Compare the way cultural difference is represented in two films (East is East and Crash) Essay Sample
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Compare the way cultural difference is represented in two films (East is East and Crash) Essay Sample
The two films, ‘East is East’ and ‘Crash’, display cultural differences within society in different manners. ‘East is East’ portrays cultural differences as a quite comical issue and this makes the film a comedy and this can be seen throughout the film from analysing the media techniques the creators have incorporated. However, ‘Crash’ shows racism and cultural differences to be a more serious matter as ‘Crash’ is a drama and this can be seen through out the film also due to the media techniques used. ‘East is East’ is set in Salford in Manchester, England in 1971.
The area is a working class area and this can be seen from the terraced housing in the first scene. Manchester at that time was pre-dominantly white and thus this causes culture clashes. ‘Crash’ is set at a more recent date as it was made in 2005. It is set in modern day Los Angeles in the USA. This time is post-9/11 and this influences some of the racism seen in the film. Los Angeles at that time had a lot of cultural difference due to a high crime rate from gangs and violence between different races.
The name ‘Crash’ could perhaps connote the collision of many different cultures and races and thus is metaphorical or it may connote devastation caused due to racism. The title ‘East is East’ may connote eastern traditions cannot mix with western traditions peacefully. In ‘East is East’ the opening scene is of most of the main characters taking part in a Christian parade despite being Muslims. This is a culture clash as it automatically shows the difference in cultures at that time as the main characters are Asian whilst the other people participating in the parade are white.
The opening scene starts with a bird’s eye view of the local setting; terraced housing and long narrow streets. As non-diegetic music plays, long shots are used to introduce the main characters. The music is parallel to the parade and is of a western source and is very cheery; the characters seem happy and are enjoying themselves despite standing out from the crowd. Also, busy diegetic sound is used to show the cheery bustle of the parade. As the parade is celebrating the Catholic religion, props are carried by the main characters to show this.
For example, one of the characters is carrying a Christ statue – this emphasises the cultural difference as well as showing what type of parade it is. The characters are wearing everyday western clothing and there is natural light as the parade is set outside. This part of the opening scene shows the children of the family to be more attuned to western traditions as they are taking part in the Christian parade. However, as the children’s father is introduced – an Asian man – the audience can automatically see that the children fear him knowing about their participating in the parade.
This can be seen as they are seen running out of the parade upon getting a warning and taking another route to avoid him finding out that they were in the parade. The director aids the panic of the children by tilting the camera as they are running and not keeping it steady. This furthers the cultural differences in this scene. The opening scene of ‘East is East’ is split into two sections which contrast quite a lot. The setting is first at their home where you can see a wall with the family members’ pictures on there.
This shows who the characters are and where they are in the family as later on after Nazir runs away from his wedding his picture is removed from the wall. The second section consists of the family getting ready to go to Nazir’s Asian wedding. The director shows the audience the emotion on Nazir’s face by using close-ups of his face. You can see that he is feeling quite nervous. However, his father George can be seen as very happy and proud due to the use of close-ups. The family are wearing eastern clothing and have eastern props. At the home there is slow Asian music which is non-diegetic as they are getting ready.
You can see how westernised the children are as they complain about looking stupid in the traditional Asian clothing. Furthermore, this suggests that the children again prefer western values rather than the eastern ones they are forced to follow. In the wedding hall there is artificial light and diegetic sound which is parallel to the busy crowd as there are normal sounds to reflect what is happening. When Nazir refuses to marry his bride there are loud non-diegetic drum beats to show something dramatic has happened. Moreover, the children can be seen as more western than eastern.
In the opening scene of ‘Crash’, it is night time and the scene begins with a bird’s eye view of L. A. , which suggests danger is to come in the film. Also it is a weather shot as you can see it snowing. Then the traffic can be seen as the car headlights on the roads are shown. The red coloured headlights may suggest that something bad is about to happen. The screen turns black and then a man starts to talk – at first as if his voice is a non-diegetic voiceover but then as the shot turns into a close up of his face you can see that it is diegetic sound.
