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Year 12 Film Study. By the end of this unit, you should be able to:. Identify and analyse film language accurately; Analyse film image and sequences in detail; Analyse and discuss the use of narrative techniques, including motifs, transitions and editing;

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by the end of this unit you should be able to
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
  • Identify and analyse film language accurately;
  • Analyse film image and sequences in detail;
  • Analyse and discuss the use of narrative techniques, including motifs, transitions and editing;
  • Analyse the way visual and verbal film techniques are used to reveal plot, setting, character;
  • Use film terminology accurately and with confidence;
  • Discuss the way the film presents themes;
  • Write a film review expressing your own views
  • Write an essay about an aspect of the text
what we re doing in class order of events what you should have done at the end of it all
What we’re doing in class…order of events/what you should have done at the end of it all
  • Viewing film
  • Personal response and discussion
  • Close reading – scene by scene on 2nd viewing
  • Plot analysis
  • Analysis of opening sequences
  • Analysis of other important scenes

Discussion and notes on:

  • Setting
  • Characterisation
  • Themes
  • How to write a film review
  • This will be formally assessed at the end of the year in your external exams (Read, study and analyse a visual or oral text – 2.5), worth 2 credits.
  • Your assessment in class for this unit of work will be:
  • Film review (expressing personal response to film)
  • Essay response (written in class under exam conditions)
response to film
Response to film
  • In your own words, summarise what you think the film “Crash” is about (write about a paragraph).
  • What did you think of the film? How did it make you feel? Rate it out of 10.
  • Were your opinions or attitudes changed by this film? Why/why not?
  • Which character had the biggest impact on you? Why? (you could choose a character that you empathised with/disliked/felt sorry for)
  • What did you think of the ending? How does it tie it all together structurally?
  • What shocked you most in the film and why? Be honest.
  • What do you think was the most powerful scene in the film? Why?
  • Although there is much that is tragic in the story, there are also glimpses of hope. What are they?
  • What was one visual/verbal technique used and how was it effective?
personal response continued
Personal response continued

One last thing to think about:

  • In the promotional commentary for the film, the producer invites us to consider three questions whilst watching the film:
  • Was this about me?
  • Was this about the person next to me?
  • What this about the person I don’t even want to know?

What do you think? Be honest with yourself, even if you feel unable to discuss your thoughts.

plot summary
Plot summary

A Brentwood housewife and her DA husband. A Persian store owner. Two

police detectives who are also lovers. An African-American television

director and his wife. A mexican locksmith. Two car jackers. A rookie cop.

A middle-aged Korean couple…

They all live in Los Angeles. And during the next 36 hours, they will all collide…

“Crash” takes a provocative and unflinching look at the complexities of

racial tolerance in contemporary America. Driving headlong into the

diverse melting pot of post 9/11 Los Angeles, this drama tracks the volatile

intersections of a multi-ethnic cast of characters’ struggles to overcome their

fears as they careen in and out of each other’s lives. In the gray area

between black and white, victim and aggressor, there are no easy answers.

main characters
Main characters
  • Graham Waters – detective
  • Ria – detective
  • Anthony – car jacker (expresses observations of racism)
  • Peter Waters – car jacker, Graham’s brother. Likeable, balanced outlook
  • Rick Cabot – DA
  • Jean Cabot – Rick’s wife
  • Cameron Thayer – television director
  • Christine Thayer – Cameron’s wife
  • John Ryan – cop
  • Tommy Hanson – rookie cop
  • Daniel Ruiz – locksmith
  • FarhadGolzari – shop owner
minor characters
Minor characters
  • Choi & Kim Lee – genuine love and tenderness shown, yet he is a trafficker in human beings.
  • Lieutenant Dixon – black police officer who knocks back Hanson when he wishes to make a complaint against Ryan.
  • Shaniqua – takes rightful exception to Ryan’s racism.
  • Graham’s mother – one of the victims of life. Provides the motivation for him to give the Da’s office what it wants.
  • Lara – Daniel’s daughter who wears the magic cloak
  • Maria – Jean’s housekeeper
  • Pop Ryan – to show another side to Ryan, a caring, hurting side.
The central issue of the film is clearly racism. How many different races are represented in the film?
  • White (John Ryan, Tommy Hanson)
  • African-American (Detective Graham, Anthony & Peter, Cameron & Christine Thayer)
  • Hispanic (Ria, Maria, Officer Gomez)
  • Mexican (Daniel)
  • Iranian/Persian (Farhad, Dorri)
  • Korean, Asian illegals (Cambodian or Thai); Ken Ho, the insurance assessor, is perhaps Vietnamese
did any of the main characters not show racist tendencies or express racist sentiments
Did any of the main characters NOT show racist tendencies or express racist sentiments
  • Daniel (Mexican locksmith)
  • Dorri (Farhad’s daughter)
  • Peter (one of the young car jackers)
  • Maria (Jean Cabot’s housekeeper)

One of the main techniques used in the film is setting up a situation or character and then overturning our – or characters’ – resultant expectations. How many examples can you list?

