Monday, February 23, 2009

"Slumdog Millionaire" Shines for Human Rights, Forgiveness and Art

By Connie Lynn Nash

The film which just won a staggering eight Oscars begins with scenes of torture: a person threatened, beaten, given extreme doses of shock and other vile treatment, made unconscious. The star of the movie is shown vividly during this scene: eyes eventually unseeing - phlegm and saliva dripping from the sides of his mouth. Imagine this kind of treatment and worse day after day for years as in GTMO, ABU G. at many US-approved and directed secret sites all over the world. Not to mention the treatment in the planes to these places. Inhumanity - missing people - lives and families destroyed/torture often leading to extra-judicial death.

Here in a movie of the year are crimes' of cops and other "authorities" acted out graphically. Here is but a brief glimpse into our socially and nationally-approved crimes. Here in this movie - if we let ourselves - we can feel these acts of inhumanity in our gut and heart. These are scenes the whole world needs to see and decry.

Then - early into this shining movie - there's one of the most heartbreaking scenes of violence and murder imaginable - followed by an astute comment by one of the victim's family members. This comment is simply put yet with layers of implication about the inhumanity of religion when administered and misused by those hardened of heart. Immediately, the film promises to be about people- people caught in religious-political crossfires - flames amplified by revenge, hidden and ignored because that's what we do the world over with our powerless and our poor.

The rest of the film - I interpret - is, at center, the effect this murder and related social ills have on two brothers and a girl - all from the same slum - and what they do about what they have seen, felt and experienced.

When you see this film, ask: is there ever a last chance to re-think an earlier action and belief? See why our world still needs heroes and heroines. In which way is each of this story's youths a mentor?

This classic work of universal art and social commentary - plays well with lights and shadows. "Slumdog" plays beautifully with lighting both physical and metaphysical -perhaps adding new archetype possibilities for the viewer. This is why I saw the film three times (like I did the film "Gandhi").

The first time, I was inspired by a radio interview with one of the film's Indian co-makers. I felt then that each member of our international nuclear family would find something within "Slumdog" that would relate to their own backgrounds.

We each did in many ways.

Our children related easily to the scenes of poverty, loss, tragedy, and displacement from earlier homes and other connections. I was shocked - among these connections - to also view the scene of the family member killed and something within the torture scene - both scenes related to our three adopted sons.

The second time I wanted to confirm that I was not cheaply manipulated to love and appreciate this film the first time. I confirmed that I was not.

The third time I went to analyze the components and that was the time I loved best because I found "Slumdog..." virtually flawless, the seamless story-telling and so much more. I'd never heard or seen better use of the flashback. The appeal to all the senses and more swept over me: the gorgeous sound-track and the smells, sights, sounds and flavors of the slums and the country. Authentic reminders we were on a journey in another place - yet one universal - the train carrying us on our own journey. Yet there was hardly anything to finally distract from the story itself.

My daughter and I were blown away this third time to see that nearly every frame within this fast-moving film was a breathtaking work of visual art. I saw the entire film working together as one well-rounded triumphal unity.

Would anyone who saw the film have guessed before seeing it that "Slumdog Millionaire" - in some parts predictable -would have ended with such integrity, triumph and surprises along with some of the best attributes of Bollywood and Hollywood - teasing out, scene-by-scene a new glowing patina? Add to that - such potential for international connections and concerns for human rights.

Finally, this film gives us plenty of reasons to add forgiveness to our current personal and global histories.

Go and see it if you haven't. Go and see it again if you have. Watch it with a family, a group, a few older kids. Talk about the implications for each of our small interactions - for our choices after tragedies - for our actions whether small or large. Recognize how it takes power from the many reasons we as a society give to hate and seek revenge - based on grievances small or large - fueled by religion or status quo -whether we are led 'en mass' by some kind of "tribal" alliances or even by our own deeply-flawed natures in need of daily transformations.

Talk about what it is that fuels and allows torture and tragic deaths - that feeds murders by people or by the state. Reflect on the silences and denials.

Talk about how executions - judicial and not - help or hinder us from digging out the roots of crime - state crime as well as all the others.

Talk about why so many of our countries remains at war.

Find solutions together and on your own. Find something you can do - to change the way things are when life is not what it can become.

These are just some of the ways this glorious film has changed my life.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars in the following categories:

Best Picture
Music (Song)
Music (Score)
Film Editing
Sound Mixing
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

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