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Daily Helping for December 16th, 2020 – Nata Metlukh – Paper or Plastic

A photo still from the animated film Paper or Plastic by Nata Metlukh of the main character being examined by a doctor.

Wow. There is a lot going on in this film. Paper or Plastic is ostensibly about the immigrant experience, but there’s just so much more that it touches on. And director Nata Metlukh clearly has some strong opinions about a lot of topics, because there is nothing subtle about this film. It tells the story of an artist with a dream who moves to a new country in order to paint a mural on the side of a skyscraper. But almost immediately, his dream starts to crumble when he is faced with the difficulties of assimilation, navigating bureaucracy, and the ever present threat of xenophobia. The film also touches on violence, police brutality, racism, gun culture, and health care rights. All in under eight minutes. As I said, there’s a lot going on here.

I am an immigrant myself, so there was a lot that I could relate to in this film. Especially the never-ending bureaucratic hoops you have to constantly jump through in order to justify your presence in your adopted country. It’s an exhausting process that has reduced me to tears on numerous occasions, despite the fact that I immigrated from one predominantly white western country to another. I can only imagine how hard this process is for others without that level of privilege.

However, what particularly struck a chord with me was the ending. Spoiler alert, but the main character eventually returns to his home country. And yet his experiences abroad have changed him, and everything now seems slightly out of whack. I can absolutely relate to this, and let me tell you, it’s a weird feeling to experience culture shock in your home country. And yet that’s exactly what happens every time I go back for a visit. It’s still the same country I grew up in, but the differences between my two homes can’t help but be magnified now. And every time, there’s a period of adjustment that has to happen.

Again, there’s nothing subtle about this film, but it is very on point. I can only hope that Nata Metlukh gets a chance to create a longer film in the future. I’m sure she has lots more to say.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!