In one of the earliest releases of 2013 there’s already been a massive controversy surrounding one of the films. The Impossible has been criticised heavily for reasons that are possibly oversensitive. Could it be that the world is becoming overly-sensitive in its need for censorship?And if it is a need for censorship, will we ruin the freedom of art? It’s an almost archaic question of the past century as censorship of films and television is becoming too predominant in our culture. Censorship is an evil which infects art by diluting its bloodstream, thinning it for no good reason, ruining it. Thin blood is no good for the life stream of art. Unless it needs Warfarin.
The controversy surrounding this latest flick is the recasting of a Spanish family in Asia as a British family. The rage that has ensued is that it’s breeding homogeneity in the film world by stripping diversity away from films making them all one motion picture of uniformity. Was the thinking that Spanish families have no place in blockbuster cinema, is why they think the change was made, but the reason is much simpler than that… and much less xenophobic and racist. The idea that the replacement was because no one wants to see a Spanish family or because people would sympathise more with white characters is a racist interpretation to have as well as a wrong one. That is a flat view of a much broader topic of film. Shallow Hollywood may be but in this instance it’s for a different shallow reason: money.
Money: why studios make films. There’s no point making a film if it isn’t financially successful. That’s bad investing and the people who run the studios would absolutely despise that mistake. The recasting of a white family is because they have two massive stars in its mitts with massive marketability: Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. These two are the reasons that the film got the funding it got, the budget it needed, the audience it desired. With these two leading the film people will actually see it giving it financial viability. These A-listers gave the project the lift it needed to recreate the devastation of that tragic Boxing Day while still sharing a family’s remarkable story of survival in the most unlikely of situations. Some might say it was almost impossible.
It seems people are nitpicking problems of xenophobia and racism in a film that seemed racist to only Americans if any. The only American characters in it could be interpreted as greedy, selfish people who won’t even share a phone to a lonely, broken man. It’s a moment that could be the only definition of xenophobia within the film. All other nationalities that are represented in it are given dignity, respect and the sympathy they deserve in such a drastic destruction of their surroundings. Within it, it shows that the xenophobia can only be seen by those who are too sensitive. It seems they’re looking for something to complain about when it comes to modern cinema. And modern blockbuster cinema mainly – as if it’s a smaller project then it has the artistic merit to be overlooked.
Tthe other controversy shrouding this film in the desolate destruction of the wake of a tsunami is that it could be seen as too soon. Now, this one is a bit more understandable, but, again, is an overreaction to a minor situation. The film is in no way disrespectful for those that went through the ordeal. It can be understandable that people deem it unethical to make money off such tragedy but in reality it immortalises the story, the tale, the tragedy that possibly could have been forgotten by the majority of people. When speaking to the director he talks about how the people of Thailand that endured the destruction were happy that their story were getting told instead of through the disconnecting form of the news. A film can help you embrace things, embrace the pain, embrace their reality; this gives you a sense of perspective oddly making the fiction more like reality than the news.
This helps bring back to the forefront making it relevant again in a reminder that this happened, these people suffered, remember those who were lost and respect those that were lost and the aftermath of such a thing. It doesn’t want to be all downhearted, although there are moments it wants to tear you down, it’s more of an uplifting story of a family dragged apart to somehow be reunited so beautifully and luckily that there’s almost a special protective orb around them.
Controversies can be understandable but people seem to be searching to complain about things they deem acceptable for moral high ground. In this, it makes them seem the ethical and moral type when in reality there’s no high ground to have here. This is a tragedy which needs to be remembered. The power of film makes it more real with the technical precision it has on the screen to bring us into the visceral, painful reality of a world we cannot imagine. What is cruel is arguing whether or not this film should be made and this attempt at ethicising it will hopefully enlighten a few to a misguided view. It isn’t offensive nor does it try to be offensive; it tries to be the complete opposite. It’s a risky move for a new director but he’s eternalised a story of wonder and catastrophe to create a story worth seeing for those who lost their lives.
We spoke to the director regarding these questions in which his reasoning is shown even more clearly.