Graham and Ria have just been in a car accident and racism is shown when Ria makes fun of how Asians talk by saying the word ‘blake’ – referring to how Asians can’t pronounce the ‘r’ sound in languages. Also the Korean woman is racist back by saying Mexicans can’t drive thus she is stereotyping all Hispanics to be Mexicans and that they can’t drive. For this, a medium long shot is used on Ria and the Korean woman because then the audience can see the two characters’ race and differences.
Also the black cop talking about racism in L. A. ut Ria thinks he is crazy. The close up shot of his face shows his emotion on the topic he is talking about, he is quite saddened due to it. Also as Ria questions his ‘frame of reference’, an over the shoulder shot is used to infer that she is talking about Graham. Furthermore this shows that racism occurs with all races and not just by one. In both films there are many characters that endure and display racism. However, ‘East is East’ focuses more on just one race whereas in ‘Crash’, there are many more races all suffering from discrimination.
In ‘East is East’, the main targets of racism are the Khan family as they live in Salford in Manchester – a predominantly ‘white’ area. This makes them more prone to discrimination as they are the only coloured family in the local area. This means that the cultural differences are between them and the rest of the ‘white’ community. On the other hand, ‘Crash’ offers a wider concept of racism as it displays more races colliding in everyday life and enduring and showing racism. ‘Crash’ focuses on different races inter-linking throughout a period of 36 hours.
One of the characters is Graham, a black police officer/detective; he is the first actor to be introduced. He starts off the opening scene with his voice as diegetic sound talking about racism in L. A. as he compares it with other cities in the world, but says that nobody in L. A. wants to touch you due to your colour/race. This shows his awareness of racism in Los Angeles and therefore this shows that he has endured it or seen it happen to another person. Similarly, ‘East is East’ also starts off with a theme of racial difference; the children are participating in a Catholic parade.
As the children are mixed race – half Pakistani and half white, they stand out from the rest of the parade. This instantly shows the audience the theme of racism in film. In spite of this similarity, the children in ‘East is East’ do not seem too aware or upset because of this cultural clash where as in ‘Crash’, Graham is talking in a negative manner towards racism in L. A. Furthermore in ‘Crash’, Anthony (a black youth) begins the scene by complaining about racism to his friend. He is annoyed by the fact that the waitress in the cafi?? was being racist by not offering him or his black friend a cup of coffee.
A moving two-shot is used for this scene as it shows the angst going through Anthony’s mind because the fast movement of them walking and talking adds to his emotion. Moreover, his friend does not really show as much interest as he questions him on why a black waitress would be racist to them. To add to this, Anthony endures racism when Jean, another character, holds her husband closer to her when she sees the two youths. This can ultimately describe Jean to be prejudiced as she judges the two before she can even fathom what they are like.
This form of racism is very discrete as Jean is not openly racist but shows it through action as she feels threatened by the two black youths. However, in ‘East is East’, the racism is much more public and open as the community in which the Khan family live have posters on the walls of a highly racist politician. These posters are put up by their neighbour who is also a racist and constantly ridicules them. The fact that he is their neighbour and his grandson is the best friend of the youngest child of the Khan family, adds to the comical effect and irony of the film.
Additionally in ‘East is East’, the community is racist perhaps due to the sudden change in society as at this time there were many Migrants that caused a lot of the change. This could have become a catalyst for racism as the new cultures coming into the community were different thus meaning that people were not sure how to react to this and as a result were racist. This creates the contrast between the two races. This concept is also used in ‘Crash’ with another character, Farhad, a Persian shopkeeper who is trying to buy a gun for his protection with his daughter at a gun shop.
Here, a two shot is used to show dialogue between the father and his daughter in Persian. This dialogue annoys the white shopkeeper as a mid shot shows his irritation. He says ‘Yo, Osama, plan the jihad on your own time’, which is a racist comment. He is basically referring to the 9/11 attacks and thus assumed the middle-eastern father and daughter to be Arabic. This racial remark is a sign of his sensitive views on the 9/11 attacks as he does not know how to react to the father and daughter as he may feel threatened by them or merely wants to offend them.
