Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Discussion of a Scene from Safe Area Gorazde - Candy Tossing and Guidance

One of the bad things about the field of journalism, like most fields, is that the job has its own stereotypes. Unfortunately, there are those who work in the field living up to the stereotypes. Journalists are assumed to be people who record horrible events just to get stardom and money. Joe Sacco is not one of these journalists but he portray those who abuse the power of news. The first panel depicts a stereotype coming true.

Another interesting about this page is the debate whether a bon-bon or a cigarette was better for a kid. The kid originally received a Drina cigarette but was given a bon-bon. In Sacco's words, "Poor kid, he didn't want no stinking bon-bon...but at least we set a good example." The use of the panels involving a camera man throwing candy and journalists handing out cigarettes and candy make an interesting juxtaposition. It shows suffering should not be staged by practioners of news, there are more genuine reports that would need to be covered. An obligation of a journalist is to help people by uncovering horrible truths. Sacco did just that and illustrated what not to do with starving children in a war torn country.
- Kristopher

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet Joe Sacco

To understand Safe Area Gorazde's haunting, visceral and occasionally comical look, one has to understand Joe Sacco who interviewed the people living within the supposed "safe area." In Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco is a regular smartmouth who makes fun of his profession, makes fun of himself and how he is viewed by the Bosnians. Yet he always lets the Bosnians give out their experience rather than rant and rave out the experience himself. The balance between reporting and raw emotions exhibited by the Bosnians makes Safe Area Gorazde a harrowing and facinating read.
So who is Mr. Sacco? Sacco was born in Malta and raised in Australia and the United States. Sacco acquired a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. He applies his practice of journalism into comics, an example being Palestine. Like Marjane Satrapi and Guy DeLisle, Sacco took comics out of the hands of costumed heroes and put them on the spotlight depicting real events.

Interviewing was a crucial aspect of storytelling in Safe Area Gorazde. Sacco talks about the interviewing process in an interview conducted by January magazine:

"What I've learned is that people like to talk about themselves. And that's kind of the advantage you have when you're asking people questions. Unless they're really trying to hide something, they like the fact that someone's asking them questions, and if you can ask them things they haven't been asked before, or ask stories that they have never told, they kind of really welcome it, and some see it as a real release, is what I find. So as far as what I've learned, I mean, you know, I think just with anything, experience helps you. You just become a little more subtle, and you learn how to, I guess, not so much follow a script of questions, but, like if someone says something, you just sort of continue on that thought, and see where it goes."

Sacco's latest book is Notes from a Defeatist, with includes political and autobiographical notes. Till then, Palestine and But I Like It (Which is about rock 'n roll) will be on my reading list.

- Kristopher

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Discussion on a Scene from Persepolis - Martyrs and Blood Transfusions

Lots of tragic scenes occur in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis but so does some figurative language to illustrate the horrible scenes of peace movements squelched by a theocratic regime in Iran.

Satrapi's description of a martyr giving a blood transfusion to society describes the process to be extremely painful. Society is given "bad blood" from the matyrdom, from the Islamic extremists who believe Western ways are "decadent" and "evil" and believe their only way of life is the way to live.

The panels above the blood transfusion depict the extremists destroying society brick by brick; painting graffiti of martyrs, declarations of conquering Karbala and reaping away many civil rights which include women's rights. Even Satrapi climbing down the stairs telling about the chaos is metaphorical of Iran's descent into madness, fanaticism and darkness. Satrapi's right as a citizen would be going downhill because she is a woman. As a woman, she would be forced to wear the veil and be treated as nothing but a second class citizen.

Persepolis is a great graphic memoir which bears Satrapi's good memories as well as the horrible memories. When Satrapi brought out horrible memories, there was nothing indicating anything was holding back her pencil and ink.

- Kristopher

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Overview over the Bosnian War

My graphic novel class will be looking into Joe Sacco's Safe Area Gorazde, which depicts Sacco's experience with interviews he conducts with people about the Bosnian War. The war is considered one of the most brutal civil wars in European history, with this post giving a summary on what led to the conflict.

The country where Safe Area Gorazde takes place, Bosnia, was part of six republics and two autonomous regions comprising former Yugoslavia. Bosnia, Crotia, Slovenia and Macedonia are independent nations, with Serbia and Montenegro being the "rump" of Yugoslavia.

Bosnia was rich ethnically, with Muslims and Croats desiring independence rejected by Serbia. When the European Union recognized Bosnia as an independent country, Serbian forces, led by Radovan Karadzic, assaulted Sarajevo and committing genocide on the Muslims and Croats to create a Serbian republic. United Nations sanctions were placed on Serbia for the attacks but a Bosnian peace meeting that took place failed. This resulted in a civil conflict between the Muslims and Croats were were formely allied against the Serbians.