  • Ryan – racist and hero
  • Graham – forced to compromise
  • Anthony – a thief; releases Asians
  • Ria – of Graham re his mother
  • Hanson – decent type, means well, yet shoots Peter
  • Daniel – taken as a criminal but is a loving father
  • Shaniqua objects to Ryan’s racism but abuses her own power
  • Jean – seems strong but is lonely and vulnerable
close reading the text
Close reading the text:

Scene 1:

  • What impression is given by the title sequence?
  • What is unusual about the way this film opens?
  • What do the first lines of dialogue signal to the audience?
  • Which characters are introduced? What is your immediate impression of each?
  • Explain briefly what has happened to these characters?
  • Some important pieces of information are given in this scene. What are they?
  • Comment on Detective Waters' reaction to the crime scene.
Scene 2
  • Who are the main characters introduced here? What impression is given of each?
  • What words tell us Dorri does not want her father to buy a gun?
  • Given that, why is she there helping him?
  • Why does the shop owner get annoyed?
  • What mistaken assumption does he make about his customer?
  • What important information is given in this scene that becomes relevant only later?

Film Techniques

  • Use the work sheets (or rule up your own paper) and analyse the cinematic techniques of scenes 1 and 2.
Scene 3
  • Two more characters are introduced. Who are they?
  • What initial impression do we get of them? How is this undercut?
  • What do we learn about the Cabots in this scene?

Scenes 4 – 11

  • Why does Anthony object to the St Christopher statuette?
  • Why are the Cabots having the locks on their house changed? [6]
  • What is Jean's objection to Daniel, who is changing the locks? Why is this ironic?
  • What important information about Rick do we learn in scene 6? Why are Karen and Bruce at his home?
  • What is the cheque Park gives Mr Choi payment for? [7] When do we find this out?
  • Why does Ryan chase Cameron's vehicle, even after he is told it is not the stolen one? [11]
  • Where does Cameron tell Ryan that he and his wife have just come from? [11]
  • What is the reason Christine gives for Cameron's not drinking? [11]
  • Where is the film set? How do we know?
  • When is it set? How do we know?
  • Setting is not just time and place; it is also society. What social groups have been introduced so far?
  • What mood has been established? How?
By scene 12, all main characters have been introduced and the basic plots are all established.
  • The episode of Ryan's assault on Christine and humiliation of Cameron [11] spins all the characters involved in different directions; Farhad's gun and the door that won't close [12] sets the next phase of that plot in motion.
  • Why is Lara hiding under the bed? [14]
  • In your own words, explain why Anthony says hip-hop is the 'music of the oppressor'. [15]
  • Why does Dixon refuse to accept Hanson's complaint against Ryan? [16]
  • What do we learn from scene 19 about how Peter and Anthony operate?
  • Why will the insurance company not pay out on Farhad's vandalised shop? [33]
  • 'Backstory' is the term used for events that are deemed to have happened before the film/play actually starts.
  • What backstory is referred to in scene 12?
  • What does the dialogue between Christine and Cameron reveal about their backgrounds? [13]
  • What happened to Daniel's family before this? [14]
sub text

Give – in your words – theapparent or surface reason for each of the following – and then explain the real reason for each.

  • Why Cabot is going to pursue Conklin over the shooting of Detective Lewis. [26]
  • Why Jean complains to Maria about the dishwasher. [ 28]
  • Why Anthony criticises Mo Phat. [29]
  • Why Fred complains to Cameron about Jamal. [30]
  • Why Christine blames Cameron for what happened the night before. Why he walks off. [32]
  • In what ways are the two married couples – Rick and Jean Cabot and Cameron and Christine Thayer – similar? How many parallels between their situations can you find? How are they different?

