‘El vuelco del cangrejo’: intersectionality film criticism

A Story

El vuelco del cangrejo (Crab Trap) is a dense film loaded with untold truths with hidden blatancies. In this movie the viewer finds a non-racialized main character (despite his mix-race roots, his semblance bring him close to the dominant ethnic group) that embarks on a flight for unknown reasons and seeks escape by boat from a lost village in the Colombian Pacific. In the village he knows the small population and ends up befriending a young girl, a beautiful woman, and a hard worker. All of them Black.

Through this main character, this story offers us a rigorous poetic view of reality in which the everyday elements of life, normally distressing or dispiriting, occur in a magical sequence that speaks of the melancholy of a paradise that is no longer anywhere.

This film presented the intersectionality as it does in the everyday life of a country marked by a heterogeneity that commonly turns into discrimination and/or marginalization. The protagonists of the analysis are Jasmine and Lucía, the two black women who would turn around Daniel, an urban middle class man.

Jasmine is an extremely attractive woman who lives with her uncle Cerebro and sees life passing between housework and flirting with a white man who intends to build a hotel on the beach of the village. The woman, having a baby, keeps a strange relationship with Cerebro, who which she helps with cooking, fish selling and buying food in the nearest city. A woman who is silent, who keeps secrets and who is still standing thanks to the little joys that her monotonous population gives her: dancing occasionally with El Paisa (the white man who is trying to build the hotel), taking care of the baby and, since Daniel came up, sporadically talking to him. A woman whose ex-husband is unknown and whose silence reveals a repressed need to live out of what looks like a conviction.

 

On the other hand there is Lucía, a lonely and quiet girl who seems to have not many friends in the community. Her immutable gestures do not allow to see the pain her behaviour shows. Her relationship with the people seems phantasmagoric, she basically does not interact with anyone, only with Daniel and the world they were creating based both on boredom and introspection. A young girl of about 12 years old who almost always wears the school uniform – but we never see her going– a girl who clings to the sea, the crabs, the sun, the stars, to Daniel.

El Paisa and Daniel close the cast from the position that their ethnicity gives them, that is to say, dominant. It is Daniel, seeking his own destiny and meeting oblivion, who gets the benefits of the feminine in the town. The Platonic love of Lucía and the physical and transcendental sex of Jasmine, a frighteningly lonely woman, sink him in the sensations that characterise forgotten black peoples in the Colombian Pacific. The monotony, the constant anxiety, the helplessness, the need, all the sensations that the women from such communities daily live penetrate Daniel as an obligation to Lucía (he is a big brother, a father , a love) and a desire for Jasmine. Besides, El Paisa represents progress, modernity. He came to the town concurrently to electricity (that the provincial government finally took) with changing plans, breaking the monorrítimico1 silence with lucrative desire and despotic profile. His actions annoy people and degenerate the oppressive but comfortable calm throughout which everyone seems bravely endure.

The applied intersectionality

In terms of Crenshaw2 when there is an attempt to conceptualize, identify and remediate race and sex discrimination, it has to be an academic obligation of taking into account the multiple factors involved in every case: social class, sex, gender and ethnicity. In addition it has to be present the idea of location3 due to the colonial Colombian past and all the set of dynamics flourished out of it.

Thus, we can account for the actions of the characters and relate them to their position on the map that is drawn addressing the topic from intersectionality theory and the politics of location.

Lucía: It’s a poor, rural black girl who sells her mother lunch plates for a living. Her dreams, virtues, desires and capabilities are subject to the power of love to an unknown white man. Their relationship is sincere but is mediated by the needs of the child. She needs to sell her mother lunches and knows that Daniel can afford it, she needs the company of someone older, someone educated that can answer her questions. She needs a father and needs salvation.

Jasmine: A poor woman living to help his uncle with activities traditionally granted to the female role. At home resources are scarce and they are even running out of food (fish). A woman who manage in her life a strict duality where there are only two worlds, the sexual and the maternal. She is a strictly patriarchal woman forced to divide her life into her relationships –more or less sexual– with her uncle, Daniel and El Paisa and the tasks that she has to perform by or for them.

Daniel: A white man (here it intervenes the fact that in Latin America there is a process of over-inclusion4 and Daniel is almost for all purposes white) who, with little money, can well afford to manipulate the fate of a poor black village. He gets the admiration of the little girl, the camaraderie of the local youth and the love of the black woman. His social status, ethnic group (which includes not only the appearance, but also an accent, a way of speaking) and sex allow him to conquer without much effort the symbolic amenities that people from La Barra simply cannot.

El Paisa: A white man who comes from the city with some money and aims to build on the beach what for him is a paradisiacal resort distant from the noise and modernity, but for Native means a break from everyday life. He is a man that causes suspicion among villagers but somehow has the charm of what they are not. He is a guy who does not need a large capital, charisma or culture, his mere presence is enough to break through the people and do his will.

Oppositionality

Griffin and Braidotti (2002) define Oppositionality as follows: “The possibility of appropriating “the Gaze” and of producing an oppositional gaze, of looking back or claiming the visual field, rather than looking down or being object of visual inspection, became one of the points of debate”.

In some way Daniel face the oppositional gaze since he is living within black people whose customs and worldview are exposed in contradiction of the “modernity” that El Paisa brings with him and his expectations. The food considered normal (fried bananas, coconut rice, fish, papas chinas, etc.), the deep rhythmical and relaxed accent and the African-Colombian chants and drums end up placing the white as the unusual, the clumsy, the beginner.

That way we could talk about this encounter with the real image of the whiteness with which Daniel has to deal when he realize that he is part of that Colombian ethnicity that lost its ethnicity in the pursuit of the “bleaching factor” of the globalized State’s culture. Daniel found, as Richard Dyer explains5, an emptiness, an absence, denial or even a kind of death.

 

References

1 With a single rhythm.

 

2 Crenshaw, K., Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, University Of Chicago Legal Forum, volume 1989, Issue 1, Article 8.

3 Taken from Griffin, G. and R. Braidotti, Whiteness and European Situatedness, In: G. Griffin and R. Braidotti (eds.), Thinking Differently, A reader in European Women’s Studies, London: Zed Books. 2002. pp. 221-236.
4 Tajfel, H., Cognitive aspects of prejudice. In: Journal of Social Issues, 25. 1969. Pp.79-97.

5 Simpson, Utterson and Sherpherdson. Film Theory: Critical concepts in media and cultural studies.Routledge. London. 2004. Pp. 213.

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