On April of 1993, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde were considered three of the six "safe areas" in eastern Bosnia. A U.S. brokered agreement stopped the Muslim-Croat war and created a Muslim-Croat federation. The safe area of Srebrenica was captured by the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS), who murdered more than 8,000 Muslim males. A month later, N.A.T.O led bombings were directed at Bosnian Serb troops. After the bombings, Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to a peace contract in Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton accords were signed in Paris, allowing the N.A.T.O. peacekeeping Implementation Force (IFOR) with 66,000 personnel to arrive and establish a permanent watch.

In 2006, Slobodan Milosevic, who was arrested and charged with 66 accounts of planned genocide in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, was found dead in his cell at the Hague where he was tried for his war crimes. As of 2008, Radovan Karadzic was captured for planning and committing genocides in Bosnia.

For more background information, click this link to find out more on the Center for Balkan Development. You can also find more information on this article by Reuters.

- Kristopher

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

(Don't) Meet Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-il is an enigmatic figure, an unintentional comedian and an oppressive dictator all rolled into one. I'll be honest I know he's sentenced people to death and enclosed a whole country near to collapse so he's not supposed to be laughed at! Yet Mr. Kim is funny because he's a pathetic dictator due to his whole regime living in his "cult of personality." He's so egotistical that his potrait and his father's portrait are placed on every wall in Pyongyang where Guy DeLisle worked in. People cannot help but mock his geekish appearance combined with militaristic clothing. DeLisle states Kim never served in the military, enticing more laughter from critics.

Kim would to me would resemble a mad scientist who would not know how to properly hold a test tube, let alone know how to stare at a microscope. Kim's "mad scientist" politics of creating an oppressive regime was started by his father, Kim Il-Sung. After his father died, Kim inherited his rule. Kim's "official" biography states he was born on Paetku Mountain in Korea, his birth predicted by a swallow. A double rainbow was said to be present, arching over with a bright star overhead. In truth, Kim was born in Siberia. Was Kim ashamed of not being born in the country he was ruling over? It reminds me of a vain person claiming he or she was born in a rich city but instead grew up in a ruined village.

Kim is a giant movie buff, with his favorite film being Friday the 13th. He was known to kidnap a South Korean film director to give out his knowledge of film making. Kim claimed to have directed some films and composed six operas which play on North Korea's only radio station.
I enjoy most Asian cinema but according to one North Korean in Pyongyang: "They are boring." Could the same be said about the music, which is described as sickingly sweet to DeLisle's ears? I imagine Kim did not like his portrayal in Team America: World Police. Speaking of which, a classmate of the Graphic Novel Blog displayed Kim singing "I'm So Ronery" in the movie. Who knew that Kim could belt out such tunes?

The most recent news about Kim was when he suffered a stroke but made a public appearance afterward. Hate him, laugh at him but acknowledge the fact Kim rules a country with an iron fist and a personality influencing the minds of those under his rule.

- Kristopher

Discussion on a Scene from Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - Kim Il-Sung is Everywhere

I will be presenting a scene from from Guy DeLisle's Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea that reflects DeLisle's exasperation of North Korea's hermit mentality. The mentality of repression, Communism and complete social control even touched the bounds of nature! The scene depicts DeLisle frolicking in nature when he sees Kim Il-Sung glorified in giant letters carved on a cliff.

Pyongyang depicts North Korea's inhabitants knowing nothing about their own country or even their own leaders. Kim Il-Sung's tumor is left out in portraits that adorn every wall, Kim Jong-il's extra weight and glasses are also left out. History is fabricated, communications are non-existant and common sense is thrown out the window. I imagine when DeLisle found Korean characters carved onto a wall on a cliff, he was slapped metaphorically in the face. Oppression even mocks nature, seeking to control and dominate its presence. The characters basically read "Kim Il-Sung is watching you," much like Big Brother.

- Kristopher

About North Korea

I was looking into information about North Korea when I came across a link from the U.S. Deparment of State, which you can find here. As suspected, the website lists North Korea as a "highly centralized communist state."

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea was not lying when it stated North Korea possessed the fourth largest military in the world along with other facts presented on the website. Overall, some of the information Guy DeLisle gave out in Pyongyang would be found on the site.

People fear a hostile, authoritarian takeover would occur somewhere in a country where democracy exists. North Korea provides a disturbing example if a Stalinistic "Big Brother" were to thrive.

- Kristopher

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Meet Guy DeLisle

Time's been going fast with wrapping up Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. That is why I decided to introduce Guy DeLisle. So what could account for DeLisle's dark sense of humor and insight pervading through Pyongyang?

DeLisle was born in Quebec, Canada. After studying plastic art, DeLisle eventually found a job at CinéGroupe in Montréal. When the company shut down, he moved to Europe and worked in another animation studio in Munich, Germany. DeLisle later settled into Monpellier. His comics career kicked off at L'Association. DeLisle's initial work in comics appeared in Lapin.

