Program 12: Foreign Affairs

Program 12: Foreign Affairs

How to Fix the World (Jacqueline Goss)

Goss approaches the social implications of cultural integration with humor and incisive observation in the delightful short film, How to Fix the World, an animated sketch drawn from A.R. Luria’s cognitive studies of the rural villagers of the Ferghana Valley in the former Soviet central Asian republic of Uzbekistan after the Soviet government sought to increase literacy by introducing a mandated Western-based educational program during the 1930s. The film presents the often bewildered – but indigenously rational – responses to a series of logic questions designed to measure cognitive ability after the introduction of the literacy campaign: a villager is so distracted by the anecdotal idea that Germany does not have native camels that he cannot entertain a question posed that is set in the country; another argues that the distances of two neighboring towns given in an algebraic problem are inaccurate; another villager refuses to entertain the question of how to describe a tree since everyone knows what it is (although the same individual can recite the abstract concept of collectivization by rote). Hilarious, unassuming, and immediately engaging, How to Fix the World is an understated and lighthearted, but perceptive exposition on culture clash and imposed assimilation.

Baghdad in No Particular Order (Paul Chan)

Filmed before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as ordinary Iraqi citizens go about the routines of everyday life while apprehensively pondering a seemingly inevitable war – an avid reader browses through a collection of used books for sale at a sidewalk and lists his favorite Western authors; a wedding celebration that soon spills onto the streets as the beaming groom is goaded into performing a traditional dance in front of the camera; a teenage girl proudly shows off her scrapbook of her favorite pop singer Britney Spears; a group of men spend a lazy afternoon at a café meeting other friends and savoring hookah pipes – Baghdad in No Particular Order is an intimate and profoundly human portrait that debunks the politically expedient myth of cultural aggression and zealotism by a conveniently demonized people innocently caught in the crosshairs of impending war.

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