Ideas and Issues

  • In these scenes, many of the characters and situations introduced in the first few scenes behave in ways that force us to re-evaluate them. Give examples of this.
  • In what way does scene 18 sum up the central issues of the film?
film techniques
Film Techniques
  • What is the effect of the TRACKING shot that opens scene 31?
  • Comment on the camera work and editing of scene 37.
  • Look carefully at the TRANSITIONS between scenes. What do you notice about them? Note examples of effective transitions.
  • The Director and Director of Photography chose often to film with the light behind the subject rather than behind the camera. Cite examples of this, and comment on the effect achieved.
  • Identify effective use of sound effects.
  • Contrast is an important technique used in this film. Cite examples from these scenes.
scenes 39 45 dvd ch 14 19
Scenes 39 – 45 (DVD Ch 14 - 19)
  • This sequence is largely made up of a series of climaxes, as each of the main plot threads reaches crisis point.
  • Why does the DA's office need Graham's support for a prosecution of Conklin?
  • Why does Graham agree to support it against his better judgment? [39] Why is this ironic?
  • Why does Hanson put himself on the line to save Cameron from himself? [41]
  • Explain what Cameron means when he says to Anthony, "You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself."
  • Jean tells her 'friend' that she is angry all the time. [44] Could any other characters be described this way?
  • Why does Hanson get 'all bent out of shape' with Peter? [45] How does this scene sum up the central issues of the film?
  • Many of the characters and situations previously introduced behave in ways that force us to re-evaluate them. Give examples of this from these scenes.
scenes 46 60 dvd ch 20 22
Scenes 46 - 60 (DVD Ch 20 - 22)
  • Following the series of plot climaxes is a series of short scenes that tie up the loose ends – dénouements.
  • It is both ironic and funny to see Anthony on the despised bus. But what is the symbolic importance of this action?
  • What is the cheque that Choi wants Kim Lee to cash? What is ironic about this scene?
  • Look carefully at scene 52, which cuts between Jean Cabot at home and Rick at City Hall. What does the mise en scène tell us about the relationship between Rick and Jean, between Rick and his assistant Karen?
  • In scenes 55 and 56, Daniel and Rick both stand inside their homes and look out. In what ways are they different?
  • What is the significance of scene 57?
  • Similarities and differences between the Cabots and the Thayers are reinforced by scenes 52 and 57. In what ways?
  • Why does Anthony let the Cambodians go? [59]
  • Writer-director Paul Haggis commented that "Anthony has learned everything and nothing." Explain what he means.
  • What is interesting about scenes 53 – 60, considered together?
  • Peter and Anthony are friends and criminals who provide the catalyst for the characters to start colliding. What other function does each have in the film?
character study
  • Pair up with someone else in the class
  • Draw out a character’s name
  • Find the quotes that best fit with your character. Get these checked off to ensure you are right!
  • Take a sheet of A3 paper to present your character ideas on (you will need to hand in the completed character study at the end of the lesson so work quickly).
  • Get creative, come up with everything you can think of, present it nicely…and check off all of the following:
questions to ask about character
    • Character name clearly printed on page (group names on back)
    • Quotes stuck onto page
    • SIX adjectives
  • AND THEN… answer the following questions answered in relation to your character:
  • What strengths and weaknesses does the character have?
  • What does the character think and/or say about themselves?
  • How does the character act and react?
  • Is the character associated with particular settings or personal possessions?
  • What is the character’s background?
  • What beliefs and values does the character have?
  • How would you describe the character’s personality?
  • What do other characters think and/or say about the character in question?
  • Finally…the last question: Most of the main characters lose control of their lives at some point. Identify that moment for your particular character, and explain how, if at all, they regain it.
graham waters don cheadle
Graham Waters / Don Cheadle
  • World-weary black detective; the heart of the film, and the closest it has to a protagonist – he begins the film and helps to close it; is good at his job – he is in line for a major promotion.
  • Unmarried; has a sexual though not intimate relationship with his partner Ria.
  • Loves and cares for his drug-addict mother; has a criminal brother Peter whom she adores = too much to bear but he bears it.
  • Keeps people at a distance, even Ria; when his mother hurts him badly, he closes in on himself.
  • Takes exception to Flanagan's racist stereotypes, yet uses them himself.
  • Loses control when he compromises his integrity to save his brother; is unlikely to ever be his own man again.
  • RIA: Why do you keep everybody at a certain distance, huh? What, you start to feel something and panic? ... I mean, really, what kind of man speaks to his mother that way?
  • GRAHAM: Okay. I was raised badly. Why don't you take your clothes off, get back into bed and teach me a lesson? … Then I guess the big mystery is who gathered all those remarkably different cultures together and taught them all how to park their cars on their lawns?
  • MOTHER: Oh, I already know. You did. I asked you to find your brother, but you were busy. We weren't much good to you anymore, were we? You got things to do.
ria jennifer esposito
Ria / Jennifer Esposito
  • Hispanic detective, Graham's partner; objects to Graham's calling her Mexican yet mocks Kim Lee's English.
  • Comes closer to understanding Graham when she sees him with his mother at the morgue.
  • RIA: See, I stop when I see a long line of cars stopped in front of me. Maybe you see over steering wheel, you "blake" too! … Officer, can you please write in your report how shocked I am to be hit by an Asian driver!
  • RIA: You want a lesson? I'll give you a lesson. How 'bout a geography lesson? My father's from Puerto Rico. My mother's from El Salvador. Neither one of those is Mexico.
anthony chris ludacris bridges
Anthony / Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges
  • Young, black, politicised, articulate; one of the 'angry' characters; provides much of the humour in the film.
  • Almost a protagonist – begins the action with the car-jacking and almost closes the action.
  • Expresses many valid observations of racism, yet treats Asians in the same way.
  • Violent, aggressive – though does not ever fire the gun.
  • Comes further than most other characters – though not as far as he might.
  • Loses control when Cameron fights back and wins; regains self-respect when he frees the Cambodians.
  • ANTHONY: And black women don't think in stereotypes? You tell me. When was the last time you met one who didn't think she knew everything about your lazy ass before you even opened your mouth, huh?
  • PETER: How in the lunacy of your mind is hip-hop the music of the oppressor?
  • ANTHONY: You have no idea why they put them great big windows on the sides of buses, do you? … One reason only. To humiliate the people of colour who are reduced to riding on them.
  • Yeah, you laugh, man. But you have never seen me steal from a black person ever in your life.
  • All scary-ass places for a brother to find himself. Drop Mo Phat at a Starbucks in Toluca Lake, that nigger will run like a rabbit soon as somebody say "decaf latte."
peter waters larenz tate
Peter Waters / Larenz Tate
  • Young, black, also articulate but more balanced in his outlook than Anthony; pricks the bubble of Anthony's rants on many occasions; cool, clear-headed, observer of human-nature.