In ‘Crash’, Ria and Graham also fight due to racial differences. Graham tells his mother that he was with a white woman; he calls Ria white to annoy his mother but first refers her to be Mexican despite her being Hispanic and not from Mexico. This shows that he is ignorant within his own relationships and this concept is also used in ‘East is East’ as similarly, George calls Ella names and blames her for the westernisation of their children thus he is blaming her race for everything despite being married to her.
Furthermore, ‘Crash’ shows racism in an institutional sense as Hansen, a young white police officer, wants to change partners as he finds out his police partner is a racist. The main police officer had previously molested a mixed race woman because he was angry at a receptionist at his father’s clinic. He took out his anger on another racially different person as the receptionist, Shaniqua refused to help him. The head of the police says that he knows about racism in the police department however, it has always been like that. This ultimately shows that racism resides in more institutional places as well as on the streets.
To further this, Graham is also blackmailed to change the evidence in a certain case which makes the black police officer look bad. The senior police officers said that they will free his criminal brother of any charges if he changes the evidence. This is proof of racial difference in institutions, which affect people in their everyday lives. On the contrary, ‘East is East’ does little to portray racism in industry as it is more based on family life. Throughout the two films, there are characters who display racism to others. For example, in ‘East is East’, the Khan family have a racist neighbour.
He will call them ‘Pakis’ and for this a long shot is used because it shows the cultural difference between the families and also to imply the white neighbour is very nosy as he watches them constantly, therefore depicting his characteristics.. This can be seen as less public, however in ‘Crash’, Jean, the white wife shows racism openly as she wants the locks changed again after seeing that a Mexican man was doing the job. She generalises him to be a thug out of prison because of his tattoos and shaven head, whereas the audience later find out that he is a very sweet man who cares for his daughter.
He returns the spare key to Jean as she tries to say that he will give it to one of his ‘gangbanger’ friends. For this, a two shot is used, perhaps to demonstrate the reality of the situation and that the Mexican locksmith is just like Jean, just a different race whereas a separate shot would infer him to be separate. Although Anthony in ‘Crash’ feels as though he is a victim of racial abuse and discrimination, he also displays racism to others. For example, he generalises all white people to think that black people are criminals and that black people are inferior.
This shows lack of knowledge about racism as although he can pick out discrimination directed at himself, he cannot see that he is also misinterpreting other races perhaps to defend himself or out of sheer ignorance. On the other hand, this concept is not seen in ‘East is East’ as it focuses more on racism directed towards the one family rather than multiple cultures. Although, another form of racism/prejudice in ‘East is East’ is when the Pakistani woman with her husband and daughters say that Pakistani children should be disciplined and well mannered; unlike the Khan family’s children.
This shows a stereotype that she brings forward despite being Pakistani herself. A mid shot is used to show her saying this as she wants to get her point across and it also allows her to show her seriousness on the matter. In ‘Crash’, a stereotype of black people is furthered when Hansen shoots Graham’s brother, Peter because he thinks he has a gun after they have an argument. Hansen stereotypes Peter to be a typical black man who likes only black music. This stereotype leads to disaster, much like in ‘East is East’ however in a more dramatic context as the genres of the two films are different.
Another example is when the Persian man does not believe that the Mexican locksmith has done the job and that he is lying about the broken door. He judges the locksmith on his appearance and stereotypes him to be a Mexican thug. This may be the result in being a victim himself as he now feels that to get along in life; you also have to be a racist to survive. However, the racism is shown to have lead to his own defeat as his shop is raided at night as he would not let the locksmith finish his job.
He goes to shoot the locksmith but accidently shoots the locksmith’s daughter, fortunately the bullets were blanks thus she was unharmed, yet, he believes that she was his angel. This ultimately shows that love can help. To make the audience feel shocked, they used a point of view shot of Farhad when he fires the bullet. They also show the locksmith’s face; full of shock and agony however they do not show the little girl’s face in order to conceal the fact that she is alright. To further to drama they use diegetic sound – the gun shot to add to the effect.
In both films, many of the characters struggle to obtain power. In ‘East is East’, George, is constantly trying to make his children act in a more eastern manner. For example, as the family are Muslims, George forces the children to attend prayers at the Mosque, but instantly in the mid shot, you can see that the children do not like going there and feel quite alien which perhaps suggests that they have grown more comfortable to Christianity – this complements the opening scene as they are seen to be very cheerful as they participate in the Catholic parade.