DeLisle earned recognition in the comics world through his his experiences working as an supervising animator in Asia with Shenzhen (Which is set in China) and the more recent Burma Chronicles. Both books, like Pyongyang, deal with Asian countries each possessing troublesome quirks.

With Pyongyang, DeLisle recounts the time he spent in North Korea. His sharp observations and sharper sense of humor reveal a country that is so mysterious, so ridiculous and so deep into an economic and spiritual decline that DeLisle relied on his humor to keep himself sane. We get to know a lot about DeLisle through his humor and personality driving Pyongyang.

One of the funnier bits was when DeLisle was working in the animation studio. A North Korean employee kept talking to him in North Korean, a tongue DeLisle had no clue about. He shot back in his own language, playing around with the employee who had no clue about DeLisle's language.

DeLisle's knowledge of North Korea before arrival helped counter the lies North Koreans were giving him to inform readers how backwards the regime truly is. Here are a couple of fun facts DeLisle gives out that North Koreans did not know or were ashamed of:

- Kim Jong-il was actually born in Siberia.
- A group of North Korean commandos tried to slip into South Korea to destroy several key structures but were caught with no objectives achieved. The government counters this failure with a display of an American ship captured earlier.
Without any humor whatsoever, Pyongyang would provide a dull trip for the reader. We also would never know DeLisle's wit coinciding with satirical and well designed artwork making up the graphic travelogue.
On a personal note, DeLisle and I would get along well in the area of music. Any guy listening to Aphex Twin and other techno groups would be my friend on a trip through a communist regime.

- Kristopher

Friday, October 3, 2008

Persepolis - A Review of the Movie

Persepolis, done in collaboration by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parannoud, was a big deal when it came out theatrically in 2007. The film was so much a big deal it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film. Persepolis was so wildly inventive, deep and well presented it should have won the Oscar!

For those who read both volumes of Satrapi's graphic memoir, the adaptation is highly faithful. The only scenes in color are the airport scenes, which serve as a transition into the major events of Satrapi's life. Once the main black-and-white sequences begin, your eyeballs will pop. The animation of the characters, objects and backgrounds are fluid and fit into the film's environment. The backgrounds are highly detailed and designed with calligraphy, Persian art and themes. Persepolis dares to be different from the rest of the animation crop (especially from the United States) with its unique visuals.

The dialogue, mostly staying true to the source material, and acting are also first rate. Viewers will fall for Satrapi in her growth from spunky Communist worshipper to Iron Maiden loving teenager to the progressive, strong minded adult she will become. Given the film's length, it time is not spent to explore certain characters and themes that the graphic memoirs did. But the film did other characters aside from Satrapi justice to illustrate her younger self evolving and enduring trauma. The scenes with Satrapi's uncle, Anoosh, climbing up a high mountain and swimming across an ocean to reach Moscow fit with the film's highly stylistic and dream-like theme will amaze. Other characters that the film explores are complimented with high quality visuals to emphasize on their personalities from Satrapi's point of view.
The movie is well balanced in comedy and tragedy. Funny bits include Satrapi's "growth spurts" and rising from a bout with depression with sad bits including the imprisonment of her uncle Anoosh and battle with depression. The film's pace and tone are balanced to reflect on the good and bad parts of Satrapi's life. The film is not a sob story or is it an overly cheery nostalgiac ride that most animated movies seem to take to gain acceptibility. To fully watch and enjoy Persepolis, you have to take in Satrapi's hilarious and tragic elements equally. Most importantly, participating Satrapi going through life is required. The viewer will hopefully take a ride with Satrapi down memory lane for that is the film's most rewarding experience.

Reading both volumes of Persepolis, I reaped enjoyment viewing and comparing certain scenes found in both the comics and in the film. Satrapi's grandmother has rewardingly amusing moments in the film than she was given in the comic, one where she and Satrapi go to see Godzilla. Ever had a parent or grandparent that forced you to cover your eyes but they took in the juicy carnage instead? Grandma Satrapi does just that.

People who have read the comics can criticize the certain scenes handled in the films handled differently than they did in the comics. Satrapi's marriage and time in Europe appear to be rushed, sacrificed to focus on the more funny/traumatic portions that were featured in the comics. That's expected in an adaptation but there is hardly a moment where the viewer will ever get bored in the film. Nothing is out of place, everything is interesting and the sequence of dialogue and imagery are well thought out. To criticize the film for not developing enough parts of sequences would not be understanding the hard work Satrapi and Parannoud placed to deliver an engrossing film where the strengths heavily overshadow the tiny flaws included.

So I've seen the movie in its splendor with Dr. Clemente and the rest of the graphic novel class. Anyone who has not seen Persepolis, whether you have read the comics or not, are in for a treat. As a person who enjoys reading the original source material first and seeing the adapation afterward, I highly recommend checking out Satrapi's graphic memoir. You will be satisfied nonetheless.
- Kristopher