What’s scarier to horror movies? McCarthyism!

Last weekend I caught a film called Blue Kite about the rising of Communism in which people either willingly went along with the reform or they would be accused of being a “Rightist” and sentenced to hard labor.  The story followed a little boy who grew up as he saw various people die around him.  His father was accused of being a Rightist, sent far away to do hard labor and died after a tree fell on him.  The family never recovered his body.  Then his uncle dies due to a combination of malnourishment (there was a famine) and hard labor.  His high ranking Communist stepfather is accused by other party members of being a Rightist as well and dies of a heart attack during interrogation.  The landlady, who started off quite rich in the movie, ends up impoverished as her saved rations are taken from her (the accusers said she bought flour on the black market although the landlady says she saved it to make her son buns to welcome him home) and she is forced to lower all rents as entrepreneurship is not encouraged. 

To balance the situations, there were lots of pro-Communist characters, with one being the boy’s aunt who talks ideally about how they were the pioneers, living in a time of historical change.  In general, many of the people just wanted to live their lives and didn’t care too much about politics.  There were lots of little old lady characters that just wanted peace and quiet for themselves as well as for the younger generations around them.  However, no one really had any choice of not changing as reform started to set into the country.  The movie isn’t about whether Communism is good or bad, but sheds light on how people are swept away by events beyond their control.

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All the scenes of multiple characters being rounded up by masses of people and then taken away were frightful. It resonated with me that none of the “victims” protested at all. They seem to have decided there was either no point or they were in shock that their friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, etc, were throwing out accusations left and right without any proof. In horror stories, it’s more black and white: monster bad/hungry, humans good. Here, with people you have known turning against you, there is no telling what the motivations are. There was one character who kept saying that she didn’t know what happened and why she was even sent away.

When I told my Viking husband about “Blue Kite” and how it was frightening to see neighbours as well as friends turn against you, he told me to look up McCarthyism. Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy was a Republican U.S. Senator represented the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. During the Cold War, McCarthy started freaking people out by claiming there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. He couldn’t prove his claims and was eventually censured by the United States Senate.

“McCarthyism” was coined by Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Blockwho used the word as a synonym for demagoguery, baseless defamation, and mudslinging. Basically what was happening in Blue Kite was the same thing…life is so depressing sometimes.  This is something which people will use as a weapon when it serves them for whatever gain they want, no matter what country they live in.

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Jackie Chan…And Why Dubs Are A Necessary Evil…

Had a first world problem today.  The Viking, TIFF goddess and I were suppose to watch Drunken Master tonight; one of the first Jackie Chan movies which gained him recognition as a slapstick comedy, kung fu superstar.  Made in 1978, Jackie Chan plays a young and wild Wong Fei-Hung who painfully learns the technique of the Eight Drunken Gods and then has to protect his perpetually disapproving father from a hired assassin named Thunderleg.  Jackie Chan was booked to introduce the movie and would be doing a Q & A afterwards.

Ten minutes before I order my sandwich to go (to eat in theater due to lack of time between work and movie), TIFF goddess calls me to say that TIFF just emailed her, telling her that the movie will be the English dub version!  Argh!  Wrong reel had been sent – seriously, the man is in town and the audience can’t even listen to his voice on the movie.  Alas, both of us are film snobs, so we made the decision to not see the dubbed film and to just sneak in at the end to see Jackie Chan’s Q & A only (it turned out he wasn’t doing the intro).  The Viking was left out of the decision making process, but he was busy and not answering his phone.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize that the Japanese animation I was watching was dubbed into Cantonese.  Later on, as I watched more Japanese animation in Japanese, I started noticing the differences in the voice acting.  For animation, Japanese voices were always the best, as the actors had proper schooling and everything sounded genuine.  The Cantonese voices were ok, not too horrible.  The English voices were not that great as the voices never sounded like they were taking things seriously.  Over the course of the years, since spending time with English voice actors from Canada and US, the dubbing industry has changed and the bar is being set higher.  I have seen girls rip out their shirts for breast autographs, so there are super voice actor fans out there…However, in the end, I still prefer the original voices the best as there are some things that can’t be translated and they maintain artistic qualities best.

I do recognize that dubbing opens many markets to a different types of media and it is a a necessity for internationalization and globalization of the entertainment industry.  As audiences grow more sophisticated, the need for quality dubbing will continue to rise with higher production costs. The whole dubbing of foreign media started in the 1930s, so this has been around for a long time!  Dubs have no doubt exposed people to many stories and creations outside of their home countries.

Anyhow, after many beers, rabbit pasta and pizza; our party headed upstairs for the Jackie Chan Q & A.  We ended up watching the last 2 minutes of the dubbed film and the voices were awful!  It sounded very cheesy and the theater full of audience were laughing, so I think they were enjoying it.  The Viking told me it sounded torturous and was glad we skipped 109 minutes of it.  The credits didn’t start rolling surprisingly enough and with the snap of a switch, the lights came on and Jackie Chan entered the room.  Many people stood up while clapping and cheering.  He was wearing a white kung fu master outfit with white shoes, which the TIFF goddess pointed out was a very 70s style thing to do.  He spoke intelligently, as he explained how he was always thinking about how to keep his career afloat with different projects and changing all the time in order to learn new things.  A very physical person, he kept demonstrating graceful martial arts moves as he spoke.  Even though I sat far away, I could feel still his charisma and energy.  He made an interesting point on how people elevate others to a higher status through exaggerated stories.  He gave the example that perhaps in one hundred years time, Bruce Lee will have a shrine and will be a god, as more and more people believe in the super human stories of Bruce.  As masses believe in the idea, anyone opposing this god idea would face consequences.  Someone asked about his past promise about making e a movie about Cambodian land mines.  He said that although he was the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), when he was visiting Cambodia, the government tourism board suggested that he defer the project as they were afraid such a film would scare away visitors.  He said he would make it someday, but things take time.  Apparently when he writes a script, it may take 6-8 years.

Overall, it was inspiring to see a successful Asian person whom I’ve always admired live in and speaking impressively.  Also, the fact that he was always learning makes me think that maybe I’m not too crazy either for wanting to do different things all the time as well!

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