  • Good-humoured, laughs a lot – very likeable; observer of the world – finds the world and the people in it a source of interest and amusement; Hanson thinks he is laughing at him – leads to his death.
  • Loses control a little when he runs from the police, but really only when he is shot by Hanson.
  • PETER: Love the ice-skating. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a goalie.
rick cabot brendan fraser
Rick Cabot / Brendan Fraser
  • DA, a politician through and through – everything seen from a political perspective; haughty, image-obsessed.
  • No sincerity, no genuine feelings ever expressed; patronises his wife.
  • Uses Flanagan to sort out problems; probably is having an affair with his assistant Karen.
  • Loses control when he is car-jacked; quickly spins his political machine into action to manage it; is back in charge when able to use the Conklin killing to deflect attention from himself.
  • RICK: I'm the goddamn District Attorney of Los Angeles. If my car gets jacked, it's gonna make news. … All right. If we can't duck this thing, we're gonna have to neutralise it. What we need is a picture of me pinning a medal on a black man.
  • FLANAGAN: If he did his own dirty work, none of us would have jobs.
jean cabot sandra bullock
Jean Cabot / Sandra Bullock
  • Bitter, aggressive, outspoken, angry; shaken up by the threat to her security.
  • Takes out her feelings on her housekeeper – who is the only person who is kind to her.
  • Leaps to wrong assumptions based on appearance (Daniel) though has some justification for doing so.
  • Is shocked out of control by the car-jacking; and again by her fall, which makes her reassess her life.
  • JEAN: And it was my fault because I knew it was gonna happen. But if a white person sees two black men walking towards her, and she turns and walks in the other direction, she's a racist, right? Well, I got scared and I didn't say anything. And ten seconds later I had a gun in my face! … You know, didn't I just ask you not to treat me like a child?
  • JEAN: And I realised... I realised that it had nothing to do with my car being stolen. I wake up like this every morning! I am angry all the time, and I don't know why.
cameron thayer terrence howard
Cameron Thayer / Terrence Howard
  • Television director, upper middle class, wealthy, comfortable in his success; 'coming home from an awards show' – suggest professional status.
  • Has never really experienced the reality of being black and poor – but is reminded of his vulnerable position by the TV show's producer. [Is this because he is black or just a show of power regardless of race?]
  • Is humiliated by the treatment meted out to him – but seems to lack any appreciation of how his wife must feel after that way she was treated, which was much more invasive and offensive; self-centred?
  • His slipping into 'black' dialect and his ability to fight suggests he has pulled himself up from more humble origins
  • Loses control when Ryan stops them and roughs him up; regains it by the fire when he gets things back in perspective
  • CAMERON: Sooner or later you gotta find out what it is really like to be black. CHRISTINE: The closest you ever came to being black, Cameron, was watching The Cosby Show.
  • FRED: I mean, 'cause all I'm saying is it's not his character. Eddie's supposed to be the smart one, not Jamal, right? You're the expert here. But to me, it rings false.
  • CAMERON: I'm not sitting on no curb, I'm not putting my hands on my head for nobody.
  • HANSON: Then stand where you are and keep your hands in sight. Can you do that, huh?
  • CAMERON: Yeah, I can do that.
  • CAMERON: [to Anthony] Look at me. You embarrass me. You embarrass yourself.
christine thayer thandie newton
Christine Thayer / Thandie Newton
  • Stylish, beautiful, assertive, gets angry at the way they are treated and speaks out.
  • Wants and needs comfort and support and gets none, so lashes out at Cameron because she can't at Ryan.
  • Loses control when assaulted by Ryan; regains it only when her husband reassures her that he loves her.
  • CHRISTINE: I can't believe you let him do that, baby. Look, I know what you did was the right thing. Okay? But I was humiliated! For you. I just couldn't stand to see that man take away your dignity.
john ryan matt dillon
John Ryan / Matt Dillon
  • White cop (Irish-American by the name – a bit of a stereotype here).
  • Bitter, angry, abusive, racist, – yet seems to get on well with Gomez, an Hispanic.
  • Ugly in his misuse of his position; imprisoned in his own bitterness.
  • Kind, tender, caring with his father; really suffers for his father; is powerless to help him.
  • Heroic in his rescue of Christine – he risks his life to pull her out.
  • RYAN: [to Shaniqua]: All right. You know what I can't do? I can't look at you without thinking about the five or six more qualified white men who didn't get your job.
  • DIXON: I understand. Your partner's a racist prick.
  • RYAN: Look at me, look at me. Wait till you've been doin' it a little longer. You think you know who you are, hmm? You have no idea. Yo, Gomez, you ready to roll, homey?
tommy hanson ryan phillippe
Tommy Hanson / Ryan Phillippe
  • Rookie cop, decent guy, tries to do the right thing; linked to Peter by the St Christopher.
  • Appalled by Ryan's treatment of the Thayers but helpless; has to support his partner, the senior of the two.
  • Wants to report it, wants to help Cameron – both times he is knocked back.
  • Completely misreads Peter and becomes frightened and shoots him; unable to face the consequences so dumps the body and burns his car.
  • Loses some measure of control when he is forced to support Ryan's behaviour; never really regains it and when he shoots Peter, we know he will never regain it.
  • HANSON: [to Cameron] I'm trying to help you.
daniel ruiz michael pe a
Daniel Ruiz / Michael Peña
  • Mexican locksmith; called out late to change locks; always polite.
  • Tattoos suggest a rough past, but has settled down with Elizabeth and is trying to make a good life; unlike every other main character, he does not show a 'bad' side but is an island of quiet decency in a sea of prejudice.
  • Adores his daughter; is tender, gentle and sweet with her as he calms her fears; protects her against the world – ironically setting her up to put herself into real danger.
  • Loses some control when he screws up the job-sheet at Farhad's shop and so sets in train the near-tragic events.
  • DANIEL: [to Farhad]: I'd appreciate if you'd stop calling me names.
farhad golzari shaun toub
FarhadGolzari / Shaun Toub
  • Iranian /Persian; speaks some English – needs his daughter to translate complicated things - but does not read it; is taken for Arab.
  • Has been in America for many years – Dorri has no accent, so presumably was born in US.
  • Disagreeable and bad-tempered, as much the victim of his own temperament as he is of anti-Middle Eastern anger.
  • Buys a gun to protect his family, and ends up attacking Daniel's family with it.
  • Loses control when his shop is vandalised, though has seemed to be at the mercy of the world already; regains it when he faces the miracle of Lara's lack of injury – he is shocked into counting his blessings.
  • FARHAD: Yes, I speak English! I am American citizen.
  • FARHAD: Dorri, that man could've killed your mother. You think I should let crazy people do what they want to us?
  • DORRI: He doesn't read English.
  • SHEREEN: Look what they wrote. They think we're Arab. When did Persian become Arab?
  • FARHAD: My angel. My angel! She came to protect me. To protect us! You understand?
dorri golzari bahar soomekh
DorriGolzari / BaharSoomekh
  • Strong, beautiful, calm,in control.
  • Her father thinks he is protecting his family but she protects him from himself.
  • DORRI: You can give me the gun or give me back the money. And I am really hoping for the money
themes in crash

