A Separation

Iranian film is relatable despite subtitles

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Iranian film is relatable despite subtitles – Los Angeles Loyolan.

A Separation

Photo Credit: YouTube | iranianfilmfes

Living in Los Angeles allows better access to independent and limited release films than almost anywhere else in the country. It’s that sort of access that allowed me to see “Black Swan” on its opening day in 2010. Such opportunity is a gift, but it doesn’t allow residents of the City of Angels to see absolutely everything.

Case in point: I saw the best film of 2011 in March of 2012. The movie was “A Separation,” an Iranian film that just recently won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The story follows a couple that goes through a divorce and a legal battle with hired help simultaneously. It is, in almost every way, a perfect film, yet because of its status as a foreign film, not to mention an Iranian film, I couldn’t see it until almost two months after 2011 had ended. Those in other cities may never get the chance to see it in theaters.

“A Separation” is a wrenching portrait of a family falling apart, as well as the greatest legal thriller I’ve ever seen. The screenplay and direction, both by Asghar Farhadi, are superb in equal measure. The ensemble of talent is worthy of the masterful film it inhabits. The plot is irresistibly human and relatable. It is only foreign through its language – the story could be told about any culture or any family.

This isn’t the first example of a good film getting lost in translation when distributed in the U.S. With very few exceptions, including Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, “The Artist” (a French film, albeit with several American influences), international movies are constantly relegated to the foreign dumpster despite easily relatable themes largely because American distributors are convinced that the language barrier will simply be insurmountable.

Unfortunately, those distributors are proven right time and time again by American audiences that would rather see sequel upon “threequel” instead of fascinating stories that happen to be in different languages. It’s a shame that so many in America and beyond won’t get to see “A Separation,” for example, because it has so much to offer, not only to fans of foreign cinema, but to general audiences everywhere.

That’s where the “foreign” label really fails: it creates a barrier between its American audience and the film itself. A story like “A Separation” would work in any language because it’s so relatable – yet the subtitles at the bottom of the screen drive away audiences.

It’s likely that “A Separation” will see some success thanks to the publicity generated on Oscar night. Rentals of the DVD will probably be quite high for some time on Netflix. A story this great deserves better than that, though. It deserves a place among the classic titles we all regard so highly. It deserves a wide audience and huge grosses. It deserves so much more than it will ever get simply because it’s a human story told in a different language.

Since we do live in Los Angeles, “A Separation” is still playing in several art house theaters around the city, including Laemmle’s Royal Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard less than 10 miles from LMU. If you have the time, do yourself a favor and go see it. You likely won’t get the chance to see such a compelling, heartbreaking story from American cinema any time soon.

University reacts to city’s new trash plan

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: University reacts to city’s new trash plan – Los Angeles Loyolan.

The city of Los Angeles is currently considering a new garbage disposal plan that would see the hauling of all waste performed by a single, assigned private contractor. The plan, which is purported to be an instrumental step in reaching the “zero waste” output goal, is generating controversy due to its potential to shut down smaller contractors.

While officials supporting the plan argue that the greater L.A. area would likely see a major boost in the amount of waste recycled if the plan was implemented, LMU would likely be only minimally affected by the change due to its current emphasis on recycling. The University has already chosen to oppose the measure due to the potential dip in quality of services such a plan would provide.

“The University feels like the franchise system will limit our free market choices when it comes to solid waste hauling at the University,” said Bill Stonecypher, the manager of the Solid Waste Management and Recycling departments at LMU.

Student and faculty members, however, don’t see the plan as being quite as harmful.

“It probably won’t affect us,” said environmental science professor Dr. John Dorsey. “If anything, it’ll probably be better, because more of what we put in the waste stream will be recycled.”

Junior urban studies and Spanish double major Natalie Hernandez, who works as a sustainability outreach coordinator with Green LMU, agrees that the plan will have minimal impact on the University.

“LMU already recycles a lot of its waste, so I feel like it wouldn’t affect our recycling efforts too much,” said Hernandez. “It might just affect how much waste is hauled from here.”

The plan, according to the Feb. 12 Daily News article “L.A.’s new trash plan: better for recycling or a big mess?”, will allow for greater control of recycling and could lead to unionization of workers in the sanitation field.

“I think it has a lot of potential,” Hernandez said of the initiative. “It will hold the [garbage collection] companies more accountable in their recycling efforts.”

However, Stonecypher disagrees, stating that while the zero waste goal can be achieved under this new plan, “we think the goals of that policy can be achieved through a variety of other methods that don’t include limiting a customer’s options.”

“By taking away choices, the answers to disposal issues as we strive to become even greener can only come from a single source,” he said. “Currently, the solid waste hauling industry in the greater Los Angeles area is exploding with all these new customer options … for greener solutions, and we think this should be encouraged and flowered, not hindered.”

The additional controversy around the plan arises from the requirement of only one collection company to service each of the 11 distinct regions in L.A., meaning most smaller agencies would be put under immediate threat of being shut down, thus creating a monopoly.

“We feel like the quality of services rendered by a disposal contractor in a regional monopoly would significantly degrade the quality of service,” Stonecypher said.

“Sure, it could definitely do that,” Dorsey said of the possibility of a monopoly. “Everyone needs their fair shake. But even the smaller groups have said that they need to do a better job of recycling.”

The new plan could also potentially raise disposal prices for the University and for the greater L.A. area.

“According to the city’s own data, consumers pay almost 33 percent higher rates in exclusive franchised cities,” Stonecypher said. “And that’s really tough for us in this time of fiscal crisis because we’re doing everything possible to keep our infrastructure costs down so we can keep tuition down.”

Currently, LMU recycles 56 percent of its waste output, according to the Recycling and Waste Management information section on the University’s website. LMU has been recycling since 1990, reaching state mandates for increasing the reuse of discarded materials a full five years ahead of the deadline at the turn of the millennium.

“But LMU needs to continue working on reducing our overall waste stream by cutting down on what we throw away, what we reuse,” Dorsey said.

Debate over the new garbage transfer initiative began in City Hall this past Monday and will continue until the measure reaches a vote. If approved, the new program wouldn’t be implemented fully until 2016.