This leads to George not actually succeeding in his attempt to try to make his family more eastern as they simply reject the idea of Islam. Also in ‘East is East’, even though the children are Muslims, they still eat pork and Meena says that she looks ‘stupid’ in her eastern clothing which furthers the sense of discomfort the children have for their eastern heritage. This shows them to care little about their eastern and religious values and prefer a more western way of life and this indicates again how their father has failed to obtain power.
Their father wants to get his children an arranged marriage which is a more eastern tradition. However, his sons do not want this to happen as they rebel; Tariq has a white girlfriend though she is kept secret. To show this concept, the camera speed tends to move quite fast as jump cuts are used when George is coming and Tariq is with his girlfriend. This shows the panic and desperation of the characters as they try to hide the fact from their father.
Overall, this shows that the children are going behind their father’s back when he thinks they are listening to him showing his failed attempt for power because George feels that as the eldest male in the household, he is in charge of the family which is also more eastern concept. Similarly, in ‘Crash’ Farhad tries to buy a gun in the gun shop, but as the white shopkeeper is racist towards him, he tries to defend himself by mentioning that he is also an American citizen, but that does little in the shop keeper’s eyes as he calls security to remove Farhad. This indicates Farhad’s lost battle in trying to obtain power in this event.
Additionally in ‘Crash’, the mixed race woman does not want to get molested by the older white police officer. However, as he has more authority, her husband, who is also black, cannot do anything as he knows the officer is a racist and that he can misuse his power to get them into trouble. This shows the woman’s struggle for power as she is helpless in the situation due to her being mixed race and having a lower authority than him. This can be seen as the white police officer trying to gain power through policing authority rather than his race which differs from George trying to gain power through culture in ‘East is East’.
This shows that cultural difference can lead to anger; in ‘East is East’, George is angry that his children do not follow his traditions and the white Police man in ‘Crash’ is angry due to his fight with the black secretary, Shaniqua, thus he expresses his anger on a black couple. This anger leads to them trying to gain power to perhaps set things right or even for revenge. Also, in both films there are concepts of irony and hypocrisy which add to the dramatic themes of the plots. In ‘Crash’, irony is displayed when Anthony is complaining about how, being black they are always generalised to be criminals and dangerous.
However, when Jean holds on to her husband as they approach them, the two black youths get out their guns and steal their car. This is hypocritical as they were just complaining about everyone generalising them whilst they have just now stolen someone’s car. This shows them to live up to these stereotypes; the ones which they are angry about. The car-jacking scene takes place in the evening in which most thefts naturally occur. This complements the theme of crime. Also, the camera speed is, again, fast to show action and that a crime has just taken place.
Equally, in ‘East is East’, hypocrisy is shown with the notion of George wanting to get his children married to Pakistanis despite marrying a white woman himself. This sparks controversy when his son Tariq says that he will marry the Pakistani girl only if he is also allowed to marry a white girl. Here, an over the shoulder shot/close up is used on Tariq’s face to show his deep emotion and serious opinion on the subject on arranged marriages and therefore his serious opinion on ‘culture’. In both films, irony and hypocrisy is seen to be a part of cultural difference.
In the films ‘Crash’ and ‘East is East’, there is a similar scene in which two of the characters are presented with racist themes. However, the characters from both films react differently to their situation. In ‘Crash’, the two black youths endure subconscious racism by Jean. This angers them as she stereotypes them to be criminals and dangerous. However, they turn out to be exactly that as they have guns and as a result, ‘jack’ the couple’s car. The two of them do not accept the racism that was displayed towards them and thus they stole Jean and her husband’s car in order to get revenge.
However, in ‘East is East’, a similar situation arises when Tariq and his brother sneak out at night to a nightclub. As they line up to enter, the audience see two Asian men get rejected by the security guard after being asked their names. As they replied, both giving Asian names, the guard is openly racist by telling them that they aren’t allowed to go in. Despite this racial activity, Tariq and his brother still decide to go in but Tariq gives western names instead of their real names. This indicates Tariq’s knowledge about racism in community and shows that he is quite used to it.
