Film prof’s take on ‘Slumdog’

By the time I got hold of  David Schaefer, a communication arts professor for the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, it was 11:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time — but 12:15 a.m. Singapore local time on Tuesday the 24th.  Schaefer has been examining India’s films since 2002, and his examinations take him close to the source of the “Bollywood” industry.

Schaefer enjoyed “Slumdog Millionaire,” which captured eight Oscars, including statuettes for best picture, best director, best song (competing against itself!) and best original score. “Jai Ho,” the song winner, “is a great song,” Schaefer told CNS, while he was admittedly rubbing his eyes as he worked on his laptop not long after the clock had struck 12.

He noted how English director Danny Boyle had taken some flak from Indians about portraying only the slum life of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in “Slumdog” — which is not how the Bollywood directors would have treated it. Still, the English are probably better than Americans at depicting Indian life because of “greater long-term interest,” according to Schaefer, but “better than Indian directors? Not a chance.”

The U.S. bishops’ Office for Film & Broadcasting had classified “Slumdog” A-III — adults for various thematic elements, including crude language. Non-Hindi speakers wouldn’t know the half of it. The first word uttered in the movie is the Hindi equivalent of the F-word, Schaefer said, and it’s repeated often — “not all of it subtitled,” he adds.

Even though “Slumdog” had garnered more than $98 million in U.S. box office through the weekend of Feb. 20-22, the multiple-Oscar wins will prompt many more to see it. And therein lies another cautionary note from Schaefer: “The young boys have to overcome being exploited by gangsters masquerading as operators of an orphanage,” he says. “These are tough scenes to watch — not for children. Deliberate maiming, suggested child prostitution, etc.”

But some of the best-loved movies have happy endings, and “Slumdog Millionaire” is no different, according to Schaefer: “The ending is still emotionally satisfying, and I think that’s what audiences seem to be taking away from the film. There is a sense of social justice with Jamal’s (the lead character) outcome.”

Who gets the tips …

During her Feb. 21 presentation at the Catholic Labor Network’s Washington luncheon on wage theft, Kim Bobo, head of the Chicag-based group Interfaith Worker Justice, told of her surprise at learning that at her favorite restaurant if she left a tip for the server on her credit card, the server would not get that money.

After the presentation, it was announced that Bobo would be selling copies of her book, also called “Wage Theft.” The cover price was $18, but luncheon guests were told that Bobo would not make change, so … in good humor Bobo was asked if she got to keep those tips . “No!” she replied. “It all goes to Interfaith Worker Justice!”

Bobo’s talk, about how so many U.S. workers are underpaid for an honest day’s work, was part of a weekend “wraparound session” preceding the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

A mother’s prediction: “He’ll be a cardinal”

Sam Lucero, editor of The Compass in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., told a tale about Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s mother a couple weeks ago when speculation was rife that the Milwaukee archbishop would be named Cardinal Edward M. Egan’s successor.

Lucero, who once worked in Milwaukee at the archdiocesan paper, the Catholic Herald, recalled that when then-Bishop Dolan was appointed to Milwaukee in 2002, the Herald interviewed Shirley Dolan for its special installation edition. The story was headlined “‘A boy any mom would be proud of’: Mother not surprised by accomplishments of her first born,” and included Mom’s prediction, “He’ll be a cardinal” someday. Odds are, that will come true.

Sure, the story is six-and-a-half years old, but it’s still fun to read about a proud mom and her up-and-coming son.

UPDATE: Lucero, who also is one of the best photographers in the Catholic press, today posted an extraordinary slideshow of photos of Archbishop Dolan from Lucero’s days on the staff of the Catholic Herald. You can click here to read Lucero’s blog and see the slideshow at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!