A Million Dead, But the King has a Hangnail: The Impossible Trailer
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A Million Dead, But the King has a Hangnail: The Impossible Trailer

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trailers | August 21, 2012 | Comments ()


The caveat is that The Impossible has a fantastic cast and crew. There's Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts anchoring things in front of the camera, and Juan Antonio Bayona rocking out behind it. It's set in the midst of beauty cut down by tragedy. And of course it's based on a true story which means it just has to be good! The film has received positive noise at festivals, the sort that we're banned from attending, but I can't help but watch this trailer and descend into a tirade of cynicism.

Well shit, a quarter million brown people died, but I had no idea that a white family on vacation got separated for a few days. If the news had just led with that back in 2004, people (and by people, I mean Westerners, naturally) might have given a damn about what was going on when the bottom dropped out of the Indian Ocean and in a few minutes the assorted countries ringing the epicenter lost five times as many people as America lost in a decade in Vietnam.

Look, I'm not saying that it is impossible to tell stories set in other parts of the world, and that we always have to return to some sort of liberal guilt over it being shittier there. That's patronizing bullshit. And neither am I saying that it's wrong to write Western characters in the context of those stories. Characters that see with our eyes provide a way into these worlds. The outsider is the shoulder upon which the viewer can ride.

And yet, this trailer (and I emphasize the trailer since I'm being vociferously harsh and those involved with the project have enough credibility that I extend some benefit of the doubt) commits the sin of trivializing the very horror it is trying to portray.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • stryker1121

    Who said people didn't care, Steven? How many millions were donated to the people directly impacted by the disaster? Why must we get all cynical over some sappy movie telling one singular story of the event in question?

  • RhymesWithSilver

    Honestly? We keep telling the white people's stories because we can. Not that we would automatically choose them over others out of a sense of superiority, but because if I were a filmmaker, I wouldn't have the nerve to try. I would have no idea how to portray the story of a Banda Aceh neighborhood. I would be even less sure I was telling a compelling version of their story without being exploitative. But the white tourists? Sure, I could do their side of it. That doesn't mean the other stories don't exist or matter to me. But most filmmakers, writers and heads of big studios with mass distribution capabilities are white people in industrialized countries. So we make white people stories most of the time. We need more diversity in Hollywood; that's no secret. But I don't think audiences would be as resistant to that as many assume.

    A lot of people now seem to want every movie to tackle every social issue. I've read critiques that seemed mad that "Titanic" was not Downton Abbey, or that "The Help" was not "The Diary of Malcolm X". This movie focuses on one family and may do a crappy job of depicting the overall devastation of the tsunami on local populations. Honestly, that could not possibly fit into two hours, or twenty, or two hundred.

    Watching the tsunami unfold, I was a f***ing wreck. I was a wreck, too, for Japan during their earthquake and tsunami, for weeks after. I was way more of a wreck for those events than for 9/11. I was pissed off when the news here focused on American casualties in 2004 and 2011, but what can you do? The first thing people ask in a situation like this is if anyone they knew personally was hit. That doesn't automatically equate to not caring about everyone else. It was a tragedy so vast in scope, it really sort of breaks your brain to even consider the magnitude of loss. Sorry that not everyone in the US wasn't equally tuned in, but I get a little annoyed when anyone presumes to tell me how I felt during those events as an American or a white person. I have no idea how to respond to that, except to say they each wrecked me emotionally as much as any global catastrophe could have. I don't know what else to say, except that I should have done more to help.

    And this trailer is terrible- knowing they all get reunited makes me glad I don't have to sit through a film that looks both sappy and heavy-handed at the same time.

  • Dragonchild

    I think I see your point but maybe you missed it by a smidge.

