Saturday, March 17, 2007

And when Dubya spoke, they all laughed

My husband and I had the pleasure of attending the Opening Ceremony of the 9th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival at the Olympion Theatre last night. We were lucky we could get an invitation at the last minute, because it was the only screening of Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing we would be able to go to. There were a few dignitaries present, including the American Consul (otherwise known as the woman who didn’t want to speak to me in English), the guy who hosts Cinemania on ET3, the mayor of Thessaloniki, and Barbara Kopple, the woman responsible for Shut Up and Sing (and also one of the documentary film makers being honored at the festival).

We were first entertained by a host of humdrum public speakers, people responsible for the festival who did not seem comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. The mayor of Thessaloniki dared to speak, to the jeers of the Greek audience, which was surprising considering he was recently re-elected by the good people of this city. His speech was met with much rudeness among the crowd – people talking, quite loudly, and one person who thought it would be a good moment to cycle through all their ringtones. It might have been better had they had the civility to shut up and listen. I understand perfectly the resentment of a public official who was elected despite my own wishes, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to behave rudely in their presence. If anything, I prefer to listen to what they have to say, lest they declare themselves king, or something.

Finally, Ms. Kopple gave us a brief introduction to her movie, and all I can say is she really looks good for 60. The movie was entertaining, interesting, and presented with a light edge, but far more fascinating than the picture itself was the reaction of the Greek and European audience. In the early part of the movie, when they showed Bush briefly, talking about going to war with Iraq, the crowd broke out in insane laughter. When Natalie Maines turned to the camera and called Bush a dumb fuck, the entire theatre erupted into cheers and applause.

Such movies cause antipodal reactions for me. On the one hand, it is a factual account of the backlash and ridiculousness of the reaction against Maines’ “anti-Bush” comment, and I appreciate such documentaries. On the other hand, it helps to feed the foreign stereotype about America and Americans - what we believe, how we feel about what is going on, our hatred, our ignorance, whatever. While obviously the film did give a true representation of some Americans, it certainly didn’t represent the whole. Europeans seem to see Americans as simply pro-Bush, completely and unequivocally devoted to the government – and even for pro-Bush Americans, this isn’t what their lives are all about. America, and Americans, are a lot more than the sum of their government. We love, we have pain, we struggle to make ends meet, we worry, we live our lives as best as we can. We may be right, we may be wrong, but we believe in what we believe. Some agree with Bush, some support the war in Iraq, and some don’t.

By the end of the movie it was clear that many opinions had changed about Maines’ comment (and the war in Iraq), but I think the stigma was still there, at least in the minds of any foreigners watching the movie. These movies that so brilliantly point out to Americans what is wrong with their country also present that side of America to the world. While the problems in America might be overwhelming and real, there are still bright spots in America’s present, and hopefully, the future. At least there is still hope.


John Pappas said...

Another well written post. I visit your blog daily but rarely post. Thank you (from another ex-pat living in Greece who happens to not support US Gov't foreign policy but loves their place of birth). John

JennDZ said...

I guess all I can say here is that AMERICANS in AMERICA please vote!!! We look stupid to people in other countries because Dubya is in office again. If we don't want the rest of the world to think we are stupid, then we need to be smarter about who we choose to represent us in the world.
I am proud to be American, but we need to be smarter when it comes to the world arena.
Nice post! Very thoughtful! :)

melusina said...

John, thank you. It is always nice to know that there are people that think and feel the same way I do!

Jenndz, exactly. People need to vote. I vote, but I now realize that absentee ballots are only counted in the event of a close vote (which actually kind of makes me made, they should count anyway). I just hope we can (in 2008, hopefully) find a President that can get us out of all the quagmire.

JennDZ said...

Wow, really - they only count them if it is a close vote? That sucks!
But you said it, we can only vote and speak our minds and hope we have a decent pool of candidates to chose from this time!

Elisa (Italia) said...

volevo farti i complimenti hai un sito bellissimo un abbraccio dall'Italia

Congratulations on a beautiful website
Loved everything on your site and you did a magnificent job. You should be proud of yourself

Christine said...

Someone else said exactly what I was thinking. Why do people think we're dumbasses who support Bush? OH! Because we re-elected him! I assure you my mouth hit the floor when the election results were announced. I was *SURE* that someone like him simply could not be re-elected.

We are represented by our leaders. In a country that gets to pick who rules them, shouldn't our leaders be a direct reflection of who we are? Bush is a bumbling, stumbling, well, dumb fuck, for lack of other terminology. Doesn' that mean we're all like that? *doh*

(And of a different note....any information you may be able to provide to help my daughter and I find a place to stay for 2 months this summer would be greatly appreciated. I'm a bit nervous about finding a place to stay on my own since I don't know anything about housing and neighborhoods in Greece!! xine faulkner @ g mail . com (no spaces) )