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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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