The best adventure stories start with the most ordinary of days and the most ordinary of people. A completely mundane, run-of-the-mill day being hit head-on by the most extraordinary of circumstances, is a universal trope to start a hero’s journey. These stories are especially poignant when they involve those first steps toward independent thought and morality that mark the transition into adulthood. A child or an adolescent is faced with a dilemma that sends them into the difficult world of choice and sacrifice. The cataclysmic event or circumstances, break the hero’s world apart and reforms it into that complex thing called “growing up”.
Our December 11th film looks at just such a journey. Jordan’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards, “Theeb“, is the story of a young boy whose peaceful life is disrupted by the start of World War I. After the death of his father, “Theeb” must journey across the Arabian desert and the shifting political landscape of the Ottoman Empire, to fulfill his destiny and live up to his father’s name. Leading up to “Theeb”, here is a look at two additional stories of extraordinary journeys, dangerous choices, and the heroes created that have been making waves this year in the world of international cinema.
“Trash”, making its debut at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, has already been nominated for a 2015 BAFTA award for best foreign language film. This British movie, based on a 2010 novel, is set in Brazil and tells the story of three teenage friends who scavenge the local trash dump looking for anything useful. One boy comes across a wallet that ties them all to a corrupt police force and threatens their lives. As the boys decide what to do with their new discovery, they face the moral dilemma of how to best protect their city and themselves. For the first time in their lives, these boys can impact their world and maybe change it for the better, but at a huge cost. Living with their decision will change these friends forever and mark the end of youthful ignorance.
In the late 1960s, during the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, student Chen Zhen is sent to Inner Mongolia to act as a teacher to the local shepherds. Soon, Chen Zhen finds himself changing with the country around him and learning more than he ever anticipated. The local shepherds teach him the uneasy peace they have made with the wild landscape, especially the wolves roaming the mountains. When a disastrous new government policy destroys this truce, Chen Zhen faces threats from all sides and must find a way to survive in his new home.”Wolf Totem” is a state-backed film produced by the official Chinese government film industry, but with a French director who has a tenuous relationship making films for and about China. One of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s most famous films, “Seven Years in Tibet”, has been banned in China for its unflattering portrayal of the Chinese government. He returned to the unique world of Chinese cinema this year to tell a story of a great adventure in a changing nation.
Fae Giffen studies at San Jose State in the School of Library and Information Science graduate program. She serves on the Filmworks board, working on marketing and development.