Well, folks, it may be time to create a new category. I saw a lot of good movies this holiday season. Did you?
Here’s the list of ones I saw: Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Milk,and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I recommend each of these films, and all of them have connections to memoir, even though none of them were based on memoirs. They are all personal narratives about identity, character, fate, truth, and age, perennial memoir themes.
Slumdog Millionaire is based on the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup. Even though it is a novel, I think it relevant to a memoir blog because of its inventive plot and its theme. The triumph of Ram Mohammed Thomas, the main character of both the novel and the film, comes from either incredibly luck or his destiny, whichever you prefer. He escapes death many times in the mean streets of Mumbai, manages to reach adulthood, and gets the chance to go on India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Every time he has to answer a new question, his own experience yields the correct answer. It looks like incredible luck, or even cheating, to the audience. But the film audience sees it as destiny.
I left the theater in Fort Myers, where I saw this movie, mulling over the thought that my life has been a series of pressure-packed moments, also. I don’t like the commercial metaphor of the game show, but it will do as well as any, I suppose. And whenever the stakes were highest in my life, I always drew on some story or experience in the past in order to “win”–to find the strength to accept the new challenge and to overcome the new obstacle.
Memoirs, our memories, are human levelers. You may be a Bollywood star or a slum dweller, but first, you are a human being. Your brain, heart, spirit connect you to all other human beings, and your stories not only hold you together. They hold all of us together. This idea may or may not be powerful enough to win an Oscar for Slumdogs this year, but it will not fade quickly. It’s an eternal winner!