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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Does Race Matter In Nonfiction Films With Universal Themes?

Maria (Naomi Watts) in The Impossible
Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) in Argo

We asked this question on today's "Cinema in Noir." With the success of the drama, The Impossible starring Naomi Watts, we wondered what the story would have looked like if a Spanish actress played the role instead. The film is inspired by the true story of Spanish physician María Belón, whose family were victims of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

While the film is moving and extremely well acted, the fact that the characters weren't portrayed by Spanish actors (in a film written and directed by Spanish filmmakers--director Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sánchez) is deceiving. But Belón herself has reportedly stated that her race was not an important aspect in the portrayal, so she did not see a problem with the fact that it was switched in the movie. "We were the same," she said. "We had no race, no language, no nationality, no social standard. We were just the same.”

We talk about stereotypical portrayals on the show often, so to finally have a role that doesn't offer a generalization of the Latino character be essentially whitewashed on the big screen is very unfortunate, even if it was done for U.S. marketing reasons. But if the real-life character is okay with it, should we be as well?

The same goes for Tony Mendez, whose story inspired Argo. While he doesn't identify himself as a Latino (despite having Mexican roots), Ben Affleck, who played him in the movie, certainly isn't Latino. But, again, does it matter what the actor's race is in a film where it is of no consequence to the story or quality? Share your thoughts below. 

On the show we also discussed the latest in casting news, including Dwight Henry's (Beasts of the Southern Wild) new role in the Marvin Gaye biopic, Sexual Healing. Jonathan Hailey of the Urban Daily also joined the show to give his thoughts on the topic of the day and a fairly scathing review of director Michael Bay's newest film, Pain & Gain, starring Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie (the #1 movie in America). 

Catch the full episode of today's "Cinema in Noir" below:

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