Exam Paper Narratives & Identity

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Information about Exam Paper Narratives & Identity

Published on July 8, 2009

Author: IndianaStanley

Source: slideshare.net


A guide on how to approach the Exam paper questions on Borders and Belonging (WJEC AS Film) using This is England (Meadows 2006) and East is East (O'Donnell 1999) as case studies.


FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Approaching the exam • Read the question through carefully • What is it asking you to say? • How is it asking you to deliver the information? • What parts of the film are you expected to talk about?

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM The Question • How far do the narratives of the films you have studied for this topic explore questions of belonging and exclusion?

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM This is England (Shane Meadows 2006) Themes: Lack of identity Collapse of traditional roles and values Social upheaval in time period (early 1980s) Coming of Age / rite of passage (Shaun)

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening Sequence This is England Opening Sequence The sequence is effective in its clever use of iconic 80s imagery inter-cut with outcomes and after effects of the huge changes which took place in this time. These events are also key to the themes of the text itself – showing both positive and negative images of Belonging, Social Upheaval and Industrial change and how these may impact on Identity.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening shot of Maggie Thatcher operating a Wrecking ball – implying destruction. Cut to Space Invaders – suggesting not only new technology but also metaphorically destruction. A link between Thatcher and destruction is being made. This is a recurring theme throughout the opening montage. This is then contrasted with a shot of Knight Rider – again 80s context and new technology but again cut against graffiti on a wall in a run-down estate suggesting the social upheaval of this change.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM This is followed by contrasting shots of Groups – first one (top left) is suggesting groups of disaffected youth leaving school unqualified and with few prospects. Contrasted with a positive image of a group (again with clever 80s context) in the use of an Aerobics class – the fashion for which really took off in this era. The most significant image of Groups and Belonging is the example of the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana – which unified the whole nation albeit temporarily – and provided a positive use of the Union Jack as well as giving the whole nation a stronger feeling of IDENTITY

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM The next set of shots return to the theme of destruction. Initially we are shown some footage of the Iranian Embassy siege brought to an end by the S.A.S – indicating a positive use of destruction (?) contrasted with footage of the protests against U.S Nuclear Arms at Greenham Common again referring to collapse of Social order or destruction of English traditions. After that we are shown Thatcher operating a computer – cut against Missile Command – as though she is playing the game – suggesting she is operating the missiles and cleverly using the 80s video game to link her with the U.S. Missile problems at Greenham.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Footage of the CD being made brings the themes back to New technology and another 80s invention – but as with the others so far it is contrasted with the negative outcome of the change to British industry – the miner’s strike used metaphorically here to emphasise the collapse of a large percentage of traditional industries in the U.K. – often brought about by the introduction of new technology. The next set of shots returns us to the central themes of Belonging – being part of something and the impact of multi-culturalism in modern Britain. Bottom left is a National Front march – the Union Jack being usurped with negative connotations and the next shot implies a more positive effect of multi culturalism – the two old women (who appear by the editing to be watching the march) are of different backgrounds but seem to have integrated perfectly well.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM The last bit of footage from this opening sequence shows images of Falklands war fought in 1982. To finish on this event serves to reinforce the central themes of the text – Belonging – being part of something, the destruction of traditional ways of life and the following social upheaval those changes brought. The soldiers shown carry the Union Jack whilst marching – in a similar context to the NF marchers earlier but now with a more positive context. They also ‘belong’ by being part of the armed forces. Thatcher and Reagan as a partnership were instrumental in the ‘special relationship’ which the U.S. and the U.K. are said to enjoy – suggesting a change in the way things were done in the U.K. and we are shown another image of Thatcher being metaphorically responsible for the collapse of working class roles – seen here operating an anti aircraft gun and cut against not only the sinking of the Belgrano but also the dead and injured soldiers as a result of the war.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening sequence • The entire montage lays out the central themes of the text, linking Thatcher with both the cause and effect of the major changes in the 1980s. • It shows differing images of destruction and changes (old industries / ways of life collapsing) • Contrasted with developments in new technology (CDs / Computers etc) • And inter-cut with changes from Imperial Britain to the new, more modern world in which we live today • Alongside ways in which human beings need to ‘belong’ or be in groups – both positively and negatively. (unemployment queues / aerobics / NF / Armed forces)

