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Bias is an everyday reality

From: Donnie Garrow, Ottawa, ON, CANADA

A follow-up from the Canadian First Nation reader who wrote earlier about "Crash," saying that people were not sure of his ethnic identity, and for some of them, how they treated him seemed affected to a certain degree by what group they thought be belonged to.

I actually have spent a lot of time pondering this movie and the tremendous response it has generated. I think it shows the importance of having critics such as yourself and Mr. Edelstein. During my somewhat serious times at university I encountered a class which took on a critical approach to film. It was the only class I would venture outside of my apartment for on those oh-so-cold Ottawa winter mornings. It brought me back to some of those intro to English courses I took the year before.

We covered a lot of work that ended up being criticism, not unlike the kind you provide, it was such a fascinating study of how people view things. It was the class about film though that brought me into seeing film as a medium for narrative, and using that narrative to perhaps show the different ways in which a society or people exist. Our professor was an amazing lady whose love for film I have only seen by yourself and my older brother. It was her attention to narrative though that taught me so much about using film as an effective tool for the art of story telling.

This brings me back to “Crash.” What I feel so many people have missed the boat on is that this is Paul Haggis's way of showing some of the ways the color of your skin or who you choose to worship affects relationships, whether they be intimate or not, within a community on a daily basis. The fact that it is still being discussed with such gusto is actually a compliment to the picture. It might be 2006 but race is such an important issue. However, it is framed and divided into so many sects we lose sight of the reality that it still manifests its way into so much of how we interact.

The film is not factual, but people like myself have seen allusions to what we experience, so it resonates within and we through this story begin to reflect on these experiences. Some people don't experience these sorts of situations, or worse choose to ignore them by casting it aside as something that just does not happen in this present day. I will not say that is fine, it is not, but I see why they do not see anything of a valid nature in this story. It is a touch disturbing, maybe more so, but that is in the end how they choose to view the picture.

That brings me to your compelling discussion of this movie and its afterthought. Bias is unavoidable sometimes, and in your business I believe it works its way into columns or thoughts more then maybe you want it to. Without it though I think it would make things pretty dull and void of anything that might bring forth an intelligent debate on the subject. I agree with much if not all of what you said about this film, which is why I wrote you in the first place. I wrote that letter very angry, that's about the only time I have done that successfully. Since then I have observed the very thoughtful letters and replies to this film. It is so, so fascinating.

Lastly I just really want to reiterate that “Crash” is not a true story, but a way of telling a story so that people might see someone else's perspective. It worked for me, and I can see how someone may not like it, but not to a point of hate, or to say that these sorts of things don't happen in modern day Los Angeles, Ottawa or Chicago for that matter. I said I did not think it was the best film of the year, after much though, it isn't. “King Kong” was for me, for a lot of different reasons, but it would be a close second.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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