starring Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton, Pia Thunderbolt, Berk Ozturk
screenplay by George Miller & Augusta Gore, based upon the short story "The Djinn in the Nightingale" by A.S. Byatt
directed by George Miller
by Walter Chaw George Miller's Three Thousand Years of Longing raises impossibly tangled issues around representation in its tale of a "narratologist" who releases a Djinn from his bottle and wishes he would love her as she, instantly, loves him. Based on a short story by A.S. Byatt, part of a five-part cycle that seeks to navigate the rocky wasteland between colonist and colonized, the victor and the appropriated, Miller's picture is a story about a specific point of view that can never be entirely separated from itself. Whatever the best intentions invested in bridging cultural gaps, the process of absorption and reinterpretation tends to result in diminishment. The things that are most precious in our stories are ephemeral and shy. They're like exotic zoo specimens: they don't travel well and, once imprisoned, wither and die. But like anything judged to be rare and, through its rareness, authentic, stories belonging to others continue to be collected, no matter the damage collection does to them. Mulan, Aladdin... The popular conversation around them has swung so completely into their Disneyfication that Niki Caro, the not-Asian director of the live-action Mulan, based on one of China's most-revered folk heroes, said there "is another culture at play here, the culture of Disney." Unlike Mulan, however, Three Thousand Years of Longing is based on a work by a white, Yorkshire-born British woman (a Dame, no less), and I think it's not so much an attempt to colonize 1001 Arabian Nights as it is an ethical adaptation of a piece primarily interested in how the West has sought meaning for itself through the Orientalization of the cultures it's exploited for centuries.
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