her at first sight. At first Sahila is shy, She seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaila begins to like Shekhar. Eventually, they both fall in love. Although Shekhar knows that their love will not be accepted he speaks to her family and tells them that he wants to marry her. Basheer Shaila’s father throws him out, because they are different religions. Shekhar then reveals his interest to his father Pillai, who becomes angry, meets Basheer and gets into an abusive argument with him. Upset with rejection from both families, Shekhar leaves the village and returns to Bombay. Through Shaila's friend, he sends her a letter and a ticket for her to travel to Bombay. However, she is undecided; Basheer comes to know of her regular letters from Shekhar and plans to get her married immediately to stop this relation growing further. Left with no choice, Shaila leaves the village with the ticket sent by Shekhar and reaches Bombay. They get married and lead a happy life. Shaila conceives and delivers make twins who are named Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. The twins are raised in both religions. Shekhar continues to work as a journalist, while Shaila takes care of home and children. After six years, Shekhar and Shaila settle down in their life and begin the process of re-establishing relationship with their respective families. When the Babri Masjid is demolished by Hindu fundamentalists, riots break out in Bombay. Kabir and Kamal, who have gone to buy groceries, get caught in the riots; eventually, Shekhar and Shaila save them and reach home safely. Shekhar’s father, who received the news of the riots, rush to Bombay to meet his son and his family. Everyone is happy with his arrival, and he stays with them. Soon, Basheer also comes with his wife and all of them live together happily for a few days. Both Pillai and Basheer are happy with their grandchildren and wish to be with them. However another riot breaks out and hundreds of poor people belonging to both the religions die. The house where Shekhar stays with his family also gets burnt. When Shekhar evacuates everyone, Narayana Pillai, Basheer and his wife get caught in the fire accident and die. The children who run to save themselves get separated from their parents. Shekhar and Shaila begin to search for them and they go through several tense moments. Shekhar participates in the movement to stop the riots with other religious leaders (who realise the futility of the riots by then) and succeeds. When the riots stop, the children who were saved by people from different religions, also turn up and join their parents.

A reoccurring theme in this film is Religion and family values. Although theses two people fall helplessly in love with one another due to the difference in religion their lives are made practically impossible by their parents. The only thing that is making this difficult for them is because their families believe in keeping marriage within their own communities and religion. And since Shaila and Shekhar have been raised to be this way they are also very torn and the decision they had to make was not an easy one. Even after they move in together and the families finally unite the Hindi and Muslim religions start to riot against each other. Almost reminding them how hard this is. But eventually after many deaths and tragedies the riots die and hope is restored.
 My reaction to this film was that it opened my eyes to learn some history and to see what goes on in other countries. I’ve never watched a Bollywood movie and although I personally think that the dance & singing scenes were very corny and boring to watch the overall theme and story behind was very good and I enjoyed most of it. At first it just seemed like a corny love story, and almost unbelievable how two people can fall in love so fast and want to marry right away, shows a huge difference in our cultures and how things are here in America. But as the story unfolds and the theme about religion arises I became more interested. I could never imagine something like that happening here in the USA.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Children of Heaven

Children from Heaven, is a 1997 Iranian family drama film written and directed by Majid Majidi. This is a very heartwarming story about a very poor family in Iran and how something so small as a pair of shoes gone missing can change the lives of the people portrayed in this film. The story starts out with a young boy (Ali) running a few errands for his mother in town. While doing these things for his mother he loses a pair of shoes that means the world to his little sister (Zahra). When Ali confessed to his sister Zahra that her shoes have gone missing she was very upset and was concerned about how she would get to school. Ali begged her not to say anything to the parents, that he will somehow find the shoes. However, for the meantime they worked out a schedule so that they can share shoes. The sister goes to school on an earlier schedule than the brother so they are able to make a plan to meet up at a designated area to switch shoes so then the brother can go to his school. Although this causes him to arrive late several times, he gets in trouble by a school administrator. As the story continues Zahra see’s another girl in her school wearing the shoes that were once hers. She is determined to get them back, but once she follows the little girl who now has her shoes, Zahra see’s that the girl has a father who is blind. After she saw this, she could no longer go ahead with her plan to get her shoes back because her heart is too big. Ali has tried everything to keep this a secret from the parents. But something in his school happened that made him feel like his prayers were answered. There was a race that was taking place in the province and whoever came in third place would receive a brand new pair of sneakers. Ali was convinced that he could achieve third place to win the sneakers and trade them in for girl shoes so that he could then give them to his sister. Once the day of the race came it was very dramatic, you see Ali trying his best. He was able to hold third place at one point but then tripped and fell close to the end of the race. He got up and with all his might made it back to the front line. He did not want to be in first place but at this point the boys in the race were very crowded and it was hard to tell if he was in third. When the race finish he did not get third place he came in first. You would think that he would be happy, however he was devastated because first place did not receive the sneakers. The movie ends with him failing time after time and never recuperating the shoes that belonged to Zahra.

 One of the themes in this movie is unity within the family and love. Ali is an amazing son. Although he made the mistake of misplacing the shoes, he was committed in finding a way to replace the shoes not because he didn’t want to get in trouble but because he knew his parents were not doing well financially and he didn’t want to burden them with this problem. That shows that he is a very considerate boy. The mother is ill and Ali and Zahra have basically given up there youth to maintain the duties of the household. There were many times Ali was asked to go out and play but he would always respond that his mother was ill and that he couldn’t go. This shows that family comes first and that he was there for them unconditionally. Ali is among the best students in his school, he even started working with his father to earn some extra cash even if it wasn’t much. The love between Zahra and Ali is beautiful, the bond they have is inspiring. It is nice to see a family that is very united and caring, although they are poor and have a sick mother. It makes you appreciate the values of family.

Although the quality of the movie was not so great the story line was phenomenal. It definitely shows the differences in our cultures. Here in the U.S. we sometimes take things for granted. And in places like Iran, losing a pair of shoes can create a big difference in your life. You can also see the difference in the children. At such a young age they are already obligated to have many responsibilities where here in the U.S. most kids around that age are playing video games, playing with friends, watching TV etc. It’s a very good movie to instill valuable morals.