Themes in craSH

Paul Haggis: “Bobby [Moresco, his co-writer] and I didn't set out to actually write anything about race or about intolerance or prejudice. We actually just started following these characters around. Early on we were intrigued by the notion of how strangers affect other strangers. And one way you judge a stranger is that he looks different from you. So the cast became black and Persian and Hispanic and white and Asian.”


But we haven't really been

made to think, or even to feel. Crash only confirms what we already know about racism: it's inside every one of us. That should be a starting point, not a startling revelation.

- Stephanie Zacharek,


It is a narrow, ungenerous and, finally, unrepresentative view of the world, one that suggests people are correct in suspecting others as having only the worst motives. The film seems to promote an ideology of victimhood, and shoves race-based thinking to the fore of every human exchange. … A reasonably realistic and varied array of actions and responses is rejected in favour of an anxiety-provoking slate of negative motives that fulfil the drama's sociological programme, creating a blinkered view of humanity in a film that could have been employed to examine a more diverse cross-section of attitudes.

-Todd McCarthy, Variety


But for the most part, Crash works so hard at moral instructiveness that it's tedious to watch. A universe in which we're all racist puppets is finally just as simpleminded and predictable as one in which we're all smiling multi-coloured zombies in a rainbow coalition. … In the end, Crash says, when you push a vicious racist, you get a caring human, but when you push a caring human you get a vicious racist. - David Edelstein, Slate


Virtually every conversation in Crash is contentious, and the participants in these conversations run into each other far too often to be believable. But I'm willing to forgive Crash its coincidences because it's never judgmental or glib about the battles its characters face. The film mourns the direction society is taking, but it is compassionate about the pressures that lead to foolish behaviour. And, although Haggis's sharp, surprisingly witty script admits there are no easy answers, it holds out hope that it's possible to change hateful behaviour. Even the 12-people-in-a-huge-city-who-keep-running-into-each-other thing works for the movie. The idea is that even a big city is smaller than it seems. The planet is tiny, Crash argues, and the differences between us insignificant.

- Chris Hewitt, St Paul Pioneer Press


Don Cheadle, star and co-producer, disputes that the central issue is racism.