This reaction is the opposite to that of the car jackers in ‘Crash’ because they do not try to retaliate but simply accept it. The night club scene is also edited to show the emotions of the characters. For example, close-ups are used to show the emotions and reactions of the characters when they are dancing; Tariq is seen dancing confidently as if he is used to an environment which is so different to his ethnic culture, whereas his brother is seen to be feeling awkward in such a foreign place because of his usual obedience to his father’s orders. This adds to the humour in the film.
Also, western music is playing to show that the nightclub itself is a cultural difference between eastern and western culture. Overall, although these two scenes show different reactions to racism, they are both edited to show emotion and action. It is fair to say that in both films some of the characters undergo change throughout the events of the plot. In ‘Crash’, there are positive changes of characters; one being where Anthony releases illegal South-East Asian immigrants into the Asian part of the city, despite previously being offered $500 per person in the van that he had stolen.
He refuses the big offer from the man at the chop shop and releases the immigrants. What’s more is that he also gives the immigrants $40 – which is all he had in his pockets. This shows a huge character change as before in the film he was seen as someone who despised all other races and said that he will never steal from a black man, whereas now he is seen helping these vulnerable immigrants when he could easily sell them and make money. However, he still shows his ignorance by generalising the food that Asians eat by telling them to go and get a ‘chop suey’.
For this scene, the use of a bird’s eye camera angle is useful as it shows the audience where he has taken the immigrants and what he is doing more clearly. Another positive change is when Jean realises that Maria, her housekeeper is her best friend despite being a different race. Also in ‘East is East’, Sajid, the youngest child in the Khan family is close friends with a white boy on his street. They do not judge each other over racial differences. Conversely, In ‘East is East’, a less significant change is seen.
This is because George does not change his views in the end but he does finally see how his children are more western than eastern. However, this fact does not change his mind of wanting them to follow eastern traditions so there is still unresolved tension. These character changes, from both films, ultimately show us that dramatic and traumatic events in one’s life can change their aspect on the world around them no matter what culture you are. Also, the older white police officer goes through a change of character.
The woman who he molested earlier in the film because she was a mixed race and he had just had a fight with a black woman becomes trapped in car after a car crash and there is a serious risk of a fire. The older white police man tries to save her but as she sees it is him, she refuses as she has no trust for him. However, he realises that she needs saving and that her race does not matter. HE asks her permission to touch her whereas before he touched her without her permission. This shows that he has changed his view on how he should act and uphold his authority and responsibilities as a police officer.
Many close-ups are used of the character’s faces to show deep emotion and to show how they recognise each other from before. Also slower music is used which is contrapuntal with the actual situation but parallel to the emotions of the two characters. This displays that cultures can mix and help each other and that cultural difference can help shape you and how you act towards others. This is similarly shown in ‘East is East’ as the youngest child of the Khan family has a best friend who is white and yet he says “As-Salaamu `Aleykum” to George when he passes by.
A mid shot is used to show who says it which helps the audience fathom that the little white boy does belong to the same race yet he has adopted to the simple traditions and culture of the Khan family. This shows that cultural difference can be a positive attribute to society as it encourages diversity within the younger generations. However, a negative change of character in ‘Crash’ is how Hansen, the young white police officer shoots Peter, Anthony’s friend and Graham’s brother. This is out of his prejudice towards Peter when he offers him a lift.
He starts to generalise Peter to be a typical black person, for example he does not believe Peter when he compliments the country/western song on the radio as he expects him to be perhaps interested to rap/hip hop. This is a stereotype which unfortunately ends with Peter getting killed by the doubt that over-clouded a supposedly un-racist man like Hansen. This tells the audience that everyone can prejudge anyone; we might not even know it. The tension in this scene is created by the use of over the shoulder shots between their dialogues as it gives the audience their point of view.
Also the use of diegetic sound shows that the scene is quite busy as the sound of the car driving fast on the road is used. Furthermore, close-ups/mid shots are used to display the characters emotions and reaction, and in many cases cut in shots are used to show action of the character’s body for example when Hansen reaches for his gun. Overall, in both films, many characters undergo change as apart of one of the many conventions of a drama; where the events may provoke change in a character. Both films end depending on their genre.
