Mini Essay on the Effect of Belonging Between a Person and a Place

‘In each of the texts, perceptions of belonging involve connections between people and places. Compare the portrayal of the connections between people and places in Mankind Is No Island and Gran Torino. ‘ For people to have a real sense of belonging, they need to make connections with the place they live and the people around them. If either of these connections is missing, then individuals will suffer as a result. Two films that examine this idea are the 2008 Tropfest Winner ‘Mankind Is No Island’ and the motion picture ‘Gran Torino’ directed by East Clintwood.

The Tropfest film ‘Mankind is no Island’ represents the challenges of belonging to a place by exploring the irony of the misconceptions that cities, being so grand, would also create a grand sense of belonging within the individuals that populate them. However, the film shows us that many people are faced with isolation, starvation and alienation. This is shown in a scene with the quote ‘do we measure empathy by donations’, after these 6 words, the camera focuses on a homeless man kneeling in the street.

The camera angle is low when you see the man appearing to be begging for money. His head is positioned downwards at the bag in front of him, with no great deal of donations. This shot also shows people on the street walking past the man without so much as glancing in his direction, as though he does not exist. This is a visual representation that reinforces the title. It is as if the people drifting past him are depicted as the water and he himself the island. In ‘Gran Torino’, the neighbourhood in which Walt Kowalski lives is shown to be full of Hmong people.

At the beginning of the movie, Walt is appearing to have a racist attitude towards his neighbours as he is always calling them ‘gooks’ or ‘zipper heads’. It is evident in the scene in which Tao’s cousin and his gang try to recruit Tao in his own front yard, that Walt does not like the Hmong people. Tao resists which causes a conflict that ends up moving over to Walt’s lawn. The scene is cut to Walt pointing a gun into the gangs’ faces whilst saying ‘get off my lawn’.

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One of the members of the gang says to Walt ‘are you crazy, go back in the house’ where Walt replies to this ‘how about I blow a hole in your face and then I go in the house and I sleep like a baby, you can count on that’. When Walt has a barbeque in his own backyard, inviting his new found friends over, we can clearly see the contrast in attitude that he has. He went from scowling and cursing at his Asian neighbours, to having a full grin and laughing with them while sharing a friendly gathering. In this scene, Walt feels as though he belongs with this family more than he does with his own.

Tao’s family accepts him for who he is and doesn’t expect anything from him. Walt and the Hmong family are able to make jokes about each other that aren’t politically correct, but they are accepted for they trust and accept that it is how Walt is, because he comes from an age where making racial comments was less criticized. In conclusion, both ‘Mankind Is No Island’ and ‘Gran Torino’ show that connections with people and places are essential in creating a sense of belonging within oneself. When someone feels as though they truly belong to someone or something, they become much happier.

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