    This isn't about liberal guilt or trivialization or patronization. On that last point, I will say I believe Hollywood thinks we're a bunch of idiots who can only identify with or even be interested in a story if the core cast is white. It's just not patronizing because HOLLYWOOD is a bunch of idiots who can only identify with or be interested in a story if the core cast is white. They're probably doing their best. This is a case of idiots who are not only unable to grasp culture, but in a classic case of illusory superiority think no one else has the capability either. Now, an idiot who at least knows his place is one thing, but what's terrifying and genuinely dangerous about this country these days is that these idiots think they're the smartest people in the world. So you get people who make movies like this because they sincerely believe that this is the ONLY way this story can be told.

    As others have noted, Americans actually were interested in the Tsunami victims. They didn't need a Missing White Girl (TM) to show real empathy. This trailer tells more about studio suits who are terrified of casting brown people in a movie about brown people than the audiences they're selling to.

  • ,

    They're not terrified of casting brown people. They're interested in making green paper. Most of the world's brown people don't have much green paper, and what precious little they have they're probably not going to waste on a movie about a brown people catastrophe, no matter how many brown people's stories are portrayed. They don't need to see bornw people tragedies on screen, they can see them every damn day. White people, OTOH, have so much green they'll spend it on $11 movie tickets and $6 popcorn and $5 Cokes and not blink an eye, so who you gonna sell to?

    You're trying to socioligize an economic issue.

  • Actually black & brown people spend a disproportional amount of their entertainment budget on movies. If non-white people stopped going to see films that omit or marginalize folks who look like them the industry would collapse in months. This is about white narcissism and the idea the white experiences are universal, sympathetic and more intriguing than people of color.

  • Dragonchild

    "Waste money," eh? So, this isn't a social issue; it's just good business sense. They're only being adverse to risk on the grounds that white people won't spend money on even a good story if they make it about brown people. Except that's exactly the argument I'm challenging, on merit if not on result. Saying the only way to sell this story to white people is to make it about white people isn't "just business" so much as illusory superiority combined with the softer side of bigotry cloaked with a veneer of faux conservatism. People want a GOOD story; this is the studios hedging their bets that they can get away with being lazy.
    There's no reasoning with bigotry. If this movie succeeds you'll insist it's because they were prudent in casting white people. If it flops you'll say it's because it was fundamentally about a brown people problem.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    On the upside, you don't have to watch the movie anymore, because the trailer shows that they find each other in the end, and nobody died.

    That way, you can avoid all the tear-jerky shit in between.

  • jamie pants

    Yeah, I don't know. A couple thousand brown people (or natives, whatever) died here or were displaced or missing during Katrina, but it doesn't make one story any less compelling or worthy just because you're not talking about EVERYONE who suffered. Does the fact that I'm a little white girl make my Katrina story matter any less? I mean, sure, mine probably wouldn't make the best movie, but I certainly suffered through my own shit. I can tell you quite a few stories that probably would make excellent little Indy dramas...(white) people who came to visit and got stuck, friends living in warehouses, etc. DAMN IT, I DON'T THINK I'M ARTICULATING this very well, but I guess I just mean that telling one story, regardless of the situations/race/origin of the characters and the pain that everyone else went through, can be just as compelling or deserved. Whatever, I quit...you know what I fucking mean!

  • lonolove

    I get you. No worries.

  • Lemon_Poundcake

    I don't care. It has Ewan. He looks dirty and sad. I want to give him a bath and spoon feed him some pudding.
    So yup, I'll be seeing this.

  • AlwaysConfused

    Right there with you. Ewan = much watch. Even saw that horrible salmon film because of him.

  • Justin Cognito

    Didn't Hereafter do the same goddamn thing? "Here we have a tsunami taking out Southeast Asia, so let's focus on the one French woman who was both there AND had a near death experience! Nope, no actual Asians saw the other side."

  • littlealbatross

    yeah...I'm more concerned with who is doing the cover of 'One' on the trailer....it almost sounds like Gregory Alan Isakov, but that may be me making with the wishful thinking. Any know for sure who that is?

  • Arran

    I can't say for sure, but it sounds like Damien Rice.

  • Lemon_Poundcake

    Agreed, I think it is Damien Rice.