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM This is England (Shane Meadows 2006) Shaun As a character Shaun does not fit in to his environment. He is demonstrated to be an outcast from the first scene, waking and leaving the house alone – excluded (even Banned) from the corner shop when he takes too long to read a comic to where he teased repeatedly for his flared trousers. The scene where Shaun is teased by an older boy also suggests this is not an unusual or unique event. It also lays the foregrounding for his desperate need to ‘fit in’ somewhere.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM The sequence where Shaun buys his catapult should be one of happiness – a toy like this should be shared and enjoyed with friends but the sequence where he practices with it and then sits alone in the abandoned boat – (both physically and metaphorically adrift) only serves to demonstrate just how he is isolated and excluded. Even the eventual reckoning with his mother over the fight at the beginning of the film implies a lack of connection – they are kept in separate frames through the entire conversation – further reinforcing both his need to for a strong role model, to no longer be excluded and to belong.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Woody Shaun comes into contact with this group / gang shortly after the initial fight. Their teasing sparks a response and it is Woody’s kindly affection that first brings Shaun into their group. His action here signifies to Shaun that he has found a place to belong and a role model to follow. His way is one of friendly, good natured (perhaps rebellious) companionship. Woody is an idealised role model – he is kind, warm, understanding and provides not only support and friendship but a place for Shaun to belong. It is quite easy to understand how someone as bereft of these things as Shaun is meant to be could be so easily seduced by the lure of friendship and belonging. However, Woody is also a weak Father figure as he does not have the power to control his ‘gang’ – the control of which is challenged and subverted by the arrival of Combo.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM This is England (Shane Meadows 2006) • It can be suggested from Shaun’s character that he is also struggling to find a MALE ROLE MODEL from which he can build an identity – • Woody is the first older male role who shows him any sort of support or affection. • He becomes the first Father Figure for Shaun – in the absence of his real father who has died during the Falklands war (1982) indicated by the bedside photograph of the soldier • Woody’s role as Shaun’s ‘father’ is implied by his protection and encouragement but reinforced by the ‘hunting’ sequence where Woody carries Shaun on his shoulders

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Not only does Woody represent the Father / Brother Figure that Shaun craves – but also he acts as a link to the group, something else Shaun is desperate for – the need to ‘fit in’ and belong to something. Woody is his way of joining the group of ‘skinheads’ and becoming part of something. Initially, the Skinhead politics are very ‘safe’ and sanitised as Woody (and the gang) are polite and welcoming to this newcomer – even at the expense of one of the other group members.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Identity To fit in, Shaun goes through the ritual initiation of having his head shaved. This makes him feel part of the gang and gives him an IDENTITY. By becoming part of the Skinheads, he now has a ‘group’ and adopts Woody particularly as his ROLE MODEL or Father figure

