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Grymovs Strangers Accused of Anti-Americanism

Published: November 18, 2008 (Issue # 1426)



  • An image from the new film Strangers by Yuri Grymov, a former television commercial director. In the film, Americans abroad are portrayed as entirely unsympathetic.
    Photo: Strangers

  • Despite stories to the contrary in the Russian press, Strangers is not banned in the United States
    Photo: Strangers

Russian filmmakers are not known for their glowing portraits of American culture. From the 1948 Soviet propaganda film The Russian Question about a communist-bashing American newspaper editor to the immensely popular film Brother 2, in which a young Russian man rampages through back-stabbing hoodlums in Chicago, there is no shortage of anti-Americanism in the countrys cinema.

Now in 2008, filmmaker Yury Grymov adds his film to the genre.

Americans place themselves higher than all other peoples of the earth, said Grymov in an online journal written during the shooting of his new feature Strangers, which opened in Moscow on Thursday.

They forcibly attempt to inculcate their morality and their modes of behavior. And what is most frightening of all, they sincerely suggest that they are committing a charitable act.

Strangers was shot in Egypt but is set in a deliberately vague somewhere in the East, where an American medical team arrives to provide vaccinations to children living near a war zone. The vagueness of the films location inevitably suggests connections to the current U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After this par-for-the-course Hollywood setup, though, the script and acting become so loopy and exaggerated that the directors agenda of showing the folly of letting Americans into any country with a desert becomes overwhelmingly apparent.

When the ragtag group arrives on screen in its Toyota Land Cruisers, they are shown as culturally inept fools, blasting music from their SUVs and starting to dance before splashing each other with buckets of water from a nearby desert lake.

After settling into their miserable quarters, the female lead, Jane, played by a Texas actress named Scarlett McAlister, starts flirting with their Arab security guard, quickly seducing him despite the presence of her husband Tom, also played by an American, Mark Adam. Meanwhile, Tom, the leader of the culturally crass band, finds a group of Russian military engineers and begins flinging insults at them about their totalitarian minds when they refuse to let the group into the village.

The other doctors a gay couple who befriends a young Arab boy only to traumatize him when he sees them having sex and a spiteful, awkward older woman make up the collection of utterly unsympathetic people that Grymov sees as typical American abroad.

Without giving the rest away, the Americans continue to be not very nice, do something especially not nice and get away with it.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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