Saturday, February 07, 2009


We finally went to see it last night. We walked into the theater about 10 minutes before it started and were surprised to see it packed. Then I remembered that Oscar nominations just came out this week, so droves of people who'd never even heard of the film before its ten nominations had come out to see what was all the fuss.

This film received a controversial R rating from the MPAA. Many people feel this was unfair and saw the film as solidly PG-13. One reviewer claimed that this is just the kind of joyful, inspiring film children should be watching, rather than the crude fare they generally ingest at a PG-13 level.

I loved the film and I am so glad we decided to see it. We choose our media very carefully for ourselves as well as for our children. The vast majority of PG-13 movies would never make it into our home on DVD. While I loved this film and thought it was one of the most well-done and inspiring I've seen in a long time, it's not something I'd want my children to see, not even Georgie who is very mature and has been watching Hotel Rwanda at school. This movie is NOT for everyone. While there is no sex, very little bad language, and the violent scenes are not explicit, it's not what you see in this movie that is so disturbing. It's what you don't. There is one scene that I felt the blood drain from my face, and the people around me gasped and covered their faces with both hands. J and I sat through much of the film feeling like someone was squeezing our hearts. The depiction of poverty is staggering. The scenes in and of themselves are not explicit--rather, it's what you know is happening that is not shown. And not only that, it's what you know is happening every day in India and other places in the world. It's real.

If you do not believe in the triumph of the human spirit, then I would not watch this film. If you are cynical about feel-good movies or believe that people are victims of their circumstances, than this might not be the one for you. Because what you will take away from it is not the inspiring message of hope, but the awful images of despair.

However, I agree with the author of the book the film is based on, who says the following about the film (in yesterday's WSJ): "It doesn't show slums as centers of despair and hopelessness. It shows slums as teeming with vibrancy. Also, the main character overcomes that background. This is a film about hope and survival."

When asked why the characters never whine about the terrible things that happen to them, he says: "That's the spirit of India. People move on with their lives. [...] People are forced to live their lives there because of their temporary circumstances. But that is how they see it, as temporary. Constantly they are trying to get out of the slums. Nobody sits and moans and groans."

I don't know much about how movies are made, but my guess is the film owes its incredible vibrancy to the editing. The music is great, too. The actors gave riveting performances. Dev Patel as the main character is absolutely good for every one of his many close-ups and I feel like I could see another entire movie of just him.

Has anyone else seen it? What did you think? Did you find it inspiring? (No spoilers please!)


Ave said...

Ginny saw it by herself two weeks ago and enjoyed it. She is really into watching that type of emotionally moving flic, she also liked that one about the children of the brothals of india or thailand. I don't know if I could watch it. I am so effected by media.

Mama Ava said...

I think movies can be a great way to gain insight into experiences and events we would have no other way to experience.

We lived amongst abject poverty for 3 years. Our children several times passed dead people (including children) that had been hit by cars on the way home from school. They saw people starving. They visited the Rwandan trials which were held in Arusha. The line between life and death is much much thinner in most of the rest of the world. I think my kids understand that. I think they have a greater appreciation for what they have been given and what their responsibilities are in this world.

Sometimes we worry about our children's experiences and whether they can "handle" things. I don't like gratuitous violence and my kids' exposure to that. In America we live in a very secure bubble, carefully shielded from the world's unpleasantness. Call me crazy, but I believe my children are stronger as a result. Living like that calls every aspect of your faith into question and we grew so much from what we experienced and the faith of those who had so little.

Americans tend to see people in countries like India and those in Africa and see only horrific poverty, but people have lives of meaning and faith. I haven't seen "Slumdog" and I would preview it before letting my oldest son see it, but I would tend to think that those events, within the context of our family's values (as I'm sure you do) would be a good experience.

Anonymous said...

Paris edits documentaries mostly about the slave trade, child labor and poverty. He goes through hours of film to make a 20 minute film. Although its very disturbing it is real. Not a Hollywood movie. If real children are living it why can't other children see it?
While I agree we shouldn't purposely depress ourselves with to much negative media I also think we shouldn't ignore such things. Too many people want to continue to live in their bubbles.
That film isn't released here yet. I will make it a point to go see it.

Karen ~ said...

I loved this movie, and know EXACTLY which scene you are talking about where you talk about people not looking. That was very intense. And I agree with you - it's a great movie with a great finish but what you come away with is the vision of the slums. But I am so glad I saw it and I hope it wins a lot more awards.

Gabriela said...

wow. Sounds really interesting. I hadn't heard of it (not surprising :) )

I like what Mama Ava said about her experience living amongst poverty and how it has given her kids a different perspective. I agree with that totally and am glad my kids have had a different experience too. When we lived in Mexico they did a lot of visits with me to people who lived in little tin houses-they still talk about it.

Did you read the book?

athena said...

i haven't seen the movie yet. your desciption of the movie sounds like clive james' book, silver castle.

Calandria said...

I agree that witnessing poverty first hand can make children stronger, and hopefully more empathetic and service-minded, too. I would definitely recommend previewing this movie before letting teenagers watch it. I suppose if Georgie was begging me to see the movie, knowing that it had some depressing scenes and subject matter, I would consider letting her watch it. That would show that she at least thought she was ready for it.

Ballerina Girl said...

now I am so intrigued to see it! I haven't even heard of it...all the way here in Brazil!
I so enjoy your commentary! Very thorough and great writing!
Thank you...I'll let you know when I see it!