Five Movies That Have Inspired My Writing

This is the first theme day in the 2012 WordCount Blogathon. Here are five movies that have inspired my life and writing. At the end I have provided an Amazon link to all the titles.

Born Free (1966)

As a child I loved true animal stories like Sterling North’s Rascal, about a raccoon he rescued. Whenever Born Free aired on TV I was sure to watch it. I have always wanted to go to Africa and meet wildlife face to face like Joy Adamson did. I have never done so, but at least I learned to look for and record great stories in my own environment. Nature does not have to be exotic to be fascinating.

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Warning: this clip includes plot spoilers, but the rest following it are only trailers.

This is my favourite movie. I once read a book that said society overlooks introverts. The author challenged readers to recall a single example of an introverted hero in movies or TV, asserting there were none. The author was wrong. What about Amélie, and June from The Joy Luck Club? It tells the stories of four older Chinese women recalling events before their immigration to San Francisco. It also portrays their four adult Chinese-American daughters. June is a young writer who believes she cannot meet her mother’s expectations. It is a common tale, one I can also relate to. Masterful storytelling combines with exquisite cinematography to make a movie I have watched over and over. The scenes of life in early 20th-Century China are unforgettable. However, June (played by Ma-Ning) brings it home. We do not need bravado to find our place in the world. The YouTube clip shows the moment when June realizes what her integrity is worth. Movies cannot do justice to the books they are based on, but author Amy Tan successfully adapted her novel for screen. The two versions are different, and both excellent.

Contact (1997)

Another of my top ten movies is Contact, science fiction about an extraterrestrial intelligence making contact with Earth. Jodie Foster plays Ellie Arroway, a scientist selected to travel and communicate with whoever they are. Witnessing some kind of celestial event, she gasps: “No…no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should’ve sent a poet.” There is more to the universe than we can possibly imagine. Sometimes science is insufficient to describe the ineffable truth of existence. It gives me hope that being a wordsmith may count for something in the big scheme.

The Mistress of Spices (2005)

A mystical healer must choose whether to be true to herself or to the traditions that empower her gift. As a child I felt a deep connection to the beauty and personalities of plants. The movie reminded me of this, and also a desire to use my creativity to benefit others somehow. It is a richly sensual movie, but the book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is even more powerful.

My Life as a Turkey (2011)

Watch My Life as a Turkey – Preview on PBS. See more from Nature.

This is not a movie but a PBS special I saw recently. Unfortunately, I cannot play it from the website; American readers might have better luck. Joe Hutto is a Florida wildlife artist who raised a clutch of wild turkeys from eggs. He recorded the experience in his memoir, Illumination in the Flatwoods (Lyons Press, 1995). It was eventually dramatized with actor Jeff Palmer for the Nature TV series. The story is remarkable in its illumination of another species’ capacity for communication and awareness. Hutto’s year as the adoptive mother of a family of birds caused him to question ideas about humanity’s superior consciousness. Turkeys are notorious for stupidity, but evidently these wild animals have powers of perception and awareness humans lack. As a nature writer I aspire to be a student and interpreter of nature’s complexity. The book is high on my list to read.



2 thoughts on “Five Movies That Have Inspired My Writing

  1. Very thoughtful post here. I have been to Africa, on a sort of mission trip in 2007. Went on safari as well. Made me wish I’d been around at the turn of the century (20th), as I think commercialization has changed the experience into something sterile. It’s almost too perfect. I would have liked it to be less so. Still, the animals are absolutely stunning to see in what appears to be their natural environment. And I adored the colors worn by the tribes people in the Masai Mara, where I was fortunate to stay. It would be interesting to see what a naturalist would have to say about modern-day safaris. I hope you’ll get a chance to go some day soon.

    1. I hope so, too, Jackie. I didn’t put Africa on my bucket list the other day, but it should be there. If I travelled to one of the world’s great wildernesses I would consider going with something like Quest Nature Tours. I have a naturalist friend who guides some of their tours: I interviewed him about one of his trips last year. They probably make an effort to provide a more authentic experience of the natural environment. However, seeing the human cultures is equally important to me. Staying with the tribes people must have been a life-altering experience.

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