Why movies matter

Adrian Ho
Movies matter because they influence our thinking, refuel our spirits and inspire our deeds

Two weeks ago, I took my 13-year-old and 8-year-old nieces to see the animated movie Frozen. Just before the movie started, the 8-year old clutched my hand, turned to me and whispered, “Thank you, uncle, for taking us to see this movie. I know it’s a good one.”

“How do you know it’s a good movie when we haven’t even seen it?” I asked.

“I just know. I feel happy so I know it’s going to be a good movie,” she replied with a smile. She then turned to the screen, eyes wide with excitement as the movie started.

I was struck by what she said. It made me think of why people go to see movies in the first place. Despite the innocence in her reply, she had a very insightful point. We always go to see a movie with a hopeful expectation that we would be entertained, or stimulated, and somehow inspired. For more or less 2 hours, we count on the movie to make us forget about our own lives and get lost in someone else’s story.

The relevance of movies

Watching a movie is akin to eating. We wish to leave the movie theatre with a feeling of satisfaction – the same joyful kind that a good meal brings us. We don’t ever wish to be disappointed by a movie. Ever.

But of course, it does happen. I once saw Code Name: The Cleaner as I was feeling low and dispirited, and I wanted to see something funny and laugh for a while. But rather than being amused by that movie, I was repulsed by its silliness, my disbelief was not suspended but ignited with fury. Fifteen minutes into the movie, I got up from my seat and walked out feeling grumpy and traumatized like I was just robbed at knifepoint.

That experience, however, did not stop me from watching movies again. We’ve all had our share of bad food in our lives, but that didn’t stop us from ever eating again because, well, we need to eat to survive. The point is, movies are to the soul what food is to our bodies. Whenever our spirits are low and needing sustenance, movies are there to feed us.

Back in college in Vancouver, I remember cutting classes to see matinees down at the mall nearby. This was a time in my life when I was unhappy with how I was educating myself. I was majoring in computing science just because it seemed like the right path to take when every fiber of my being was against it. Logic and tautology and C++ didn’t agree with me like stories, sonnets and Shakespeare did.

After I saw Good Will Hunting in one of my class-cutting trips to the cinema, I had been enlightened. Ironically enough, I was awe-inspired by how a janitor at MIT who was a genius at numbers was able to transform his life for the better. It gave me a sense of clarity as regards to my (mis)education.

No, I didn’t force myself to like mathematics after seeing that movie; rather, like Will Hunting, I followed my heart. I shifted my major to English Literature the next semester. I got A’s and B’s in my courses thereafter.

Image from Shutterstock.

How movies shaped me

During my vacation break in 2002, I flew to Manila for a visit and I got to see Dekada ’70 with my sister. The movie tells the story of a family whose love for one another kept them strong and united amidst a Philippines that is plagued by social chaos and political turmoil. It resonated with me and my sister as our family, at the time, was also going through a rough period. Miscommunication threatened the integrity of our family; but thankfully, like the Bartolome family in the movie, our love for one another triumphed and we survived.

If I remember correctly, I had just acquired my Canadian citizenship months before that particular trip to Manila. I was thankful to be a new Canadian as the good country had given me quality education and wonderful opportunities.

But seeing Dekada ‘70 rekindled my love for my home country. I was born and raised in the Philippines; and I realized that, despite my new citizenship, I was still very much a Filipino right to the core. So about a year later, after I graduated from college, I returned to Manila for good to be with my family.

A number of other movies helped shape who I am today. As Good As It Gets made me want to become a writer. In The Mood For Love inspired me to study filmmaking. Silver Linings Playbook clued me in on mental disorders and helped me understand my own bouts with social anxiety. (READ: Living with social anxiety disorder)

Amelie made me want to learn French and fall in love serendipitously. Bwakaw was instrumental in helping me fully come to terms with my sexuality. Brokeback Mountain made me dream of, one day, winning an Oscar and The Social Network made me want to be Mark Zuckerberg.

Films move me so much that they unknowingly affect the course of my life and inspire me to make something of myself. And I know I’m not alone in this; this is true for many of us who take pleasure in watching films.

An ‘escape from reality’

Movies are a wonderfully necessary escape. It is a cheaper version of traveling and an easier version of reading a novel. They provide us with glimpses of other people’s lives, allowing us to live vicariously in other people’s shoes, compelling us to stretch our minds even just a tad, urging us to be more understanding, more accepting, more loving.

Every story is a love story. Movies are no different, no matter the genre. They remind us that, amidst super typhoons, mass shootings and political instability, love still and always exists.

Sure, we may not be able to win Oscars or acquire superpowers or become billionaires in our lifetime, but still, we keep watching films. Movies matter because they influence our thinking, refuel our spirits and inspire our deeds.

Most movies that we see may be fictional, but the realities they depict convey some truths – truths that make us laugh or cry, truths that make us think or re-think, truths that dispel our prejudices and strengthen our sense of hope, truths that remind us that life, however challenging, is still worth living.

After about an hour and a half inside the cinema, Frozen reached its end. I turned to my nieces and glanced at their jovial faces, illuminated by the house lights that just turned on.

“I told you it’s a good movie!” the 8-year-old blurted out. I smiled at her in agreement.

Feeling satisfied and recharged, we moved our way through the dark theater towards the exit, back to the light, back to our lives. – Rappler.com

Adrian Ho is a Filipino-Canadian writer who worked in the television industry for 10 years. He is currently watching movies like a madman, hoping to stumble upon one that would change the course of his life yet again. For movie recommendations that you think might change his life, you may reach him at madrianho@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mightyaid.

Movie image from Shutterstock.

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