  • "Everybody says it's a movie about race but I don't think it is a movie about race, or, I would say, racism. At its core, it's more about power. Every character in that movie is wrestling with – is trying to find – power. Loss of power, and their place in the world, and how they affect the world, and how the world affects them."
brainstorm what are the big ideas in crash
  • Racism
  • -stereotypes
  • -judgements
  • -protection
  • -oppression
  • -prejudice
  • Power vs Powerlessness – the oppressors and the victims
  • Rich and poor (wealth) – differences between people
  • Small world – chance encounters
  • Dog eat dog city
  • ‘crashing’ into one another
  • Law – doing the right thing – compromising integrity
your task
Your task…
  • You will get into groups of four or five. Each group should reach consensus on the three most important ideas explored in the film. Think about it: 'Racism' is not enough – must be more specific.
  • Each group will produce a chart/poster with three columns, with details under the following headings:
people s racist assumptions stop them seeing who is really there
people's (racist) assumptions stop them seeing who is really there
  • Graham, Kim Lee both call Ria a Mexican
  • RIA: You want a lesson? I'll give you a lesson. How about a geography lesson? My father's from Puerto Rico. My mother's from El Salvador. Neither one of those is Mexico.
  • Farhad is thought to be an Arab
  • GUN SHOP OWNER: Yo, Osama… Yeah, I'm ignorant? You're liberating my country. And I'm flying 747s into your mud huts and incinerating your friends?
  • SHEREEN: Look what they wrote. They think we're Arab. When did Persian become Arab?
  • Choi is a "Chinaman"
  • PETER: Man, we done ran over a Chinaman.
  • Jean mistrusts Daniel because of his appearance
  • JEAN: The guy with the shaved head, the pants around his ass, the prison tattoo.
  • RICK: Those are not prison tattoos.
  • JEAN: Oh, really? And he's not gonna sell our key to one of his gang-banger friends the moment he is out our door?
  • plus an ironic example from Anthony
  • Look at us, dawg. Are we dressed like gang-bangers? Huh? No. Do we look threatening? No. Fact. If anybody should be scared around here, it's us! We're the only two black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people patrolled by the trigger-happy L.A.P.D.
grouping together people of different groups and races
Grouping together people of different groups and races
  • All Asians are Chinese; all Hispanics are Mexican; all blacks are criminals; all cops are racist etc.
  • Haggis: This was something important I wanted to say – that we tend to lump all groups together. … everyone from the Middle East is an Arab.
  • LUCIEN: Don't be ignorant. They're Thai or Cambodian. Entirely different kind of chinks.
  • ANTHONY: Dopey Chinaman.
use of stereotypes
Use of stereotypes
  • ANTHONY: And black women don't think in stereotypes? You tell me. When was the last time you met one who didn't think she knew everything about your lazy ass before you even opened your mouth, huh?
  • GRAHAM: Ah. Then I guess the big mystery is who gathered all those remarkably different cultures together and taught them all how to park their cars on their lawns.
misuse of power and authority
Misuse of power and authority
  • Ryan misuses his over Cameron and Christine
  • Dixon and Hanson – Hanson's genuine complaint dismissed in the name of personal ambition and career
  • Just like I'm sure you understand how hard a black man has to work to get to, say, where I am, in a racist organization like the L.A.P.D. and how easily that can be taken away.
  • Fred asserts his power over Cameron
  • Shaniqua misuses hers to pay Ryan back for his racism
  • Jean uses her position as employer to snap at Maria
  • Flanagan 'buys' Graham by using his ability to lose an arrest warrant
  • G: So all, uh... all I need to do to make this disappear is to frame a potentially innocent man?
power and powerlessness people explode because they cannot do anything about their own situation
Power and powerlessness: people explode because they cannot do anything about their own situation
  • RYAN: Look, you're not listening to me. This is an emergency. I keep telling you he's in pain. He can't sleep.
  • CAMERON: I'm not sitting on no curb, I'm not putting my hands on my head for nobody. [NB he talks 'black']
fear people react as they do often out of fear
fear – people react as they do often out of fear
  • JEAN: But if a white person sees two black men walking towards her, and she turns and walks in the other direction, she's a racist, right?
  • Hanson over-reacts and shoots Peter
being forced to re evaluate after first impressions both characters and audience
Being forced to re-evaluate after first impressions – both characters and audience
  • Ryan – racist / hero
  • Anthony – impassioned defender of black rights / thief
  • Hanson – good guy/ shots Peter
