By Chance

There is a new genre of films and books that have grown in popularity in the past several years that has yet top be defined. Unlike most other categories, where one can clearly categorize or explanation it (i.e. drama, action, comedy, romance, etc), this new genre can only be explained as “By Chance”. Perhaps there is a formal description of this rising genre, but I have yet to learn it. A good example of what I’m talking about is this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, Crash. I saw another example this past weekend when I saw Babel.

In Babel, as in Crash, small events connect random people as they go throughout their lives. In Babel, two Moroccan village boys accidentialy shoot an American tourist. The wounded tourist is taken to a small village to be cared for and is eventually stranded by the tour bus despite her husband’s strong objections. While in Morocco, the Mexican nanny of the couple takes the couple’s two young kids into Mexico for her son’s wedding, only to experience problems re-entering the United States, largely because of her nephew’s stupidity. To bring it full circle, the viewer learns that the gun used by the two Moroccan boys in the shooting belonged to a wealthy Japanese businessman who gave it to the boys’ father’s friend on a hunting trip he took to Morocco. But instead of focusing on the wealthy Japanese businessman, the film devotes its time in Tokyo on his daughter, a deaf and struggling high-school student who recently saw her mom commit suicide.

I liked the film, but found that the connections were direct, yet indirect. They were direct because certain events affected other individuals’ lives. The connections were indirect because they never knew or were likely to know of each other throughout the course of their lives.

I read a book several years ago that used (or perhaps created) this same theme – that random people are often connected through small events. The book was David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, and the difference in his book, unlike Crash and Babel is that Mitchell’s work transcends time in addition to place. I reccomend the book for those that enjoy these By Chance stories.

What makes these stories popular, in part, is that many often wonder whether their actions, both good and bad, affect other people. The answer is that every act and every decision has a consequence and nothing we do only affects ourselves. The more intertwined with people we are the more that is true. The consequences of our actions are not always immediate, and there are plenty of times that we may never know the full consequences of our actions. But as these stories show, our fate is not always in our hands. We, by living living on this large, yet relatively small planet, are all connected – for better or for worse.  

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