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Dark Matter

June 26, 2009

30.   Watch 101 new movies (9/101) (more info)

I rented Dark Matter from the RedBox tonight since Shane was out of town. The movie is based on a true event that took place at my college, which is what drew my attention to it in the first place. In 1991 a graduate student named Gang Lu shot and killed five people on the Iowa campus in Iowa City, seriously wounded and paralyzed another, and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

I was deeply disappointed in the movie. Since UI wouldn’t let them film on campus, they changed the location of the film. However the significant change made was how the film’s protagonist, called Liu Xing, was portrayed. The character has a much sunnier disposition and is connected to the people around him, unlike the real Lu, who isolated himself from all of his surrounding communities. Moreover, the film focuses on the tension between Liu and his adviser, painting him as the bad guy who takes advantage of his student and then betrays him, thus sparking the violent ending. In an Iowan news article the Rev. Jason Chen had this to say:

The movie’s favorable portrayal of Gang Lu as a victim is a distortion of what really happened.

I feel like this movie was disrespectful by making it seem like it was the victims’ fault that they were killed. That they had brought a perfectly normal nice guy down to that level. It also would leave some to believe that Iowa treated their grad students badly, which isn’t the case.

I will say that the movie touched on some important issues. Like how difficult it can be for foreign students to come to America and the pressure for them to succeed specially in the extreme levels of competition in the science fields. I think these are things that aren’t talked about often enough. My freshman year I lived with a student from Nepal and I could see how very difficult things were for her.

Overall, I would not recommend watching the film. It dragged on and didn’t flow very well. It almost could have been an OK movie if it hadn’t ended with him shooting everyone. I’ll admit that I could be biased due to the fact I know the real events it was based on. (Sorry if I ruined the ending to any of you that were planning on seeing it without knowing what it was based on.)

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2009 11:43 pm

    I think students from foreign countries are often resented. Much in the same way illegal immigrants are resented, but on the flip side. When you add on the pressure to succeed AND having to communicate in a language other than your native one, it’s a lot of stress. And I do think that more of an effort to understand and accept into the community these students from foreign countries is needed.

    • taraSG permalink
      June 27, 2009 12:03 am

      It’s a tough situation. I really liked the girl I was roomed with and we got along great, but she ended up moving in with fellow Nepalese students because she felt more comfortable with them. I was shocked at how little she was able to bring with her to college! To top it off, in Nepal they often use agents to find them colleges and she went to one that made Truman State out to be a much bigger college than it was. This was actually really common. Truman would get a lot of foreign students that expected to be in a big city with mass transportation and jobs. Instead they ended up in a small town in Missouri. It was terrible. I later transferred to Iowa and I’m not sure if they had these problems or not.

      • June 27, 2009 6:49 am

        I had a Turkish roommate my first year living in the dorms. She had a really tough time dealing with everything. I don’t blame her. We were in a Central Minnesota town that, while decent in size, doesn’t have a strong multi-cultural vibe or an easy way to get around town. It’s really not much better than a small town. Most of the people I know who have been there – foreign student or not – have not liked it (which is why I partially dislike the fact I’m moving back there for grad school). My Turkish roommate ended up getting mono, dropping out, going home, and then came back to a different school in a different state majoring in something completely different than what she started doing (and perhaps different from what she was “expected” to do as well). I think that it is hard for us to understand what foreign students go through. And that this lack of understanding and often unwillingness to breach that lack of understanding can lead to many sad and terrible things – such as what happened at in Iowa or Virginia Tech (where the shooter was an immigrant). I think being in a small town or an isolated decently sized town only makes these issues more prominent because of the lack of diversity (as opposed to a larger metropolitan area).

        • taraSG permalink
          June 27, 2009 2:12 pm

          I completely agree. Sometimes I wonder if they should put together something to give students who will be rooming with a foreign student to help them better understand and welcome their roommate.

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