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Tears of the Sun

Seen: 2003.03.01   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.05.11

A film about the rescue of black Africans (and one white European woman) directed by a black man but starring only one African-American, who I believe is actually a British actor.

What to make of this?

Especially when the film resorts so readily to fiction when reality – Rwanda, for example – is so readily available?

It’s like writing a film about racial tensions in Washington, D.C. and using Asians as the race in question. It may be true at one level, but it is not the central truth.

Then again, look how badly the Americans mangled the story of Mogadishu. Perhaps a realistic story of Africa is something the Americans are not ready for.

Why can I think of no other American movie that treats black Africans (specifically – that travesty Cry Freedom is not the exemplar here) as actual people worth actually saving?

Picture my surprise to find Bruce Willis underacting. He underacts so consistently it becomes tedious. A bit of snark or colour would have been suitable. I counted three utterances of “Hurry, please” in such an aggressively soldierly deadpan that nobody hearing those words would actually hurry.

The emitter problem

As adduced a few times before, at Yonge & Eg they have brilliantly managed to install the emitter for the infrared audio description (a square panel 10 inches on a side) right in front of and below the centreline of the display for the captions. As a result, the bottom half of the middle four or five characters on the third row (the row least likely to appear – captions default to display top) are blocked.

Over and over again I’ve complained about this. Three full times. Tonight, it was back in force all over again.

Caption quality

A land with a 120 million people. Journeyman error, that.

Aren’t the “Ibo” people actually the Igbo people? Various online sources tend to use the terms interchangeably. It could be a transliteration issue: The word “Igbo” has a syllable boundary after the I, meaning the gb is coarticulated. Try saying g and b at the same time. Most people can. But it’s easy to mishear that as a slightly incorrect b, hence “Ibo.” (Oh, and question for the continuity girl: Why do the rebels speak English with each other and not Fulfulde?)

More than half of them, seriously wounded: No comma, please.

Just write the damned words. We can figure it out. I can imagine unusual cases where one must ID the language while also writing it out, but this isn’t one. (Actual case: Documentary on director Denys Arcand showing a taping of an English-language commercial. Arcand, invisible behind both cameras, calls “Action” in French. The words are written the same in both languages. Hence ARCAND (in French): would be a viable speaker ID.)

The nickname, typical of war movies, for lieutenant that is prounced “ell-tee” should be written L-T and not L.T.: “L.T.” isn’t the abbreviation, “Lt.” is. And you get into trouble with ellipses: L.T... needs a total of four, and heaven help us if it ends a sentence (then, arguably five). But this movie has its grunts mutter “Hooyah!” instead of Black Hawk Down’s “Boo-yah!”

We see a caption superhelpfully reading (helicopter whirring) as the machine fills the entire frigging frame. It’s captions like that that give captioning a bad name.

Description quality

Dreadful squelchy audio over the headset tonight.

Lots of preidentification in the description: “One man, Musa, sits beside Patience, who nurses her young daughter.”

“On their stomachs, they keep their guns ready”: No, two have rifles on their backs.

Great concise DX of gung-ho military gesture: “Red knocks fists with Lake.” Of course, it could mean head on (it’s actually hammering fists down like a gavel, each guy alternating). I guess it’s not so great after all.

How to describe apparently dead bodies:

Early in the movie: “A few yards ahead.” Later, and unrelated: “Several metres back.”

How not to describe nonwhite actors: The description never ever mentions that Ze is black, despite his later telling Waters the Africans are also his people. Perhaps that is intended as an invitation to the blind audience to draw an inference. To paraphrase Steve Krug, don’t make me think.

What happened with the emitter?

I complained about the emitter blocking the captions. The manager on duty seemed overwhelmed. I was being normal; he’s just easily overwhelmed. He radioed over to someone else who turned out to be... the projectionist.

I thought projectionists had been eliminated. (Aren’t they in such danger of extinction that they go on strike?) No, as it turns out: James even has a “deputy.” James is a young fella, maybe 30 at the latest, short and stocky of a type that certain guys like, and quietly, obviously competent.

I explained the problem. He was very surprised and embarrassed and had a hard time believing it. So in we marched to look at the display. Five excellent minutes were spent learning from each other standing before it. Yup: Emitter blocking captions. But surprise: It’s there because moving the display to one of the other hardwired audiotoria is so tremendously difficult. Look closely and you can see wires. For a long time, James refused to move the dangerously heavy and bulky and expensive display at all until they installed some kind of mechanized aid. Even now it’s a bother, and he had to move the display for the next day’s showing, in fact.

His deputy was futzing around with the projector as we spoke. James started to radio over to this fellow, who might have been 25. He simply opened the window and talked back to James! Amazing what these things can do – high-tech advances like sliding windows.

What James was asking was: You ever hear any complaints about the emitter blocking the captioning? Nope. But I had complained three times before, I told James, who became merely more embarrassed. He’s really quite a sweetie. (And he wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform – T-shirt, unbuttoned shirt, and baseball cap, in fact.)

I trust James to fix it.

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