photo manipulation by nacrowe
for me, SOFIA COPPOLA's acclaimed film LOST IN TRANSLATION (FOCUS FEATURES, 2003) is one of the few films that vividly evokes the displacement that occurs to one's psyche and sense of identity when being abroad. being a THIRD CULTURE KID growing up overseas i am acutely aware of that heightened sense of awareness, especially regarding mannerisms, patterns and thought processes given that happen when you are aware of your own foreignness to your immediate surroundings. it takes some getting used to and some people lose the plot along the way.
speaking of which, for me this film is much less about the plot as it is about that need for connection and sense of home when you are far from anything familiar. i've seen it play tricks on people, especially in PEACE CORPS were relationships happened out of seeming necessity, both partners connected by this unique experience with all the excitement and fear of their new predicament mirrored in a newfound affection. but once the situation normalized and became routine, these same people regretted these trysts as they were initiated during a moment of weakness and insecurity.
in the film, the two main characters find each other despite outside considerations like marital status or age difference. being in TOKYO somehow alleviates them of their past identity.
in my mind the film raises the question of the extent to which our individual identity is fluid and contextualized based on external cues. choices you would never make back home are presented anew in a foreign context.
having been home for 2+ years now since living abroad for 8, i have the opposite problem. its beyond reverse culture shock at this point, my normal is being in an unfamiliar surrounding. maybe that is why i gravitate to this film.
if you haven't seen it, definitely seek it out.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
so i attended NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON. its a private boarding school in GILL, MASSACHUSETTS and when i attended it had two campuses and a student population nearing 2,000. in the years since its cut both the number of campuses and student population in half and is part of the exclusive EIGHT SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, a self-contained IVY LEAGUE-like association of northeastern prep schools that includes CHOATE, PHILIPS EXETER, PHILIPS ANDOVER and the like.
i was there for two years and without doubt those two years changed me. academically it challenged me in a way nothing before or since has, including college and grad school. it also exposed me to the rotting core of white privilege and intergenerational power and wealth. i attended classes with the sons and daughters of film directors, national politicians, authors, lawyers, CEOs, drug kingpins (no joke) and foreign dictators. it was heady stuff and still is. whenever i see TRUMP speak it reminds me of half a dozen assholes i went to high school with who honestly didn't give a shit because they knew they were made for the rest of their lives.
here's an example of that ridiculousness that this place was, and no doubt still is. i was in my freshman english class and a classmate got a call on his mobile phone and let the teacher know he had to take it. i distinctly remember him saying "i'm sorry, i have to take this. its my mom, in space." he literally walked outside looked up and spoke with his mother who was orbiting overhead above NEW ENGLAND apparently and was being patched in via HOUSTON. just crazy. but that was the norm.
here is another less cheerful example. an upperclassman in my dorm sophomore year was caught selling opiates on campus, but wasn't expelled since his CEO father was giving a speech in a few days about making ethical judgements in business via a speech on the buddhist eight-fold path tenet of right occupation. you can't make this stuff up. and to make it sting of hypocrisy that much more, the fallout ended up being a few scholarship students from the inner-city being dismissed.
when WES ANDERSON's film RUSHMORE (TOUCHSTONE PICTURES, 1998) came out midway through my freshman year it was a revelation because it didn't feel that far removed from my experience, minus the creepy love triangle. there was even a junior that got christened for his bad grades and participation in seemingly everything.
by far the best thing about the film was the BILL MURRAY's epic chapel speech near the beginning of the film where he told the poor kids to "take dead aim on the rich boys, get them in the crosshairs and take them down." this was pre-COLUMBINE, but when that played in my dorm half the students would stare down each other.
watching it now makes me shudder. my time at NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON wasn't ideal, i was bullied harshly with knowing supervisors that turned the other way and "let boys be boys," but at the same time it prepared me for the reality of the world.
a world where the rich stay rich and fuck everyone else. no wonder i joined the PEACE CORPS.