Students will watch one of the movies listed below and submit a 500-word response in paragraph format that addresses the following topics:
- In brief, what was the movie about?
- What examples from the film accurately represent different aspects of the country’s culture?
- Did you find inconsistencies between what we have studied and what you saw in the film? Discuss these.
- Choose a firm and compare how its business policies might need to change to be successful in the movie’s environment. Base this on topics from this course.
- Indicate your full name and section on the assignment.
- Type and professionally format the assignment (12-pt Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, and single-space).
- Submit the assignment to Courseden dropbox.
- Submit the assignment on time.
Format: 12-point Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, and single space. Submit the Word doc on Dropbox.
Selection of Movies
Joy Luck Club (1993)
An American drama film about the relationships between Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers. Four older women, all Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco, meet regularly to play mahjong, eat, and tell stories. Each of these women has an adult Chinese-American daughter. The film reveals the hidden pasts of the older women and their daughters and how their lives are shaped by the clash of Chinese and American cultures as they strive to understand their family bonds and one another.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Chinese-American New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) travels to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to attend his best friend’s wedding only to discover he comes from one of Asia’s most wealthy, prominent families. A commoner among the social elite, Rachel becomes a target for single women vying for Nick’s attention as well as for his judgmental mother Eleanor’s (Michelle Yeoh), who wants nothing more than to break them up.
Monsoon Wedding (2001)
A story set in the modern upper-middle class of India, where telecommunications and a western lifestyle mix with old traditions, like the arranged wedding young Aditi accepts when she ends the affair with a married TV producer. The groom is an Indian living in Texas, and all relatives from both families, some from distant places, come to New Delhi during the monsoon season to attend the wedding. The four-day arrangements and celebrations will see clumsy organization, family parties and drama, dangers to the happy end of the wedding.
The Pirogue (2012) – subtitled
Convincing and involving account of an Africa to Spain, week long ocean crossing attempt. We see the recruiting, preparation and motivation of the participants. The “People Smugglers” are not presented as heavies and the boat people are not shown as flawless innocents, which adds to conviction. Incidents pick out the humanity of the participants.
Movies about Expatriates
Lost in Translation (2003)
Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson star in this brooding but funny film about an aging American actor in Tokyo for work, and a young American wife who has accompanied her photographer husband there on an assignment. The two of them happen to meet in the hotel where they are staying, and in spite of the age gap and all their other differences, they start to bond. The film follows their relationship as it progresses over the next few days, and also explores the challenges they face in dealing with the Japanese language and culture, along with some more personal issues. The film is visually gorgeous and captures Tokyo beautifully. It also pays more attention to language and cultural differences than most films about people abroad, and does so with a light yet intimate touch. Of all the films on this list, this one probably best captures the dual experience of homesickness and culture shock.
The Painted Veil (2006)
Based on a W. Somerset Maugham novel from 1925. Edward Norton plays an earnest but dull expat doctor named Walter Fane, who marries a vivacious London socialite named Kitty Garsten, played by Naomi Watts. When the two return to Shanghai, they find that they aren’t a particularly good match for each other, and Kitty proceeds to have an affair. When Walter finds out, he takes what is essentially a punishment posting for his wife, forcing her to accompany him to a remote village in China to help deal with a cholera epidemic. In the middle of all the sickness and death, cut off from the world they know, their loveless and now bitter marriage will either break for good or be healed. Although not a very cheerful film for the most part, it’s a beautiful depiction of the Chinese countryside and expat life there in the early 20th century, and an equally beautiful exploration of a (probably) doomed romance.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Based on a bestselling memoir by Frances Mayes, an American poet, writer, and professor. The story of a writer (played by Diane Lane) who is recovering from divorce. She goes on vacation to Tuscany in Italy, only to abandon her tour bus, buy a villa, and live there. The film follows her as she settles into her new home and life, gets acquainted with the locals, – including some particularly unusual characters! – and deals with all the challenges that come her way. It’s a wonderfully light, bright, cheerful, and charming film that will either remind you of why you are an expat or make you want to move abroad.
A Good Year (2006)
A Good Year comes from the very reliable pair of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. The film is admittedly light and superficial, and even predictable in many ways, but it’s still a charming, beautiful, entertaining, and ultimately satisfying film. Crowe plays Max Skinner, a British bonds trader who inherits his uncle Henry’s vineyard in Provence. Max was once close to his uncle and spent a good part of his childhood at the vineyard, but in spite of this, as an adult, he seems to have no emotional attachment to anything or anyone. He goes to France determined to quickly sell the estate, return home, and get back to work. However, there are complications, and Max finds himself stuck in Provence longer than he expected, forced to slow down.
The King and I (1956)
Anna Leonowens, a British widow, goes to Bangkok in 1862 as a governess for the children of the King of Siam. There is of course a massive culture clash, plenty of misunderstanding and stubbornness, but then a gradual softening of stances and feelings, and even a blossoming of romance. Based on a 1944 novel, which itself was based on the memoirs of an Anglo-Indian woman who served as governess in Siam in the 1860s. Right from the start, there are elements that any expat will be familiar with – Anna has read a book on Siam and thinks she is prepared for life there; however, the reality is quite different. The period setting and the royalty factor of course take things to another level entirely, but at its core, it’s not a stretch to say that it’s still a film about an expat dealing with culture shock.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
This is a sweet, charming, and unusual film about a bunch of British pensioners who each move to Jaipur, India to live in a retirement hotel, based mainly on the hotel’s website. Of course when they arrive, they find that the real thing is not quite the same as what was advertised. The film follows them as they deal with each other, their new (rather disappointing) surroundings, their hosts at the hotel, and other local people. With an amazing cast that includes Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith, along with an intelligent, funny script, this is a wonderful and heartwarming film.
A Passage to India (1984)
This one is another classic that goes all the way back to 1924, which is when the film is set and when the novel it was based on was first published. The expats here are of course not mere expats but colonials, a fact that underlies much of the drama and tension in the film. Adela Quested (Judy Davis) and Mrs Moore (Peggy Ashcroft) have come to India from England, where they form a sort of friendship with Dr Aziz Ahmed (Victor Banerjee), a well-educated, somewhat westernized local. When the three of them take a touristy outing to visit some caves and see the countryside, things go wrong and Aziz is accused of trying to rape Adela. A Passage to India is generally acknowledged as one of the best book-to-screen adaptations ever, and in fact among the greatest films ever made.
The Before… Trilogy
Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013) – these three classic films make up one of the best, most-loved romantic trilogies ever. The first film begins on a train from Budapest to Vienna, where two young strangers, Jesse and Celine (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy respectively), meet and strike up a conversation. They hit it off so well that they spend the night wandering the streets of Vienna and their conversation lasts till the next morning, when Jesse must catch a flight back home to the US. The next film picks the story up nine years later, and the final film returns to the couple after another nine years. Each film is essentially an extended scintillating conversation. The deepening relationship between the two characters is so mesmerizing, and the city in which each film is set (Vienna, Paris, and then Messenia) is so beautiful that it all works perfectly.
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