For the best movies look backwards and overseas

Posted on 5 August 2014
By Carlton Whitfield
  • Share:

When you stop to think about it, most people following the latest movies and music in the English-speaking world are like insects skimming across the top of a pond; we concentrate on the latest thing that has bubbled up to the surface – largely ignoring the wealth of material below us.

This is, of course, by design from the large companies who tend to control these industries. We’re all aware of the Hollywood “machine” and we tend not to mind too much – but we do tend to ignore too much that has gone before and too much that has been produced in foreign languages.

With every season that comes around, you can barely move for all the promotional information about the latest Hollywood blockbuster. And these days, the industry machine seems more formulaic than ever – particularly when aimed at the youth market. That’s because of all the cross-selling opportunities, of course from merchandising; hit music that goes along with the movies, computer games and all the rest of it. So if you think of something like “The Hunger Games” for example, it’s difficult to think that the whole thing isn’t contrived to fit the right demographic in the right way (scare the pants off them without making the movie an 18 only one).
This may not be the best example as the movie was based on the book – but with other similar instances like the two Percy Jackson movies – the book and movies are even further apart.

So as long as we’re all happy with this and understand that we’re being manipulated, then maybe it doesn’t matter too much as long as the kids are having fun – and we keep their viewing and game-playing in moderation.

But part of being a good parent is putting our children in situations where we’ve made choices for them from a better-informed perspective. Without such intervention, it’s probably fair to say that most kids wouldn’t venture much beyond Hollywood’s latest blockbuster offerings. This is, after al, part of life and part of he development of young people; they’re influenced by their peers and desperate to appear up to date with everything. This is why the whole Hollywood machine works so well.

But there’s a balance here, of course, between allowing your children complete freedom and guiding them into better quality areas. And what we mean by quality, here, is mainly thought-provoking works. There may be nothing wrong with a little pure escapism and edge-of-your-seat entertainment now and again – but when this is all you “eat” then the diet is not balanced enough.

And to balance that movie diet better, to open up your children to wider and different perspectives on life, and truly thought-provoking films, there’s a hundred years’ worth of stuff out there from around the world. And with the web, it’s easier to access than ever before.

One good example is the 1969 UK movie “Kes”. This is a wonderful movie for teenage kids and adults alike dealing with thwarted dreams in a working class northern industrial town dominated by the pit, bingo-playing Mums and working men’s clubs. It’s also a great film for showing our children just how much things have changed in just one generation. These days, the only bingo they know is via online sites. So if you play at Winner Bingo, Tidy Bingo, Gala Bingo or 888 etc., they’ll readily be able to relate to that. But to go down to a smoky working men’s club to play with cards and pens whilst having a few drinks – are you mad!?

This seems like something from ancient history to them. And this is exactly the sort of reason they need to be exposed to movies like this – to see another slice of life that existed in northern England a relatively short time ago.

If art imitates life, as it surely does, then great movies from history (of which Kes is just one small example) and around the world are a great way of broadening kids’ horizons. They learn about the world and about the nature of our existence on the planet without even realizing it – in a way that just doesn’t happen with an exclusive diet of the latest Hollywood blockbusters.