Monday, January 4, 2010

Gomorrah and the Environment

I just had the opportunity to watch the criterion release of Gomorrah (2008) and found it very enjoyable. Jack Attard - a frequent film recommender and commenter on this blog - recommended the film to me, mentioning that it had a documentary-like style. It certainly sits in the space between documentary and fiction, with its dispersion of different plots, nonprofessional actors, and focus on real events. This lends it a very neorealist feel, and I do love my neorealism!

The film also seemed to have another type of realism to me, in regards to its depiction of environmental issues. The film is perhaps cliche in how it handled these issues, but I feel like it is a cliche I do not see enough in films. That is: we often know that choices are bad for the environment, but they are made anyway on account of earning profit. I became aware of Lu Guang's award winning photos a few months ago, and think the photo of the sewage pipe spewing sewage into the Yangtze River is especially pertinent, since it was built instead of the commissioned sewage processing plant. Clearly the individuals who were responsible saved a great deal of money by doing so.

What is perhaps not so cliche about Gomorrah, however, is where it directs its focus. While perhaps about 'gang violence' in general, it more specifically focuses on violence against youth, the environment, innocent residents of the violent area, people who try to extract themselves from the violence, etc. Maybe there are films that focus on some of these issues, but Gomorrah is refreshing in that it seems to refuse to have an intended interest in any specific issue. Of course, the one I found most interesting was the case of Roberto, who was helping a member of one of the gangs dump chemicals illegally.

When I think of mafia wars, The Godfather is obviously what comes to mind. There are plenty of other 'mobster-like' examples that follow suit. What I wouldn't think of, however, is how these organizations that exploit legality for profit might impact the environment. As the end-titles state: the amount of toxic waste illegally dumped by the Comorrah could be stacked as high as Mt. Everest and populations in these areas suffer from a 20% increased chance of cancer. Now, the cliche that 'bad choices are made in the name of profit' usually results in the crowd pleasing 'but one person is going to make a change.' In the case of Gomorrah, it is a mixed bag. Roberto does in fact leave his job with the crime family, and there is no follow up to his situation, but I was left assuming mediocrity for his future. Pasquale, in a similar example, quits his job as a very talented haute couture dressmaker to avoid working for the mafia controlled garment maker. In his case, we know what happens, he becomes a truck driver to earn a living. In most other cases, lives of violence lead to death.

In the case of Roberto and Pasquale, the film provides a pertinent statement: yes, one person can make a decision to refuse corruption, but they will pay the price. They will revert to their un-corrupt, unglamorous lives. This is perhaps the saddest truth of this film. In light of Felix Guattari's Three Ecologies, however, this is also the most important truth to be told. In both Roberto and Pasquale, we see a change in their outlook or subjectivity. Roberto realizes he doesn't want to be a part of an operation that poisons the earth. Pasquale realizes that he doesn't want to work for a company who will kill to stay ahead. And this change in subjectivity is one important, perhaps the most important, element leading to improving our affect on the environment. And while it seems like their individual choices won't make much of a difference, their individual choices as part of a film which millions of people will see will perhaps make a difference, because it will influence subjectivity on a mass-scale. For each person who views Gomorrah and says, "Yeah, I wouldn't work for that guy" the film is making a positive impact on the environment.

No comments:

Post a Comment