  • Ria re Graham's behaviour to his mother – she hears only what he says on the phone without knowing the truth behind it; at the morgue, she sees the love and her bitterly unfair rejection of Graham and his hurt
  • Jean sees Maria's care is more than that of a servant
  • Anthony and Hanson are both forced to revaluate themselves
  • Cameron has to find himself again – not allow himself to be defined by Ryan and Fred.
  • Christine and Ryan

an important issue – people are often mocked for poor


  • Ria and Kim Lee
  • RIA: I "blake" too fast? I "blake" too fast. … I'm sorry you no see my "blake" lights.
  • Gun shop owner and Farhad
  • Am I making insult "at" you? Is that the closest you can come to English?
  • The nurse and Kim Lee
  • I am speaking English, you stupid cow! My husband name Choi Jin Gui!
  • Shaniqua at end
  • Uh-uh! Don't talk to me unless you speak American!
language an issue at other times
language an issue at other times
  • CHRISTINE: You're right, Cameron. I got a lot to learn 'cause I haven't quite learned how to shuck and jive. Let me hear it again. Thank you, mister policeman. You sure is mighty kind to us poor black folk.
  • ANTHONY: Listen to it, man! "Nigger this, nigger that." You think white people go around calling each other honkies all day, man? "Hey, honky, how's business?" "Going great, cracker. We're diversifying." … "Let's give the niggers this music by a bunch of mumbling idiots and sooner or later, they'll all copy it, and nobody will be able to understand a fucking word they say."
  • FRED: Have you noticed, uh... This is weird for a white guy to say, but have you noticed he's talking a lot less black lately? … Like in this scene, he was supposed to say, "Don't be talkin' 'bout that." And he changed it to, "Don't talk to me about that."
  • DANIEL [to Farhad]: I'd appreciate if you'd stop calling me names.
  • Anthony uses words like 'brother' and 'their own' to refer to blacks, yet.
  • CAMERON [to Anthony]: Say it again, huh! Call me a nigger again!
  • 'homey' is used twice, with different connotations.
  • Jean calls Daniel a homey = gang member:
  • Your amigo in there is gonna sell our key to one of his homeys.
  • later Ryan calls Gomez 'homey' = mate, friend; Gomez replies with 'amigo' = friend
  • RYAN: Yo, Gomez, you ready to roll, homey? GOMEZ: Ready, amigo
  • The film starts with a statement about the way people in L.A. do not touch.
  • It's the sense of touch. … Any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people. People bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.
  • List every instance you can find when people do touch others and comment on each example.
positive touch
  • Daniel kisses Lara, tucks her in – paternal love [14]
  • Ryan helps his father off and then back onto the toilet – caring, supportive [21]
  • Graham helps his mother inside – gentle, loving, son to mother cf. Ryan and his father [31]
  • Kim Lee touches Choi's cheek in the tenderest of ways – the only really tender touch between married couples [48]
  • Jean hugs Maria – looking for comfort and affection [52]
  • Ryan hugs his father – strong love and support [54]
  • Daniel holds Lara in anguish – thinks she has been shot [42]
  • Ryan pulls Christine from car; he pulls her skirt down; he is pulled out [38] – reverses previous touching of her
positive that becomes negative
  • Rick holds Jean's elbows to calm her; she shrugs him off angrily; she hits him in her anger [6]
  • Cameron touches Christine on the shoulder after the assault and she winces away. [11]
  • Ria and Graham are making love; she pushes him out of bed [20]
  • Christine puts her arm through Cameron's and he shakes it off – echoes her shaking off of his touch [32]
  • Ryan shakes hands with Hanson – and holds it while he talks to him – the opposite of 'friendly' [34]
  • Graham holds his mother at the morgue [50] – she rejects him moments later
negative touch
  • Farhad is poked by owner, manhandled out of the gun shop [2]
  • Peter pushes Jean onto the ground: Rick drags her out of the way of the Navigator [3]
  • Ryan manhandles Cameron, molests Christine; Hanson frisks Cameron [11]
  • Anthony knocks over Choi; they drag him out from under the vehicle [15]
  • Farhad's finger in Daniel's chest – aggressive, demanding [18]
  • Cameron and Anthony fight [41]
  • Hanson rolls Peter's body out of the car [45]
think about it
  • Even allowing for a few that may have been missed, how many films would have people touching one another so few times?
  • Most of the touching is aggressive and violent, or the result of it; only about a third can be seen to be positive, gentle, expressing care or concern or comfort. Most of the positive examples are parent/child. The film's only two sexual episodes both end badly.
  • NOTE: Graham keeps Ria at a distance emotionally; his mother rejects his love; Rick seems concerned only with politics and image.
visual and verbal techniques

