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In 21 Grams, the narrative darkens and is localized. Inarritu deepens his exploration of class differences, but this time on the U.S. side of the New World Order that has been brought about by the North American Free Trade Agreement. According to Ohchi, 21 Grams consists of three narratives whose protagonists differ from each other, but are interconnected (ibid. 3-4)
Babel is just really Amores Perros and 21 Grams written on an international canvas and echoes much of the social commentary in Inarritu's 2000 maiden film. According to Soelistyo and Setiawan, another term for this type of film is hyperlink cinema. While in many films, this methodology can result in a film where the interlocking stories spin out of control, in Babel Inarritu is fully in command and retains full control of the stories and plot lines (Soelistyo and Setiawan 176). As the name implies, seemingly disparate story lines are worked together to make a whole film. As with Inarritu's other films, the best example that this author can compare it with is Tolstoy's War and Peace with its various distinct story and plot lines.
A critique of globalism and the insensitivity to local cultures permeates Inarritu's films and Babel is the penultimate of these. It is made up of four smaller stories spanning three continents and is spoken of in five languages, English, Spanish, Berber, Japanese and Arabic. According to Ohchi, Babel consists of four narratives whose protagonists differ and have but a few connections (ibid. 4)
The social and political commentary in Babel is implicit and obvious. What is interesting is that he also weighs in against the worldwide war on terror in the Morrocan sequence and indirectly against gun ownership, given the popularity of the .270 Winchester bullet amongst hunters. The weapon and the ammunition that fires it was popularized by Jack O'Connor who used the cartridge for 40 years and praised in Outdoor Life. Inarritu is condemning the popularization of firearms and violence via the corporate controlled media and also cruelty against animals because the herders are using it against the jackals that are simply preying on the herds for food.
In addition, Babel weighs in on not just complex international political relationships, but also complicated relationships between children and parents. Not only do borders divide our world (many times fatally) on not only national lines and between nations and cultures, but also within families and clans. While these borderlines are recognized in the "real" world, the real divides are in our hearts and souls and whose erasure demands compassion. Inarritu concludes by saying that "something that we have been losing for the last many years and is what drove me during the process of making this film (Philben)."
According to Soelistyo and Setiawan, there is a complex system going on inside of Babel. In their view, the film plot's structure is similar to a quantum physic theory of complex systems where concepts such a complexity, indeterminacy and non-linearity. In such a situation, components can become mutually entangled so that change in one component will propagate through its integration to other components. These will in turn propagate through the interactions to other components that in turn will like the butterfly effect affect even more components. The dynamics of such a system are very hard to track in terms of the elements.
In such a system indeterminacy means that the distinction made by one observer in one context might no longer be that meaningful or even possible for an observer in another context. While two actions may be going on at once, our limited perceptions do not allow us to see them both at the same time.
Also complex systems are nonlinear. In such a complex system, interdependencies are such that inputs will affect outputs and the outputs will also affect inputs. In Babel for instance, the shot from a hunting rifle hits a bus wounding a woman. The incident then sparks an international incident as police look for the person who did the shooting (Soelistyo and Setiawan 178-179).
Are Inarritu's films helping in the quest to educate good global citizenship? This seems to be the case. Unlike Ohchi, in "Is Film a Universal Language? Educating Students as Global Citizens," Carolyn Durham claims that Amores Perros is not a knockoff of Quentin Tarantino's pulp fiction but is a unique presentation of Mexicanidad and an accurate portrayal of Inarritu's Mexico City (Durham 29). She believes that his presentation is unsullied by copying Quentin Tarantino's film. This then squares with his claim that he faithfully follows Faulkner to a tee.
Inarritu's films, beginning with the film Amores Perros and ending up with the film Babel, represent a curriculum in global civics and good citizenship. Beginning in the Mexican barrio and ending up on a global tableau, we are being taught that we are all our brother's (and sister's) keeper. Everything and everyone in the world is connected and affect each other in butterfly fashion. We can not just do our own things and expect to not positively or negatively affect the rest of humanity. This new awakening zeitgeist will teach us that we are not just Mexicans, Americans, Moroccans, etc. We are world citizens who owe our allegiance to all of humanity, not to a silly and divisive nationalism.
Shaw and De La Garza in "Introducing Transnational Cinemas" speak about a move afoot to "account for…an approach to film-making that takes on transnational dimensions in Babel…Babel is regarded by many as a quintessential transnational film…on account of its production processes (Shaw and De La Garza 5) the transnational globalism that brings Babel about ties together four narrative threads set in three continents. The focus includes travel, migration and also border-crossing and intercultural communication in a digitally-divided world. The global production context of the film is directly linked to its structure and content. This has the function of forming a global culture that will supersede national film-making.
In conclusion, globalization is a thoroughly established issue that all societies in this day and age must now grapple with. Film is both the reflection of and the voice of the masses, but also of the corporate controlled media. Like all film makers, but especially those who make art films, Inarritu and his like have to deal delicately and tread lightly, even while it may not seem like it to the uninitiated. Certainly, Inarritu knows that he can only go so far in pushing his points for his films to be aired at all. By spreading the message out Faulkner style (or even Tolstoy style), he cuts at the issue a bit at a time. Also, his messages can be hidden in the multiple story lines that he is managing all at one time.
By feeding his global audience these messages a bit at a time, he makes it possible to spread his critique of the very globalism that he has to take care in criticizing. This keeps him from getting blacklisted. It is also part of what makes art films more interesting and challenging. You have to think harder and analyze more, but the experience is much more rewarding in the end.
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Fragmentation of Time and Space in a Story. U. Of the West Indies, 2000. www.mona.uwi.edu/liteng/.../amoresperrosanalysiscinemaoflatinamerica.rtf.
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Philben, Robert. "Globalism and the films of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu." NTH
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Soelistyou, Liliek, and Dwi Setiawan. "The Complex System in Babel."…[continue]
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