Why I Won’t Be Seeing ‘The Impossible’
Upon first seeing the trailer for The Impossible in the cinema, my initial reaction was ‘you have got to be joking’. It was quite clear that the movie fits neatly into the ‘disaster porn’ genre (whatever its merits or problems). But what bewildered me was that anyone thought it would be tasteful to effectively rewrite the history of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in the popular Western imagination.
Based on the trailer, the film seems to focus entirely upon one wealthy Western Caucasian family on a luxury holiday that’s inconveniently hampered by the disaster. After some trials and tribulations, they have the privilege of being able to fly back home to their comfortable and complete houses, jobs and lives.
In doing so, the film whitewashes the truth that the 2004 tsunami was an enormous disaster – both in terms of scale and geographical reach – that killed about 250,000 people, the overwhelming majority of which were Asian, far less well-off and many of whom literally lost everything.
Friends who’ve seen it have said that they cried the whole way through, and that it was brilliant. But even if it’s based on a true story, and even if the director has a good track record, the narrow race-based focus and the misrepresentative uplifting end completely undermines the many other equally valid stories of less photogenic families.
It’s saddening that for many the tsunami will now be remembered for Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts’ British middle class family that survived the holiday from hell, rather than the millions of relatively unimportant brown people who didn’t have that luxury, and many of whom are still rebuilding their lives.
Some may argue that its inevitable that ‘Hollywood’* will whitewash these events, and we see it every day in news reporting about everything from plane crashes to conflicts.
All the same it doesn’t mean that should they be allowed to do so unchallenged – and it is for this reason that I won’t be rewarding the filmmakers with an additional ticket sale and will be avoiding the film.
*I accept that the movie’s director is Spanish, but the otherwise inexplicable switch of the nationality of the family involved from Spanish to English suggests that profit rather than truthfulness is the driving force behind the movie.