Movies like Incendies and The Social Network define us

I was recently asked what the defining movie of 2010 was. It was a great year for movies, with six entries on the all-time highest grossing list, (the 2nd most of any year, behind 2005). But what film best represents the world today? Could it be one of the ten films nominated for best picture? Or is it a smaller, lesser-seen flick?

On the surface, The Social Network seems like an obvious pick. With social networking and media dominating cyberspace and leading to a new form of communication, and with Facebook being the site that transformed it all, it only seems fitting that this film is winning many of the major awards. However, for me it is not the defining film of last year for a couple of reasons – Facebook is losing some its luster, with Twitter having taken over, and Jesse Eisenberg makes us all hate Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook a little bit more than we already did.

In light of the recent troubles in the Middle East – Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen – and now Libya, I am tempted to choose Incendies. Call me biased (the film is French Canadian), but it is set during the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s and 80s; with the fighting occurring between the Christians of the north and Muslims of the south. It also includes scenes of rape, torture, execution-style killings (mainly of Muslims, but also Christians), and much of the dialogue is in Arabic.

Now this may seem rather depressing, and to a certain extent it is, and not the type of film society would want to represent the last year. But the truth of the matter is this is exactly what is happening in our world today: war (civil and invasion), unjust persecution of certain peoples, what is and isn’t torture… you get the idea. But who is to blame? Hollywood for creating stories out of terrible events? The media for being biased and sometimes misrepresenting the facts? Western society for thinking we are better than everybody else? Power is shifting and what are we going to do about it?

Now it’s true that Incendies doesn’t address the issue of power directly, it is only subtly implied. But it is powerful because it brings awareness to issues that some may not have been previously aware off. For me, that fact is what defines 2010. It was the year of information – whether through websites like Wikileaks, admissions by politicians, or even observations by politicians – and a general overall awareness, something that 2011, if the first eight weeks are any indicating, is already matching.

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