For the HKBU Journalism Movie Club
By Jimmy Ding
What is the real world? Is it New York City with green trees and sunshine? Or is Afghanistan with war and starvation?
This is the question that the 2016 film “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” seeks to answer, from the perspective of an American foreign correspondent in Afghanistan.
Actor Tina Fey, who plays real-life journalist Kim Barker renamed Kim Baker in the film, leaves New York to work as a TV reporter in Afghanistan. She suffers much: a filthy environment, restrictions on women, being cheated on and breaking up with her American boyfriend. At first, she struggles to adapt, but as time goes by, she finds stories and settles in to doing great work as a journalist. When gunfire breaks out, she rushes to the front line to shoot video. She does not care about death in that moment; instead, she cares about valuable footage.
As a journalist, Kim gains invaluable experience both from her sources, including dangerous warlords, and in her own life. But she finds though this is a place to report news, it is not her world. She experiences depression, sorrow and love in the country, a country for adventure.
Kim comes to the ultimate decision: to stay or go. What is the real world for her?
As a journalism student, I used to imagine that being a journalist meant you can go to a lot of wonderful places to find stories because news agencies provide you with travel money and opportunities. I ignored the fact that it is very likely you will be sent to dangerous places. But journalism in essence is telling the stories of people in difficult situations. You want people to know what is happening so that change can be made. That is why people need journalism.
Journalists are looking for the real world. You may be sent to Hong Kong this year. Next year you may be sent to Iraq. You have a deep understanding of the world since you have been to so many places. You see the prosperity of London, the poverty of Cambodia, gunfire in Sudan; you see many different cultures and meet many different people. It may take your whole life to explore your real world. The process is meaningful.
Many people do not have this chance. Maybe they have a good job, a large salary, but they just live in one place and try to belong. Being a journalist is not about belonging. We choose where we live and where we go. After seeing this film, I realize it might be dangerous to be a journalist, but it will help me to find my real world.
This is a good film for anyone, not just a journalist, to watch. The film leads to a better understanding of Afghanistan, war, poverty, human nature and the many things that happen in this world. Through the film, you can experience the conflict of Afghanistan from a unique perspective. This is a film that makes us think and explore.