gooollysandra

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Tag Archives: authentic

Cultural divides

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Over the past several months I’ve been conducting oral history interviews with Latino/a artists for one of my jobs. Some interesting and surprising conflicts have arisen that I definitely wasn’t expecting, and am even a bit bothered by. I consider myself a very open-minded person when it comes a variety of things like race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc., but what I’ve learned recently is that sometimes people can view this open-mindedness and willingness to engage with those who are different from us as a negative thing, and even a hostile thing.

To put things more concretely, I was speaking with a young Latina artist in Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood in Chicago, and she was bothered, insulted almost, by the fact that I wanted to explore the neighborhood, meet the locals, and try to have an authentic experience there. She proceeded to tell me that there was no way I could possibly have an authentic experience because I as was not Latina, I did not speak Spanish, and I did not grow up in the neighborhood. She said that the “authentic” experience I was seeking was clouded by any preconceived notions of what I thought her culture was about. She was frustrated that white people were visiting her neighborhood to see it for themselves and then trying to build it up because it was still affordable to do so. She opposed the gentrification process that was and still is happening in Pilsen, particularly in regards to the artist community. The artist community that Pilsen is now known for does not typically include the artists who have been living in Pilsen for decades. She felt as though these artists who have recently been moving into Pilsen are trying to replace the artists who were already there, and then pretending like they own the place. I can completely sympathize with the frustration with this kind of gentrification, but I do not think that someone who wants to explore a neighborhood and a culture with genuine interest should be lumped into the same category.

I countered all of this by arguing that not everyone who visits the neighborhood wants to replace what’s already there or try to change it. Some people are genuinely curious about other cultures, and not only curious but truly eager to learn more, engage with, and try to experience things with the locals. She was still insulted and offended by this proposition, insisting that there’s no way an outsider could have a genuine experience, precisely because he/she was an outsider.

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I left this encounter feeling so frustrated because I felt like she was prejudice against me, while I was not at all prejudice towards her. I was left feeling like there’s no way that two people who are fundamentally different from one another ethnically, which is out of their control, can come together and learn from one another. It was as if she encouraged segregation between cultures and as if she didn’t want to share her culture with anyone, nor learn about another’s culture. This was very frustrating to me because while I am a white American female, I was born in Europe and grew up there for the first eight years of my life. My mom has taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to people from all over the world for many years, and I myself am now teaching ESL as well. I also volunteer at a non-profit that helps Spanish speakers with a variety of things, where I help with their citizenship classes. I have friends from diverse cultures, and in fact I prefer to surround myself with people who are different from me because I feel that there is so much to learn from them. I definitely have a genuine interest in exposing myself to different cultures and experiencing things as they do the best that I can. So I too was insulted by her for not understanding this genuine interest of mine in wanting to explore her neighborhood and do as the locals do.

Although frustrating, this was interesting perspective to be confronted by, which made me think more about what I was trying to accomplish by surrounding myself or exposing myself to other cultures. Despite her pessimism and unwillingness to accept me into her neighborhood, I’m still all about mixing cultures because there is truly so much learn.

Blue is the Warmest Color

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Upon seeing my first preview for Blue is the Warmest Color I didn’t really know what to think about it except that I loved the music selection by Beach House. By the second or third time I saw a preview for it, my interest was hooked. The night I went to see the film was memorable and I distinctly remember that it was raining and there weren’t many people in the theater. I got popcorn, as I usually do, but it didn’t seem to last me very long because the movie was lengthy, rounding out at 3 hours. By the time the movie was over and I left the theater it was 11 o’clock, later than I usually leave a movie theater and it was raining again. I was excited to see the film, but I had not idea what kind of treat I was in for; it’s the kind of movie that you remember the whole experience of going to see it, and not just the movie itself, which are always fond memories for me.

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I can honestly say that Blue is the Warmest Color is one the most beautiful, genuine movies I have ever seen, which I was not at all expecting going into it. Its NC-17 rating is definitely justified, as there is a fair amount of sexual content in it, which I can imagine turns off certain audiences that would otherwise really like the film. However, for me, this is not what I remember about the film. What I remember is the incredible sincerity of emotions expressed mostly by Adele, the main character, but also by her lover Emma, and the authentic love story that it is. Their relationship exemplifies an exploration that most of us have probably thought about, but not necessarily carried out. I for one know that I have questioned my sexuality, but have never had a sexual experience with a woman and don’t plan to. It is, however, something I have thought about and I am not ashamed or embarrassed about it.

The French language is beautiful and it particularly stood out to me during the literature classes that Adele attends. The ideas expressed in the classes made me envious and wish I was there. The plot flows so well and it does feel like a long movie, as it is, but it certainly keep you intrigued the whole time. The soundtrack is appropriately placed alongside each scene to evoke certain moods, which, for me, was particularly strong during Adele’s birthday party, as the video above demonstrates. Then there’s the party in celebration of Emma’s artwork and the conversations at the party feel so real, as do most all of the conversations in the film, and made me wish I was part of it. Adele and Emma open up to each other about philosophy and art and you can really feel the intimacy between them, not only physically but also intellectually since they’re always learning from each other.

The film is not without heartbreak, but it wouldn’t feel as authentic if it wasn’t, since heartbreak is such a natural and inevitable facet of love. Their breakup is incredibly sad and although Emma may seem overly harsh, her reaction is fairly accurate; even so, I found myself sympathizing with Adele. I felt the heartbreak the most towards the end when Adele and Emma meet again after having been broken up for a while and I could literally feel that there was still love between them, and although they have a reunion of sorts, it ends with them going their separate ways again. I really felt for Adele in a way that I’ve never felt for any other character in a film before. It’s an incredibly powerful scene. I could also identify with Adele in the way that she desperately tries to move on with her life without Emma, but unsuccessfully so. I think anyone who has been broken up with can identify with her in this way to a certain extent. It’s striking how the actresses are able to show so much real emotion on screen, which makes it feel as authentic as it does and evokes the powerful response from its viewers that it does.

The French title of the film, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2, suggests that we might perhaps see a sequel with more chapters. I certainly hope so, as I am dying to know more about Adele’s life and her intimate relationships. Although with the controversy over the filming of the movie, it may be unlikely that we will see more on this project from these two actresses.