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Identity Crisis Combo Combo represents the extreme side of the skinhead movement and serves as Shaun’s second and more dominant Father Figure – leading him onto the BNP and his more fascist ideals. Where Woody was a weaker role – identifying with Shaun in a more Friend/Brother role – Combo takes on the role of Father figure and actively instructs Shaun on his behaviour and conduct. Shaun – still desperate for any sort of identity - adopts this new, more aggressive (and dominant) role model enthusiastically. It could be argued that as reaction to his earlier lack of power he would seize any chance at what he sees as real power. That need to belong – and desperation for IDENTITY leads him to adopt Combo’s way of doing things and Combo’s beliefs in Nationalism. Thus Shaun’s identity evolves again to ‘please’ his ‘Father’.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Milky Milky’s West Indian (Jamaican) background makes his role as a skinhead problematic. By including non-white members to his gang, Woody is identified as a far more tolerant or passive character than the stereotype suggests thus reinforcing his kinder, gentler role in Shaun’s life. When Combo arrives, this tolerance is disrupted and then completely abandoned. Combo tries to befriend Milky – another example of inclusion and belonging – because he wants Milky’s connections to cannabis but it is a façade which is soon abandoned when Combo sees Milky as the reason behind all of his own misfortune. Milky’s large family (implied belonging) only reminds him of how excluded he (Combo) really is, causing him to lash out.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM It could be argued then that the ‘threat’ ethnic minorities really offer to the often disenfranchised, disconnected white majority is their true feeling of belonging – minority groups often create strong communities based on the roots of their homelands as a way of protecting themselves in a foreign environment. It is these community links and groups – the fact that they are able to feel part of something and to belong – is, ironically, what characters like Combo want to destroy. It is a reminder of what he/they do not have themselves. Consider the scene where Combo loses his temper and ends up beating Milky – it is only when Milky talks about his family and the happy times they have together that Combo attacks him – this reinforces the idea that Combo is jealous /angry that Milky belongs to something when he (Combo) is abandoned by all but his most loyal followers (Shaun & Banjo). Even his attempts to persuade Lol to choose him over Woody are met with utmost rejection.


FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Identity & Belonging in East is East

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM East Is East Based on a semi-autobiographical play by Ayub Khan Din, East is East (d. Damian O'Donnell, 1999) was a surprise international smash hit, nominated for six BAFTAS and winning the Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film. O'Donnell turns Rudyard Kipling's adage, "East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet" cleverly on its head, in a clever yet moving portrayal of the culture clash between a traditionalist Pakistani father George (Om Puri) and his English wife and seven westernised children.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Themes • Immigrant status / Alienation • Integration / Separation and Belonging • Conflict and Identity – challenges of multiculturalism. • Notions of Englishness – what it means to be English

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening Sequence • The Culture clash is captured in the first scene: the Khan kids join a Catholic ceremony, marching down the back-to-back terraced streets of Salford, sporting banners, crucifixes and wreathes. • When their father unexpectedly returns early from mosque, their mother, Ella (Linda Bassett) goes to warn them. • As Ella and George watch the rest of the march, the kids sneak down the alleyways and rejoin the head of the procession.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening Sequence • East is East opening sequence • The sequence cleverly uses a mix of humour and drama to set up the overall tone and feel of the text. The audience are shown the Khan family – at a distance initially to show they are just one part of a larger procession. • George appears – disrupting their happy time and causing them to all run off behind him before re-joining the procession further down. • George is happy to watch from the sidelines but will not get involved – and from the children’s response, it is implied he does not want them to be involved either thus neatly setting out the film’s overall theme.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Opening Sequence • Running down the alley ways behind their father signifies one of the central themes – that the children are fully integrated into English society (carrying Christian religious imagery, voluntarily joining in with a local traditional festival, being part of the community) • The fact that this action takes place behind their father’s back (both physically and metaphorically) and with the tacit approval of their mother – who acts as a ‘lookout’ - demonstrates the dichotomy of their identities.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM The Khan Children The children are certain of their identity as 'English' and defy George's determination to raise them as Muslim-Pakistanis: • Meenah (Archie Panjabi) prefers playing football in the street to a demure life in a sari; • Saleem (Chris Bisson) pretends to study engineering (a Pakistani father's dream vocation for his son), but is really at art school; • Tariq (Jimi Mistry) calls himself Tony, kisses English girls and gets drunk; • Abdul (Raj James) potentially the most balanced – works at a garage, complies to his father’s wishes but sees himself as English with his ‘stag do’ in the local pub (on his own) • Maneer (Gandi) (Emil Marwa) the most loyal Muslim of the children – seen praying regularly and always traditionally dressed. The others refer to him as Gandi in reference to his peaceful, un-rebellious nature • Sajid (Jordan Routledge) is yet to be circumcised and plays with the grandson of a racist, Enoch Powell-supporting neighbour; • Nazir (Ian Aspinall) abandons his arranged marriage at the start of the film and is erased from the family (vanishing picture). Seen initially as a response to his disobedience but latterly the heavily implied homosexuality could serve as reason for his banishment.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM George Khan GEORGE – CLASSICALLY KHAN – TRADTIONALLY ASIAN REGAL ENGLISH NAME SURNAME • But the cultural conflict is greatest in George himself, who insists his sons marry Pakistani girls. • His children see him as a hypocrite as well as a despot because he left his first wife in Pakistan, came to England to make his fortune and married an English woman. • (Tariq acutely asks, "If English women are so bad, why did you marry my mum?"). • But he enforces the Pakistani / Muslim way aggressively (even violently) and considers himself a Pakistani rather than English. • And yet this viewpoint is challenged by a number of factors:

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM George Khan • George studiously follows the India-Pakistan war on the radio in whilst in his chip shop, 'George's English Chippy', • His poor English is punctuated by the colloquial swearwords and slang of a local, used incorrectly. • But having forgotten to circumcise Sajid, he buys him a watch in Arabic to mollify him. • George's last words in the film reprise his recurring desire for 'half a cup' of tea.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM George Khan Half a cup of tea The continual reference of half a cup of tea by George refers implicitly to his inability to fit in. He can only ever commit to half a cup of this most English of beverages. George’s Fish ‘n’ Chippy Even more indicative of how much he has become assimilated into British culture, George and Ella run a fish 'n chip shop - and though George complains about how racist his British neighbours are, he himself is a bigot, not only against the English, but also those of Indian descent, (eg Sajid’s Doctor) as a result of an ongoing war between Pakistan and India. George is something of a paradox

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Conflict and Identity • The conflicts dramatized in East Is East are universal, as they bring into play the gaps between generations and cultural identities. The children, who have spent all their lives in a British society, want to have nothing to do with their heritage, and want to become even more 'British' such that they can better 'fit in' and not be subject to schoolyard taunts (much like Shaun in This is England) • On the other hand, George's insecurities and cultural upbringing manifest themselves in the form of pathological pride, blinding him to his own hypocrisy and the torment he inflicts on his family. • As a result, George finds himself at odds with the world around him on more than one occasion, and his perceived loss of control only makes him more entrenched in his beliefs.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Conflict and Identity One of the areas covered by East is East is the notion of alienation and acceptance (belonging). Even though the Khans (except George) seem quite comfortably integrated, they are continually reminded of their ‘alien’ status. Reinforced by the inclusion of ‘alien’ imagery (left – The Clangers) and Enoch Powell’s (below left) support in the white majority telling them they don’t ‘belong’. The racist bigot supporting Powell in the film is ridiculed by his grandson being Sajid’s friend and being quite taken with Meenah. Ironically he is far more accepting of the Khans than they even are of him – implied by Meenah’s teasing and George’s offhand dismissal of him when he tries to greet them in Arabic. George’s cheerful Allah go with you to the local Catholic priest is also met with much confusion suggesting a lack of understanding between the cultures.

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM Conflict and Identity Tariq is the most rebellious of the Khan children. He sneaks out at night, drinks and smokes, dances and fools around with girls. He particularly seems to enjoy the rebellious excitement of relationships with white girls. His main ‘girlfriend’ is also the daughter of the local NF supporter and it is implied in places that this serves as an incentive for him to keep seeing her. Tariq – a known figure on the Club circuit, indicated by his being on first-name terms with the bouncers – also goes by the pseudonym Tony to further integrate himself into the English community. His identity as a local ‘player’ is built on the idea that he is English. He also rejects his Father’s plans for him far more violently than Abdul (“I won’t marry a paki!”)

FM2: BRITISH & AMERICAN FILM International Marketability East is East was distributed by Miramax as part of their arrangement with Film Four It is interesting to note the differences between the UK release (below) which clearly indicates the ethnicity of the central characters and the multi- cultural themes of the text. Now look at the U.S release poster (above). What evidence of ethnicity and multiculturalism can you see? Why do you think this is?

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