Posted by: joha5 | May 24, 2010

Writing The Future: Iñárritu and the Global Game

First of all, I would like to sincerely apologize to all of my reader’s who were anticipating new posts over this past weekend.  I typically make a very conscious effort to post something once a day and very rarely let a day go by without updating.  I would like to say that I was busy applying for jobs and slowly plotting new and innovative ways to alter my career trajectory.  But alas, I was not.  I actually spent the weekend watching a couple of matches of the world’s most beautiful game – Soccer/Football.

NOTE:  As somebody who has lived in the United States and abroad I am painfully cognizant of the “Soccer” vs. “Football” discrepancy.  I grew up playing ‘soccer’ but became a true fan of the game watching ‘football’.  I typically call it ‘soccer’ when on this side of the Atlantic and ‘football’ literally everywhere else.  However, as the internet knows no bounds, I am forced to make a decision here on exactly what to call it.  If I call it ‘soccer’ than everybody that reads this overseas will be upset with me for catering strictly to Americans.  Yet, if I call it ‘football’ then everybody who reads this in the United States will think that I am some snobby and arrogant individual who wants to seem more sophisticated by seeming ‘Europeanized’.  This is a tough decision.  However, based strictly on the fact that I am sitting on American shores as I write this, I will call it ‘soccer’.  This is not because this is my personal preference (I will not disclose it here for fear of retribution!) but because I would call it ‘soccer’ if I was to speak to somebody who entered the room. 

A lot of people I know will say that soccer is slow and boring and there isn’t much to it other than watching people march up and down a field only to get a final score like 1-0 or 2-1.  Personally, I could not disagree more.  I have been following the Champions League for the past few months and was very keenly anticipating the final consisting of Bayern Munich taking on Inter Milan.  Honestly, other than a handful of players, I really don’t know much about these teams and was not invested either way.  Inter Milan ended up winning 2-0 which was neither here nor there really.  However, I witnessed a short 3 minute film (re: commercial) during the game that really grabbed my attention and I have since dubbed it ‘The Most Amazing Commercial I Have Ever Seen’.  As such, please spend 3 minutes of your time witnessing this pure awesomeness directed by Golden Globe winning, Academy Award nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu. 

Iñárritu is renowned for his clever style of filmmaking where he weaves multiple story lines by splitting them up into ‘non-linear fragments that punctuate elements of the overall story, all imminently coming toward each other and coalescing as the story progresses.’  He has done this in all of his 3 major motion picture releases: Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel (if you have not seen any of these films then I suggest you go out immediately and watch them.  Honestly.  You will thank yourself later.).  Thus, it is little wonder why the executives at Nike decided to hire him to make this 3 minute masterpiece. 

What separates Iñárritu from any run-of-the-mill Hollywood directors is that he fundamentally understands cultural differences.  He understands what makes different cultures tick and how culture impacts the lives of people both regionally and globally.  Perhaps most importantly, Iñárritu is able to demonstrate his understanding of culture in such an ingenious way that you forget your own preconceptions and your own prejudices.  He makes you realize that we, as humans, are much more similar than we are different – even if we do lead totally separate lives set in different settings with different cultural, religious, political, and economical priorities.  He never pushes his agenda on the viewer.  Rather, he asks the viewer to reevaluate what it is that matters to you and, more importantly, why it matters.  

Alejandro González Iñárritu

What made this short film so poignant is the fact that it takes a major global and cultural phenomenon and demands us to evaluate how an event creates culture and how culture affects our lives – in this case, the World Cup.  Iñárritu expertly examines a series of potential outcomes from a micro level (the individual players) all the way up to a macro level (individual countries & cultures) and even beyond to a global level (financial markets, socioeconomics, and integration into global popular culture). 

This commercial is essentially Iñárritu holding a mirror up to humanity and instead of ridiculing us and saying ‘look at how silly we all are’ he is holding up the mirror and saying ‘look at the beautiful way in which we function’.  He shows us how passion affects us at our core, how we socialize and interact with each other and with culture, how we act and react after major events in our lives, and how life is always in perpetual motion with unintended catalysts and consequences. 

Whatever you make of the commercial – art or a multi-million dollar plug for Nike – Iñárritu captures the essence of what it means to be human and what it means to have passion.  In a few weeks the World Cup will open in South Africa and it is just staggering to think how many millions upon millions (even billions) of eyes will be watching these players and watching the tournament unfold.  You don’t have to be a sports fan to understand the magnitude of the World Cup and its effect on a truly global scale – financially, culturally, and even politically.  It is one of the few events that is truly global in its size and scope.  But what does that mean exactly?  Watch the 3 minute film one more time and let Iñárritu offer you a glimpse.  I happen to think that he isn’t very far off.

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