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Resilience at the movies

Resilience at the movies

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I didn’t realise it until I started this blog, but it appears that I have an affinity for the Disaster Movie.

I’ve developed this list of Disaster Movies and will be bringing you my thoughts on disaster films from a professional perspective (it’s based on a list I found here, and as you’ll see, it’s very much a work in progress!). I’m not setting myself any objectives here – I’ll just do this as and when, and based on which movies I can get my hands on. Check the ‘At the movies’ category for all relevant blog posts.

disaster movie picture

What am I hoping this will reveal? Well, there are already numerous studies of Disaster Movies from other perspectives (cinematography, feminism etc) – but as far as I’m aware, there hasn’t been a professional Emergency Management approach previously. So, my intention will be to compare what I know and have experience of, with what is portrayed on the big (or little) screen.

Obviously Hollywood likes to embellish fact with a good story; I understand that we’re not, unless explicitly stated, watching documentaries here. Nevertheless, for most of us (in the UK at least) our exposure to disasters is infrequent, so perhaps the disaster movie can serve as a learning experience – perhaps for the public, but perhaps also for the response community. Maybe once I’ve worked my way through the list I’ll have uncovered a lot more!

It’s going to take some time, and I expect I won’t be able to get through all of the films listed. I’ve already provided my analysis of 2012s The Impossible and I watched Source Code this weekend so will bring you that one soon too.

So there we have it, my intention for the first ‘running theme’ of this blog. If you have any suggestions on films you’d like reviewed – what was the professional message from Snakes on a Plane perhaps – then drop me a comment below or on twitter.

Oh, and the image is my rudimentary analysis of the categories of disaster film by year – I’m going to do a bit more work on this and come back with some more meaningful and insightful analysis, so for now, it’s just a nice picture!

The Impossible

The Impossible

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I’ve seen my fair share of disaster films, and the ones which resonate with me most, are those based on true stories. Last night I went to see The Impossible. I’d recommend that you go too…here’s the trailer.

Yes, Emmerich’s frozen New York is impressive, but lets face it, chances of Snowball Earth within a few days is pretty unlikely. Bayona’s tsunami however, well I remember that quite vividly.

Following the earthquake on Boxing Day 2004, I spent many of the subsequent days rapidly picking up German so that I could understand the TV reports (I was in Austria at the time). Similarly to 9/11, the scenes that were being shown looked like the work of Hollywood.

It wasn’t too long before some other breaking news slipped the tsunami down the agenda and out of mind of those not directly involved. However, as I watched the film yesterday Bayona did a great job at recreating the terror and posed some important questions about emergency preparedness (I wonder if he knew he was doing this?).

I don’t want to spoil the film for you, but difficult decisions abound

  • Do you think about risk before going on holiday? What preparations do you make?
  • Would you rescue the abandoned child or would you get yourself to safety? Could you separate yourself from your children to search for other family members?
  • What are your natural abilities, how could you use them to help the response effort?
  • How do you think you would cope without everyday luxuries? Language barriers?
  • Would you let other people use your mobile phone knowing that you can’t charge it when the battery runs out?
  • Do you operate on the patient with a limited chance of survival? How do you prioritise who gets scarce resources?

The rational part of me disagreed with some choices that the main characters made in response to these quandaries; but they weren’t wrong. Until we’re in that situation I think its impossible to predict what our response would be; and I think that’s the take away message.

Disaster films are not documentaries – they exaggerate reality and always have plot devices designed to elicit an emotive response. But the reason I love them, is that they continually ask “what would you do” and getting people to consider that is a great step forward.