Visual and verbal techniques

How what we see and hear is used to emphasise key ideas and issues in the film…

  • With so many plot different strands, ways of keeping the film unified are particularly important, especially since one of the main ideas in the film is the 'connectedness' between characters.
  • Motifs are often used as a unifying device, to link one scene with another, or one character with another. A motifis an image, a word or phrase that is repeated several times in a film. Something repeated once only is better described as an 'echo'.
there are many motifs in this film how many can you identify
There are many motifs in this film; how many can you identify?
  • St Christopher statuette – travel/cars/crashing
  • reflections, esp. in rear view mirrors – second-hand experience/insight into character
  • Telephones – ironic – represent lack of communication
  • chain-link fences = idea of cages
  • Christmas decorations – reminder of season of goodwill, contrast with the ugliness that is going on
  • stop signs – warning of conflict to come
  • keys, locks – protection/security
  • crosses feature in the background of several scenes (director says it is deliberate) – faith/trust/fate
  • doors, windows – often as 'prisons' within which people are trapped or protect themselves



there are several visual and verbal links in the film list specific examples
There are several visual – and verbal - links in the film. List specific examples.
  • “Look at me." (Ryan to Hanson, Cameron to Anthony)
  • People in bed: Christine; Jean; Lara; Ryan
  • H/A shots - often used to make people appear weak/powerless/victimised
  • flying ash / snow falling – rebirth/new starts/cleansing
  • two cars on fire
  • two shootings: one fatal, one not (+ Lewis but after the event)
  • Filming through windows of cars and buildings; through doors – Ryan and his father, Graham and his mother
  • Transitions: door to door is frequently used; one vehicle becomes another; groceries/groceries; bed/bed
  • "Stay in your car." = to prevent confrontations i.e. connections with others
identify ways in which the last few scenes link back to the early scenes of the film
Identify ways in which the last few scenes link back to the early scenes of the film.
  • starts and ends at night, with aerial views of the city
  • Graham and Ria are rear-ended || Shaniqua is rear-ended
  • Ria mocks Kim Lee's English: "I blake too fast?" || Shaniqua: "Don't talk to me unless you speak American!"
  • Graham returns to the crime scene where Peter's body was found
  • Kim Lee || Anthony releases the Asians, refers to "Dopey Chinaman."
  • talk of snow || it is snowing
camera angles and their significance
Camera angles and their significance:
  • CU – really develops character and first impressions of people (e.g. Daniel’s tatoos etc. are shown via close up when we first meet him as a way of giving a glimpse into character, one that we discover is incorrect)
  • High angle shots – represents power and powerlessness. Often used to show how weak and vulnerable characters are during particular scenes (e.g. Christine and Cameron when pulled over by the police)
  • POV shot – used to show a particular point of view from a particular character. Useful in getting to understand what the characters think and feel about others. We see what they see, we share their experiences. (e.g. Jean’s POV of Daniel)
use of light visual
Use of light…(visual)
  • Much of Crash is filmed with the light behind the subject rather than the light behind the camera. This often used in morally ambivalent situations to show the conflict that is going on between characters.
  • Karen and Rick
  • Shaniqua and Ryan
  • Graham and his mother
  • Karen, Flanagan & Graham
close reading scene analysis
questions to ask
Questions to ask…
  • Where and when is the film set? How is the setting established? What details are emphasised?
  • Which characters are identified as important? How is this done through film and sound techniques?
  • What are characters doing and/or saying the very first time we see them?
  • Does this action indicate any qualities about the person that become important later?
  • Is there any event that suggests what the film is going to be about, or the issue with which it will deal?
opening scene 2 40
  • Wide high angle aerial establishing shot opens – city lights, snow falls (visual)
  • Stylised pattern of lights behind titles (visual)
  • Voiceover of Graham – hear him before we see him (verbal)
  • Music (verbal)
  • Dialogue (verbal) between Ria and Kim Lee introduces themes: racist stereotypes/judging people based on first assumptions.
  • Camera angles and shots (visual) establish characters, setting and scene. Use of close up shots illustrate aggressive nature of characters and issues dealt with throughout film
info we can take from opening scene
Info we can take from opening scene…
  • the story now jumps back 24 hours to show the chain of events that leads to the body that has been found.
  • two main characters introduced – two police officers - and a third (Kim Lee).
  • Det. Graham Waters, who speaks the first lines, is the heart of the film and the closest any characters gets to being the protagonist.
  • setting: L.A. + winter (snow)
  • central issues of race, and particularly racist stereotypes and language issues, introduced
  • the central metaphor of the car crash established: the mid-point scene is of another crash, and the film will end with one.
the rescue of christine 1 00 08
The rescue of Christine (1:00:08)
  • Many of the shots are repeated several times. All shots are separated by CUTS.
  • There seem to be only two cameras – one shooting from outside the vehicle, from Ryan's side [A] and one shooting through the vehicle from the other side [B].
  • Ryan and his partner Gomez arrive at the scene of a car crash, at the top of a rise. Ryan tells Gomez to call it in, and runs up the hill to the upside-down vehicle. He is hindered on his way by a car door opening, but just keeps going. At the crashed vehicle, he gets down to ascertain if anyone is still in there, still alive. (Note that no one from the long line of cars has made any effort to do this.)
after viewing scene
After viewing scene…
  • A lot of CU shots and POV shots used…why?
  • A dramatic action scene in which Ryan redeems himself and Christine is forced to re-evaluate the man who had assaulted her and jeopardised her marriage. Having behaved so badly, Ryan is forced to regain her trust before he can save her.
  • Soundtrack: 'El Llamar de Pasion' a lovely, liquid Arabic vocal by the American rai singer ShaniRigsbee.
  • "The most powerful scene in Crash has Dillon and Newton confronting mistrust on the cusp of mortality."

- James Berardinelli

graham s compromise 106 15
Graham’s compromise (106:15)
  • Worksheet task
  • Watch scene closely and fill in the right hand side of the page with as many techniques and effects as you can identify. Also use this space to deconstruct the dialogue and analyse meaning.
parallels and contrasts

Parallels and contrasts

Central visual technique used in a number of ways…

motifs and objects
Motifs and Objects
  • two white vans
  • two black Navigators – both end up in flames [Lucien: 'Georgie, burn this thing.']
  • Hanson & Peter both have St Christopher medals
  • father/son, Ryan and Pop Ryan || mother /son, Graham Waters and Mrs Waters
  • both police officers (NB Peter is never seen with his mother)
  • both sons care for and deeply love their parent
  • father and daughter: Farhad and Dorri; Daniel and Lara
  • both daughters try to protect their fathers - successfully
  • two partnerships: Anthony & Peter || Ryan and Hanson
  • both split up; ends in disaster for one of each – Peter and Hanson
  • leads to 'heroism' for the other – Ryan saves Christine; Anthony releases the Asians
  • Ryan, Anthony – both mouthy, cynical racists, both save people of a different race;
  • Hanson, Peter – both idealistic, hopeful
  • both Jean and Farhad distrust Daniel
  • Christine's life is saved by Ryan; she is grateful || Cameron's life is saved by Hanson; he is not
  • two wealthy couples – both shocked out of their sense of security in who they are, by people with guns
  • two affairs: Graham/Ria; Rick/Karen – neither has a future; both men shut out the women; both leave them standing as they walk away
  • two Navigators stolen/attempted to be stolen – and Anthony gets paid for neither
  • two blacks shot – one a cop (Lewis); both shot by white cops (Conklin, Hanson)
  • two fathers 'saved' by their daughters
  • Lara uses her 'impenetrable' fairy cloak
  • Dorri saves her father by choosing blanks for the gun he buys; he refers to 'my angel'
  • Christine would rather die than have Ryan touch her || Cameron would rather die than lie down on the road.
  • two shootings – Peter, Lara, one fatal, one not
  • Cameron faces police twice – once he apologises; the second time defies them; in both he is an innocent party
  • Choi and Christine both pulled from crashes
  • Maria has gone for groceries || Graham takes groceries for his mother
  • Anthony's car won't go || Maria's car won't go
  • Christine phones Cameron from her bed after accident || Jean phones Rick from her bed after accident
  • both have suffered accidents
  • both are told 'I love you' – though only one is sincere
  • Ryan hugs his dad || Jean hugs Maria || Graham holds his mother
  • Ryan helps Pop from toilet [21] || Graham helps his mother inside [31]; both framed by doors [31, 54]
  • two burning cars – Christine's crash; Hanson's arson
  • two rear-endings – one to start film, one to end it
  • two dead bodies, both shot by cops, both black
  • Rick, Daniel look out from their homes