The Power of a Movie

Jonathan Skewes
February 22, 2017

It is no secret that the majority of French citizens adore movies and the experience of going to the theater.  The country is very proud of their cinema heritage, and this is evident in their relatively strict film laws.  Additionally, I have met multiple locals who love the movies almost as much as their family.

One of the first subjects I discussed with my host family was their perception of America.  Obviously, the first words that came out of my host sisters’ mouths were “fat” and “McDonald’s”.  However, the eyes of all five family members grew to the size of saucers when my host mother mentioned American films.  All three girls began talking faster than a racecar about how much they love movies, and I was bombarded with a series of questions.  During this spontaneous exam, which was harder than a game of Jeopardy, my host mother stepped away for a minute, and she returned with a box set of several Alfred Hitchcock films.  This proved the true importance of films in her household.  To the great disappointment of everyone at the table, I was not well versed in film.  My host mother stressed the fact that movies allow us to understand and process our history and culture, and this was not the last time I heard this exact sentiment. 

This past Tuesday, my grammar class was replaced by a screening of a new French documentary called Swagger.  This modern documentary highlighted the life of many young students in one of Paris’ grittier neighborhoods.  Through interviews and shots of daily life, the director showed how these children get by each day.  One aspect of the film that truly shocked me was the fact that multiple students stressed how grateful they were in their current situation.  Compared to most of the IES Abroad students, these children had nothing, yet they found a way to appreciate everything around them.  Watching this film made me consider what my host mother stressed; this film was the perfect medium to truly see life in Paris for the less fortunate.  No lecture can replace the power of seeing pain in someone’s eyes through a screen.  This viewing allowed us students to grow a greater appreciation and connection to the city.  The lasting image that stayed with me was a shot of one boy looking out of his window with the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance.  Although these children were right outside the capital, this shot stressed the stark differences between the two worlds.

Even without the production numbers of Hollywood, the French people have a great love for movies.  For my host family, going to the movies is a huge treat, and they use films as a window into multiple worlds.  The viewing of the film Swagger allowed me to gain a greater understanding of my current surroundings, and the documentary confirmed everything my host mother believed one could discover in a film.

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Jonathan Skewes

<p>My name is Jonathan Skewes, and I am an advertising major at Pennsylvania State University. I have studied French for six years, and it is one of my true passions. I also enjoy playing soccer and discovering different cultures and countries.</p>

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