Wandering Earth, Wondering Asia

In this weeks lecture we viewed “Wandering Earth” (2019, China). A sci-fi post apocalyptic film discussing the earths future due to climate change and the intense and extreme measures we face to save our selves and what is left of our home planet.

However before diving into the film and my reactions to it, I will discuss a term familiar to my classmates and professor, but perhaps unknown to anyone else reading this blog; the Auto-ethnographic research method. As the term implies it is a combination of two forms of writing. The autobiography and ethnography.

In an autobiography one will discuss their own past experiences using hindsight (20-20 vision). As Ellis points out, often autobiographers will write about “”epiphanies”—remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyze lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same. ”

Ethnography is the study of cultures, their practices, values and beliefs to help ourselves, outsiders and insiders to the culture understand it, according to Ellis. An Ethnographer will immerse him/herself in the culture via ” interview cultural members (BERRY, 2005; Nicholas, 2004), examine members’ ways of speaking and relating (ELLIS, 1986; LINDQUIST, 2002), ……” ” and texts such as books, movies, and photographs (GOODALL, 2006; NEUMANN, 1999; THOMAS, 2010). ” As our budget to send students all over the Asian continent is understandably limited we are doing our best to study the culture by immersing ourselves in new cultural experiences via movie screenings. In doing so we are attempting to stimulate small(or large) ‘epiphanies’. Thoughts that may strike us as new or profound. We assess these thoughts, their origin and implications and in this way we attempt to learn about the culture and our own relation to it.

Now, on to the movie “Wandering Earth” . The movie began with a scene of familiarity. A small family consisting of grandfather, father and son camping at the waters of a lake looking up at the stars. Something I can relate to having grown up in Canada and staring up at the starry night sky. The scene through its intimate and familiar setting helped me develop a quick connection to the characters. The majority of the movie took place 17 years in the future, where the father was in working at the space station, while the son his (adopted) sister, and the grandfather were on earth trying to save the planet by bringing a fuel source to the jets propelling the earth through space.

If am honest and critical of how I felt throughout the majority of the film, I was bored. I was not gripped by the story line. I felt as though the film was jumping around from scene to scene in an abrupt way. I feel that part of this may be due to the language barrier and the (subpar?) subtitles. Perhaps the language used was directed towards Chinese audiences and was not translated with as much focus as may have been possible, at times the speech felt disjointed and out of time. In contrast our Professor mentioned the importance and intense attention to detail in ensuring every nuance was correct in translating kung fu panda for Chinese audiences. Perhaps the lack of intention to share this movie with a ‘Western’ audience is highlighted here in the lack of attention to a detailed translation. This may also be supported by the fact although Netflix carries the film, they do not advertise it as much as it perhaps should be according to the Hugo Award it has received. However another reason could simply be my lack of interest in Sci-fi movies, although I did enjoy movies such as “Interstellar”, I am not sure what this means, but you can decide for yourself.

Lastly I would like to briefly discuss my attention to the humour in the film. I noticed that the comedy seemed to be ‘simple’. Small acts of an overtly obvious wrong doing on behalf of one of the characters, such as when a character threw up into his own helmet and then tried throwing up into some one else’s. I am not sure if more complex jokes are not used or are literally lost in translation. However I still found myself and many of my classmates laughing during these scenes, clearly they are doing what they are supposed to.

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