Film as a medium for cultural exchange

By Rosanne Lin, Shanghai Star. 2002-01-24

This past Sunday morning at our newspaper's English corner, someone told me that watching American films was a good way to learn about western culture. I disagree.

With relatively few exceptions, movies entertain using simplified and glamourized versions of people's real experience. The very nature of popular film is to provide an escape from daily reality and monotonous routines.

In my opinion, reading about a people's history, government, literature and social institutions is a much better way to learn about their culture than watching so-called blockbuster movies. Furthermore, today people have the greatest tool of all to gain greater understanding of each other's relative societies - the Internet.

No matter what your native language, with the aid of a search-engine you can find stories and information about the culture of your interest on the Internet. This can guide you to the hidden-treasures of many different communities.

If you still think that film provides great cultural insight, then I suggest you read the list of things that I have learned from American and Hong Kong films.

The things that I have learned from American film:

- Anyone with the right coaching and a radio can land a Boeing 747.

- A single blow to the head will render anyone unconscious without causing permanent brain damage.

- All kidnappers know exactly how much time it takes for the police to trace their phone calls.

- Rich and powerful men prefer to marry poor uneducated prostitutes.

- The fate of the world at any given moment is in the hands of a single individual - usually a man.

The things that I have learned from Hong Kong film:

- All Chinese people are gangsters, or have a close relationship with a gangster.

- Hong Kong gangsters are all incredibly handsome men who are well-trained in martial arts.

- The fate of Hong Kong at any given moment is in the hands of a single individual - usually a good-hearted gangster who of course is also a man.

Copyright by Shanghai Star.