Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coming of Age: This World

I watched an interesting documentary titled (This World) "Coming of Age". Ok, I always moan and groan about globalisation and what drastic changes it has been causing to this world....but this documentary is the proof that cultures still differ greatly. Check it out.

Produced by Kiran Soni, a 90-minute documentary "Coming of Age: This World" provides an insight into lives of teenagers from different parts of the world, who take a journey that marks their coming of age.

The documentary begins by introducing eight teenagers from eight different cultures: a 15-year old Chan Lu from Beijing, Andre from Moscow, Yukina, a girl from Japan, a 15-year old Monica from the Dominican Republic, a 16-year old boy from Uganda, Kamoti, Appak, a boy from the Canadian Arctic, and others.

After introducing the teenagers, the film zeros in on their rites of passage from childhood to adulthood. We get a glimpse of life of a teenage Beijing girl, who fights the enormous competition in education and is facing a relentless pressure to succeed.

Parallelly, Kamoti in Uganda has to go through a ceremony, which tests his courage and makes him a man. He gets circumcised at the end of the ceremony, standing still in the middle of his village surrounded by his people, while a man circumcises him.
Andre in Russia joins the nationalist party and becomes a neo-nazi; In Jerusalem, we see Adam, age 13, who is nervous of leaving his boyhood. He is going through Bar Mitzvah, which signifies the cut from boyhood to adulthood. Meanwhile, in the Canadian Arctic, Appak is learning how to hunt, since this is the rite of passage for the Inuit boys. Last, but not least, there's the 11-year-old girl in Malasia, who's been s
tudying Koran since she was four and finally graduates at the age of 11.

The filmmakers managed to make the subject fresh, atmospheric and eloquent, linking the stories of teenagers very well. Since the documentary is quite long (90 minutes), it would perhaps be a good idea to use different narrators instead of only one. That would liven up the narration a little. However, the music accompanying scenes is carefully chosen. It is always suitable according to the specific ethnicity - Chinese when in Beijing, Japanese when in geisha training school, violent when watching Andre's initiation, and sounding cold when watching ice and mountains in the Canadian Arctic. Photography work deserves special appraisal when showing the beautiful scenery of the Arctic and the close ups in the geisha training school.

Different ways of coming of age are contrasted on many levels, which are: contrasting traditional with popular when changing the scene from Yukina's training to become geisha to Monica's shopping in a mall to prepare for her dance; contrasting hot and cold, or bright and dark when first changing the scene from the beautiful sunset observed by Monica in Cuba to the foggy sunset in the Canadian Arctic and then from Appak's hunting in the dark, foggy Arctic to the Kamoti's ceremonial dance in the sunny Uganda. A horrible link is introduced when Kimoto refuses to have sex before circumcision, the following shot showing a dead bloody catch of Appak's father. This is probably trying to signify Kimoto's state of mind concerning sexual intercourse in Uganda. Have sex and you're dead.

Contrasting the rites of passage of those eight teenagers suggests cultural differences in the world, but all of them seem to have a common idea. Namely, growing up, unlike in most Western cultures, is one specific moment that marks the passage from childhood to adulthood. In addition, in some cultures, as in Inuit, Malasian, and Chinese, parents put a heavy load of taking care of the family on their children as soon as they become adults.

The documentary is most surely a very interesting outing for anthropologists and the teachers of international cultures, since it offers diverse examples of symbolic rites of passage, both religious and secular, that are built into every culture.

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