["The Arrival of Wang"] Italian film (2011). Manetti Bros, Iris Film. Directed by Antonio Manetti and Marco Manetti. Written by Antonio Manetti and Marco Manettii. Cast includes Francesca Cuttica, Ennio Fantastichini, Juliet Esey Joseph and Li Yong. 83 minutes. Colour.
Film translator Gaia (Cuttica) is drafted to interpret at the interrogation of "Mr Wang" (Li Yong), an illegal immigrant soon revealed as an Alien, who has learned Chinese, believing it to be the most widely-spoken language on Earth. Intelligence officer Curti (Fantastichini) is convinced Wang is a point-man for an Invasion force; Wang claims to be an ambassador of peace. Curti becomes increasingly hostile, resorting eventually to Torture, while Gaia wrings her hands and argues for diplomatic protocols, amid Paranoia over Curti's true origins and motivations.
With barely enough material to fill an episode of The Twilight Zone, L'Arrivo di Wang artfully stretches its low budget to feature-length with limited locations, some pulpy running around in corridors and full exploitation of the conversational longueurs required by liaison interpreting. Wang himself spends much of the film tied to a chair, cunningly limiting the requirements of digital animation, which are later aided during more mobile sequences by the imposition of pulsing emergency lighting.
As in Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009), the film questions the application of humanitarian ethics to a non-human subject, inevitably debating whether Curti's end justifies his means, or if Gaia is merely a useful idiot. As with other works that allegorize Race in SF – such as Alien Nation (1988) and District 9 (2009) – the narrative also alludes to the role of immigrants as valuable citizens or potential fifth columnists. Wang is turned in by Amunike (Joseph), an African expat, but prevails upon the kind-hearted Italian Gaia to help him escape. The Linguistic twist, of conducting all of Wang's dialogue in Mandarin, is an innovative touch but creates a new and unintended subtext, since Wang's dialogue is fluent and cogent, whereas Gaia's spoken Chinese often sounds like the recitations of an uncomprehending robot. Some suspension of disbelief is also required, not only for the authorities' apparent lack of extra information about Wang's situation, but also in the idea that a national government would entrust the fate of the Earth in the hands of someone who is first seen having to consult a dictionary to look up common Chinese conversational phrases. [JonC]
see also: Italy.
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