Yet another hashtag has emerged throughout the past week where we social media navigators are encouraged to look at our favorite films and/or TV shows and see if we can find ourselves in them, to some capacity or another. That hashtag is #FilmStruck4. Started up by @FilmStruck on Twitter, this hashtag is to celebrate the four films that “define you.”
In the past, I’ve gotten to share with you all three fictional characters that I can describe myself in and the first times I saw me. This latest hashtag is all about storytelling, so you know I had to participate. Here are four films that define me:
“Princess Mononoke” (1997)
After being cursed by a demon, Ashitaka goes on a journey in search of a potential cure. Along the way, he finds himself caught in the middle on an ongoing feud between the people of Irontown and the gods and spirits of the forest, whose land Irontown’s matriarch wants to make use of for its resources. Despite the lines drawn, there are no good guys and bad guys in this hero’s journey. Together with the mysterious San, a human girl raised by wolves, Ashitaka struggles to maintain peace on both sides.
I’ve written about this Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece several times both here on this blog and elsewhere. Much like others who’ve seen it, I love its animation, its characters, and its storytelling. How this film defines me lies within its potential of the kind of stories I want to tell. It’s not a straight forward good vs. evil story. Everyone and everything are various shades of gray. To me, that is much more interesting as an audience member and as a storyteller.
“Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming” (2016)
Rosie Ming is a 20-something Canadian who has a love for poetry and Paris. After self-publishing her own book of poetry, she gets invited out to a poetry festival in Iran; the birth country of her estranged father. Through learning about the history of Iran’s finest poets and getting to know her fellow festival attendees, Rosie not only deepens her understanding for poetry, but also her understanding of herself.
I was fortunate to have had access to a screener to this latest work by Ann Marie Fleming. This film defines me because it was practically made for me. I was immediately able to connect with this story of a 20-something, self-published writer of mixed heritage who goes on quite an intimate journey. As a 20-something, self-published writer of mixed heritage myself, I am able to relate to her struggles and perspectives on both writing and on discovering family history (especially when there is so much mystery behind it). It’s not that frequent for me to relate to a protagonist as I do with Rosie Ming.
“Whale Rider” (2002)
Following the death of her twin brother, Pai is now the heir to being chief of her Maori tribe. However, bound by the tradition of it being a male-only role, her grandfather constantly dismisses her. With her deep love for her grandfather intact and an awareness of her potential, Pai goes out of her way to prove herself by any means necessary; even if it means sacrificing herself to save the original whale rider’s whale.
A moving film directed by Niki Caro, this is another title that has come up on here a lot. “Whale Rider” defines me in terms of its similar struggle I’ve had with my own grandfather. I know how it feels to be dismissed by a grandparent from an early age, based solely on your gender. While the relationship between Pai and her grandfather plays out differently than mine, I draw inspiration from her quiet strength and willingness to train herself in what she knows she has the potential to do. In the time we are in now where women are calling out for justice and change, this film means more to me now than ever before.
“Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)
When a leader of the Rebel Alliance is taken prisoner of the Galactic Empire, a farm boy on a desert planet finds himself on the journey of a lifetime. Together with two bickering yet lovable droids, a bad-ass scoundrel, his partner-in-crime, and a wise old Jedi master, they work together to set the rebel leader free, as well as make a much needed delivery to the rest of the Alliance.
“Star Wars” is a franchise that I’ve bluntly expressed my love for several times on this blog. The reason the very first one is on this list is that it defined how I view the kinds of stories that are available out there, and how even using traditional character motifs such as the ones used in this first installment can still create something fresh and new. Much like “Princess Mononoke,” “Star Wars” is a constant motivator for me to change things up in storytelling.
So these are my picks for #FilmStruck4. If you had to pick four films that define you, which ones would they be? Let me know in the comments below or respond to my initial tweet.