  • littlealbatross

    thank you, I'll now strip off my street cred badge and partake in some self-flagellation for my utter shame in not thinking of Damien Rice. Because it is him, and I should have known that.

  • mslewis

    Oh, please!! People cared; people cared very much about what happen in 2004. Have you forgotten? It wasn't just about the white people who died, it was about the hundreds of thousands of natives of the countries affected who were injured and died and about those who were homeless and about the miracles of those who were lost and separated from their families and eventually found. The stories were not just about the whites. You sound like a fool. There have been documentaries about what happen and now there is a movie about one of the families and it looks interesting. You need to calm down.

  • Fredo

    I think the point is that this movie isn't telling the story of the native brown people who suffered through it.

    That doesn't mean people didn't care. It just means that this movie's creators went with the age-old hook of "dropping a cypher for the audience to identify with" rather than going with someone whom the audience couldn't identify with but would have been more appropriate.

    See also: Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last Airbender, Blood Diamond.

  • Dragonchild

    I would take exception to "The Last Samurai". Yes, Capt. Algren WAS deliberately inserted into the film for white people to identify with, but I find that OK because the story really was about Katsumoto -- and it's not like his way of life prevails by riding a wave of white guilt. It's a lot to expect Americans to absorb not only a foreign culture but a dated one in 2.5 hours. Yes, they did it through the eyes of a White Man, but the audience really ate up the story of a Japanese guy -- to the tune of $450 million. "Dances with Wolves" is very much about Dunbar. And in the case of "The Impossible", we are given every indication that the white family are the only people that matter. It's that transparent fear that white people can't just be used as a conduit but must be the only thing an American audience can invest any emotion in that grinds my gears. It's like the producer (of the trailer, at least) thinks we're all just as regressive as they are.

  • mslewis

    I understand what you're saying but this is a MOVIE not a DOCUMENTARY. There have been many documentaries about what happen (I know I've seen at least five or six). If people want to see what has happen and what continues to happen to the "brown people" then they can see it without paying $12.

  • NateMan

    I realize you think you're explaining your position, and I even get what you're trying to say, but it's only getting worse every time you type. I suggest giving up now.

  • Ruthie O

    Yes, exactly. It's frustrating that mainstream Hollywood thinks that viewers can't empathize as well with non-white, non-Western protagonists. What does that say about us?

    Also, we can add to your list all the movies about the civil rights movement/race relations that place a white person right at the center of the action: The Help, Hairspray (which I love), Driving Miss Daisy, etc.

  • mslewis

    Those movies were not about the civil rights movement, they were just movies about the old south. There have been plenty of movies about the civil rights movement that have Black people at the center that have been quite successful. (Since I am ill at the moment and my brain is not functioning at full capacity, can't think of the names of many but Angela Bassett played Rosa Parks in a movie that was really about the civil rights movement.)

  • Guest

    Sandra Bullock seems especially drawn to these projects, oy.

    Yes to everything Ruthie and Fredo say. Every artist has the right to be interested in their originating culture and expressing that interest, no question (so no sane person should ever have an issue with white Britons writing about white Britons, e.g., any more than Pakistani-Britons writing about Pakistani-Britons) but white people are still way over-represented in media and culture because of so many factors already mentioned, and because of who the people are who have the money and connections to get film projects off the ground (racism as system = edge to some over others). But personal as well as systemic bias is also in play--as publishers' lists repeatedly show. It's important to keep breaking things down, not oversimplifying the issue, for the sake of both human beings and art.

  • Nadine

    I had the same thought when i saw this trailer. It looks as if it will be very nice and tear inducing and may even win some awards for all involved and maybe, for their work, they will deserve them.

    But yeah. What about all those brown people? Who live there? Who had to live there still once all the tourists got flown home?

    I heard some astonishing stories of native children and families surviving and being reunited after that Tsunami, after seperations of years...where the fuck is their movie?

  • $27019454

    But then, Ewan MacGregor would not be playing the protagonist. So...Yeah.

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