East is East’ finishes in a quite comical way despite the sadness and drama in the scene before. Whereas ‘Crash’ finishes off with racism and a quite dramatic concept. In ‘Crash’, Anthony is shown to release the south-east Asian immigrants in the Asian area of the city. After their release, there is a car accident between Shaniqua, the black secretary and some Asian people. Racism is shown here as she says to them ‘Don’t speak to me unless you know American’. Although she was very angry as her car was smashed, she still prejudged the Asian people that they did not speak English.
This ultimately shows that racism is everywhere and also this concept of involving Shaniqua furthered the notion on everyone’s lives inter-linking with in this period of 36 hours. On the other hand, in ‘East is East’, it ends with George hitting his children and wife, also through anger. The children side with their mother, which contributes to the idea of them wanting to be more western like their mother. Here, two shots are used; one with the children and their mother in the point of view of George, the other with just George, as the point of view of the children an Ella.
This displays to the audience who the children feel the villain or antagonist is which in this case is George. This is very effective because the audience can clearly interpret what is going on. George then is revealed to feel guilty and he does not look at Ella – he walks off. This is shown by the use of a long shot which lets everyone see his emotion. The ending of ‘Crash’ is set during the night which complements the theme of sadness and depression as Graham’s brother has died as an outcome of racism and also the night may connote the end of something big.
However, with the accident it shows that racism occurs at anytime. As the shot leaves the scene of the accident to a bird’s eye view of the city, the accident is lit up with artificial lighting by a lamp post whilst the rest of the street/city is quite dark. This helps the audience interpret the racism as it is almost spot lighting it into view as the camera zooms away. The shot turns into a weather shot as it is snowing as like the beginning of the film. The snow may represent a cold and sad theme or it may employ a fresh feeling in which a very busy and emotional day has ended as it shows it to be night time.
The weather shot also shows how the whole city is affected by racism and cultural difference as there are many different races in the cities whereas in ‘East is East’ the cultural difference is focussed more on the neighbour hood in which the Khan family live in. Nonetheless, the cultural difference is shown to be negative. Also, non-diegetic sound is used. In ‘Crash’, an optimistic song, ‘Maybe tomorrow’ is played which does not really complement the themes but it is effective at is cheers the audience up and perhaps makes them think about all the events in a lighter way – that although racism is wrong, it is a part of everyday life.
In ‘East is East’, the ending is set in the day time which adds to the comical theme as a dark setting would bring the audience down when this is an amusing film. Also, like in ‘Crash’ it ends in the streets; the basic location of the film, in which a wide shot, is used to show the setting. To add to this, non-diegetic sound is used; the song is called ‘Moving’ and is quite happy as the family realise they have each other and love one another. Although something bad has happened, Ella and George have made up and the film ends with the children having fun.
Thus the song is parallel to the ending as its lyrics ‘Moving, just keep moving’ complement the film as the issue has almost been forgotten as if it happens on a regular basis. Overall, the ending scenes round off racism and give the same basic message about cultural difference; it is like a cycle. To conclude, although both films convey different settings and times they both give a similar message; racism is like a cycle, and it will never end.
Also, another similarity is that it shows that different races and cultures can mix as human spirit can overcome prejudice and discrimination; however, what ever we do society will always remain a little racist. However, in ‘East is East’, not much change is shown in the characters lives mostly because it is a comedy film, yet in ‘Crash’ a lot of change can be seen as it is dramatic and this draws the audience closer to the characters as you feel as if you accompany them on their emotional journey.
Despite this difference, ‘East is East’ and ‘Crash’ both incorporate the concept of older generations being more cultural e. . in ‘Crash’ Farhad is more cultural than his daughter, Dorri who lives in a more western way, likewise, in ‘East is East’, George is much more traditional and cultural than his children who have been raised in the west. Overall, there is a mutual message which can be seen clearly. Both films show racism to be continuous and a part of life which often leads to sadness but can be confronted by love and human nature. Nonetheless, racism is a negative thing and both films have made it very clear that this is shown by showing emotions through the use of difference camera angles and sound.