Friday, March 09, 2007

"The Dancer Upstairs"


"The story of Detective Agustin Rejas, a man clinging to the hope of an impossible love in an impossible world. Tracking Ezequiel, a delusional anarchist who incites the downtrodden masses to join in his brutal revolution against the fascist government in their unnamed Latin American country, Rejas finds solace in his sense of self-respect and the joy that his daughter and wife bring him. Then he meets Yolanda--his daughter's soulfully beautiful ballet teacher--a woman who sparks his long-forgotten passions and represents all that is good and all that is corrupt in their troubled country. But she, who appears to be a shelter from the storm, may in actuality be the storm's eye. Ultimately, as the revolution intensifies and the net closes around hunter and hunted alike, the dancer's truth will prove as elusive as the revolutionary's cause and the detective's peace. Written by Sujit R. Varma"

I love Thursday nights because I usually spend them curled up next to the fire at Amanda's house where we watch "Grey's Anatomy," "The Office," and a plethora of other shows and movies. It's the only day of the week I actually watch TV. The company is awesome, the food is good, and pure inaction is blissful. As a result of all the reruns on last night, we watched the movie "The Dancer Upstairs." Neither of us new much about it but thought it was worth a shot considering our mutual interest in Latin America, especially the men. The movie was fantastic. The actors, especially the man playing Rejas, was amazing. We spent a good portion of the movie trying to figure out the characters' roles in the revolution and in which country the movie was set. (Although not mentioned in the movie, it was Peru.) "The Dancer Upstairs" was disturbing, moving, and enlightening. For the majority of the picture, I was certain I developed an ulcer from the stress of the terror the revolutionaries were causing. The suspense was dramatic and real and came to a realistic and touching conclusion.

The issues in the movie that struck a chord with me were downright disturbing. First, the terrorists used children to carry out their missions. This was tremendously upsetting. In one of the scenes, a small boy runs into a town meeting where there's a prominent government official socializing with a group of supporters. The small boy, who was no older than 5, told the security guard he had his father's bag thereby warranting the guard to let him in. The child ran up to the official proclaiming, "Dad, Dad, you forgot your bag!" The official quizzically looked at the child, then suspiciously at the bag when it blew up in his hands but not before the boy could yell, "Long live Presidente Ezequiel!!" This is a very unexpected act and shocks the hell out of you when it happens. I nearly jumped out of my seat. This scene coupled with the scene of the teenage girls opening up fire on a caravan of officials just exasperated me. They are children!! It makes one contemplate how much your environment and other people influence society, especially the innocent.

The second issue that impacted me was the sheer destitution of the people. They were so hopeless, oppressed, and poor they were willing to die for anything resembling hope, even if it was fanatical extremism without a logical cause. Could something like that happen here? I'm not talking the kind of terrorism imposed by hateful "outsiders" but the kind of terror caused by denizens of the good old U.S. of A.? Could a situation arise where people could not leave their homes because a group of locals was murdering and pillaging, randomly, left and right without any idea of what or who would be the next target? Where the military shoots the members of a suspicious club? Where they march in the streets day and night demanding to see the "papers" of everyone who is out in public? This astounds and humbles me.

I often think about how hopelessly arbitrary where we are born is. Think about it. You have no say about where, to whom, or when you are born. You could just as easily have been born in Cairo, Lima, Shanghai, AsunciĆ³n, Paris, Vientiane, or Lincoln, Nebraska instead of where you actually were. This one very important detail determines so much of how your world progresses. I cannot help but think how extraordinarily lucky I am to have a deep blue passport embossed with the United States of America on it. While the prospects of traveling to another country and even maybe seeing some forbidden lands (Cuba & Columbia) excites me, the fear of not being allowed back into the deeply troubled land of the free and home of the brave is far more distressing. Movies like "The Dancer Upstairs" intrigue and scare me.

I highly recommend enduring the few hours of sometimes uncomfortable enlightenment this movie offers. I commend the creators on a job well done.

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