On the Immediacy of Politics in the Third World -from an Actor?

This morning I was listening to an NPR interview with Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. The Motorcycle Diaries is his only film I have seen to date (and for someone who has idolized Che since his early teens, the film trivialized his life and left me rather unsatisfied- but let’s not digress.)

In this interview, one gets a glimpse of the young actor’s mind -and it is a rich place. He speaks with the same intellectual cultivation and literary-philosophical sophistication as if he were a novelist and not an actor. Maybe his tone and lofty intellectualism is emblematic of most people associated with the “cinematic arts” in continental Europe (France) and much of the third world (places where cinema and film are still regarded as an art form and not yet an industry or “the showbiz”), and perhaps there is a tad of prentension in all of that. All the same, it is a big break from the intellectual vacuousness of Hollywood (not that I am a regular E! watcher, but it is so pervasive you just can’t help it.)

The respect that Mr. Garcia Bernal accords his profession (“the craft” as he calls it), the hindsight with which he recounts his early career (speaking of a “primal fuel” that all young and ambitious can identify with), and the way he regards the development of many of his characters as “an act of faith” and discovery is diameterically different from what we have come to expect of Hollywood. I can only describe the general direction of the American film industry as a race to the bottom- in its desdain for its audience’s intelligence, its dumbing down of everything, and in the infamous lasciviousness of most of the celebrities.*

Mr. Garcia Bernal also spoke about “owning” a language (in tones that reminded me of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s), and about the immediacy of politics in the developing world poor countries:

“It is very hard to exempt yourself from politics coming from a poor country, it is impossible, because everything you do has a much more …the complexity and the qualities of a political decision..whatever you do.. going out to the streets and deciding where to buy what you have to buy..it involves a politics decision everywhere else, but in poor countries you feel it even more closely…”

All in all, something you won’t hear in Hollywood (well, save for Maddonna’s attempt to rescue an African child by bringing him up in America.)

———-

*(“with a few notable exceptions” – I decided to add this as a disclaimer and a way out for when in the future I will take to praising some hollywood flick that I will inevitably watch and perhaps like.)

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4 Responses to On the Immediacy of Politics in the Third World -from an Actor?

  1. SE says:

    “Maybe his tone and lofty intellectualism is emblematic of most people associated with the “cinematic arts” in continental Europe (France) and much of the third world (places where cinema and film are still regarded as an art form and not yet an industry or “the showbiz”)”

    Bollywood and Lollywood actors included in there?

  2. safrang says:

    OK, you caught me there SE. Anyways, I was so in the thrall of the interview and the actor’s brilliance, and so desdainful of hollywood after a string of major disappointments at the big screen (speaking of which, The Departed should not have been hyped up so much), that I knew I was making some gross overstatement. But I have long been aware of this tendency of mine, especially when I am not liable to being held accountable, e.g. when blogging!
    (Still, however, the point stands about the European/French art-filme scene.)

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