Jack at the movies

Ol’Jack is really looking forward to the second International Film Festival of Panama. One of the things I really appreciate is that the movies are all presented with subtitles. Even if the language is something other than Spanish or English subtitles in both those languages will be available.

However in a recent 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll, it was discovered that 80% of Americans don’t like viewing subtitled films. It’s my suspicion that film buffs from other parts of the world are more accustomed to having translations scrolled across the bottom of the screen. The complaint is that some people find it difficult to read and watch at the same time. What’s the alternative—dubbed movies? I don’t think so. Remember the old Godzilla movies when the words we heard didn’t even come close to the Japanese lips that were speaking them. That and the little toy soldiers and cars being stomped by good ol’Zilla made the films hilarious.

My advice, if you’re uncomfortable with subtitles is to relax, sit back and don’t try to read. It is my experience that in just a few minutes, you will be taking in the words crawling across the screen subliminally while almost completely understanding the Portuguese, Arabic or Swalile being spoken. Remember movies also tell much of their stories visually so you automatically know what the guy is saying when he walks into a room whether the words are Hola, Bonjour or Howdy.

One of my favorite things about subtitled flicks is that there is usually a lot less talking during the picture because the audience is more involved with taking in the whole experience. I once had some idiot behind me reading the subtitles out loud.

Talking also doesn’t happen as much at a film festival because many of those attending are actual enthusiastic moviegoers who know how to behave. One of my explanations of talkers is something I call the living-room syndrome, which is when some people, who often watch movies at home on DVD or Netflicks, forget that they’re out in public. It’s really not a very good excuse since there are so many other cues to remind the talker that he or she is no longer in their pajamas on their Lazyboy but rather in a large crowded room in the dark with a massive screen in front.

For me, Panama’s second annual international film festival is a very welcome opportunity to see a number of movies that aren’t usually available; and in the company of fellow fans, who know better than to gab while the movie is running and who get a kick out of understanding other cultures with the aid of subtitles.


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