The theme for this month – Immigrant Lives Matter

Theatrical Release
Lion (2016)
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Adapted from the a Saroo Bierley memoir, written by Luke Davies and directed by Garth Davis

The films stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, David Wenham, Priyanka Bose and Abhishek Bharate.


“If that’s a shock, arrival more than a thousand miles away at Kolkata’s teeming main terminus is an immersion in horror, not least because he speaks only Hindi in this frenzied Bengali conglomeration.Saroo (Pawar) may slowly find his bearings in this unfamiliar world, but his survival is initially a matter of chance as he’s hassled by police and narrowly escapes the attentions of others whose designs on him are clearly sinister. Even when a chance act of kindness brings him to an orphanage, it’s a far from nurturing environment. We get a sense of the city’s variety, from the station underpasses (lit in anaemic yellows) in which Saroo sleeps on cardboard, through its shrines and streets, to the sheer scale of life around the wide Hooghly river.

When all attempts to resolve the mystery of where he has come from fail, Saroo is chosen for international adoption, and his next removal is to Tasmania, to his new parents Sue and John Brierley (Kidman, Wenham). After the aridity and tumult of India, this Australian landscape is an open one, dominated by water, every bit as unfamiliar to Saroo as the refrigerator and television in his new home.” Tom Birchenough, The Arts Desk

“The movie then jumps forward 20 years to 2008, and Saroo (now played by Patel), all grown up, embarks on a course of study in hospitality management. He meets and falls in love with an American girl, Lucy (Mara), who is also in the program. The course attracts a number of international students, including Indians, and while at dinner with them one night, Saroo has an experience that resurfaces feelings he’s long buried about his lost family.

That sends him on a quest to find his mother and siblings — but because he doesn’t even know the name of his home village, and because his mother was illiterate and thus left no paper trail, it’s virtually impossible. He takes to Google Earth to see if he can find a railway station that matches his memory. The search becomes an obsession.

The stickiest narrative point that Lion has to navigate is the matter of international adoption, especially white families adopting brown children, which brings with it a whole wicket of ethical issues, from white savior complexes to families unprepared for their children’s emotional challenges to kidnappings.

But Lion handles it well. The Brierleys are kind, patient, and committed to their children, but the movie doesn’t shy away from the challenges both Saroo and Mantosh face, even as adults. Trauma isn’t something that just goes away because a child is removed from its source.

Lion is interested in how cultural identities — especially in a globalized world — shape us in indelible ways, getting into our bones even when we think we’ve shed them. But it’s also about bonds of love that stretch across time and mental space.” Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

Archival Viewings
Man Push Cart (2006)
Written and directed by Ramin Bahrani.
The film stars Ahmad Ravzi, Leticia Dolera, Charles Daniel Sandoval and Ali Reza.
“Like so many Americans who work low-wage jobs, sometimes two or even three of them, his work essentially subsidizes his ability to keep on working.
“Ramin Bahrani, the writer-director, shot his film on a shoestring, in less than three weeks. He often used a concealed camera, shooting what was really happening. There’s a scene of unforced spontaneity when Ahmad offers to sell some bootleg videos. The two guys he pitches say they know where they can get bootlegs, two for eight bucks, in Brooklyn. The two guys did not know they were in a movie.” Roger Ebert
The Namesake (2006)
Adapted from the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, written by Sooni Taraporevala and directed by Mira Nair.
The film stars Kal Penn, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Sahira Nair, Jacinda Barrett and Zuleikha Robinson.

“‘I don’t want to raise him in this lonely country,’ she says. She understands that he will never be fully Indian in the way that she is.”As a teenager, Gogol (Penn) rejects his name and dates a blue-blooded American (Barrett). Yet he studies architecture at Yale because of an inspiring family trip to the Taj Mahal. Gogol is increasingly pulled apart by his warring roots, and only by attempting to reconcile them can he bring himself any peace.

“In some ways, “The Namesake,” which was written by Taraporevala, Nair’s collaborator on “Salaam Bombay!” and “Mississippi Masala,” is a classic immigrant saga about how profoundly disorienting it can be to live in two cultures. Gogol’s repudiation of his parents is a sad and necessary rite. We wait for him to recognize the gifts they have given him.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Lion is currently showing at the Grand Cinema.
The Namesake will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, February 3 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Man Push Cart will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, February 10 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, February 15 in the CSL.

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