Films have a way of taking us to faraway destinations and inspiring future travels. The SiPP team rounded up some of the films that they love when they need a little travel fix during this time of social distancing and isolation.
Jacqui’s Movie Picks
Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
I lived in Singapore for four and a half years, and even though the Singapore I experienced was pretty distant to the one portrayed in this modern-day opulent fairytale, it made me homesick.
There were all the landmarks: Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, where I would run on the weekends. The quaint, restored shophouses of Ann Siang Hill where we got together for Happy Hour, and through where I walked every morning on my way to work. The open-air hawker centers where I would gather with coworkers for lunch. I could smell the humidity and the Hoisin sauce, and it just made me so hungry!
I have also read author Kevin Kwan’s books and finish each one salivating, with the resolve to learn a traditional Singaporean dish mentioned in the book. I am always disappointed in the result – following an online recipe is no match for learning from a great grandmother. And that’s what makes Singapore such a unique place to visit (and live). Yes, there are all the modern feats of engineering to marvel at, but the heart of Singapore lies in its traditional food, and Crazy Rich Asians does a fine job of portraying that.
New Zealand: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
I have to throw in a Taika Waiti film, because he is the master of articulating New Zealand culture through stories that entertain the world. The Hobbit Trilogy was like one big tourism campaign for the country, but the cast of Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a more accurate representation of what you are likely to find on a visit Down Under. The film follows a foster child Ricky (Julian Dennison) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill), who, through several layers of miscommunication, end up the targets of a manhunt through the dense New Zealand bush. That they survive for five months without being found is what makes the film so believable.
Most of the filming took place in the Waitakere Ranges, just outside of Auckland, where I grew up. While the meandering trails of these bushy hills aren’t generally on the top of most tourists’ agenda when they go to New Zealand, the film shows the beauty and serenity of even the most remote landscapes in the country, as well as the less than glamorous people who roam them.
Paris: Amelie (2001)
Le Fabuleux Destin de Amelie Poulin was released the year before I moved to France for an exchange year, and when I arrived, everyone was obsessed with the gamine protagonist played by Audrey Tautou, and the score by Yann Tiersen. It took me a few months to finally sit down and watch the film, and when I did, I was head over heels. My world in Strasbourg was fairly monochromatic: limestone and sandstone, baguettes, black wool coats and bare trees. Hers in Paris was candy-store bright and animated. But she was mostly alone and mute, and, having recently moved to a new city with a new language myself, I could fully relate to the way the title character could find things to celebrate every day. Amelie’s vibrant, quirky Paris inspired my first visit there, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I returned several months later in the peak of summer, where the city’s light saturation and the soundtrack of the buskers along the Seine and Metro, almost matched that of the film.
Stephanie’s Movie Picks
China: The Painted Veil (2006)
A 1920’s-era drama with two of my favorite actors – Edward Norton and Naomi Watts – was enough to pique my interest as I scrolled through television channels years ago. Admittedly, the scandalous storyline of an unfaithful wife dragged by her doctor husband into the center of a cholera outbreak was what drew me in at first. However, it was the haunting landscape of mainland China that stayed with me – its remarkable pagodas, misty river and imposing mountains imbued the story with a rich atmosphere that seemed to echo the sense of alternating fear and hope felt by the frightened citizens. I learned that the cast shot on location in the ancient town of Huangyao, a picturesque spot which is popular with visitors to this day.
Niagara Falls: Niagara (1953)
Maybe it’s because I’m a born-and-bred New Yorker that I’ve never been that interested in visiting Niagara Falls, a natural wonder arguably too close to home for me to fully appreciate. That is, until I saw a screening of Niagara, the film noir gem showcasing a sultry Marilyn Monroe in glorious technicolor. Gorgeously shot, you can almost feel the mist on your skin and the rushing water in your veins as the untamed Falls run rampant on screen. In a sense, these natural torrents are as unbridled as Rose Loomis’s (Monroe’s) passionate nature – a nature that prompts her desire to kill her stodgy older husband and abscond with her lover. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, waiting for this murderous plot to flow on to its unexpected climax.
Katie’s Movie Picks
Mexico: Coco (2017)
There was a lot of buzz about Coco when it was first released, but I was never really a huge fan or an enthusiast of Disney. I finally saw it a few months ago and I have to say it was hands-down one of my favorite movies. While I can’t say that the destination was front and center (it was animated after all), Mexico’s culture was arguably the star of the show. From the sounds of the guitar to the strong family bonds, this film is a powerful testament to Mexican culture that brought me to tears!
Italy: Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
To this day, the idea of selling everything, buying an old home in a far off place and renovating it has a certain romantic allure to me. Not only do I love following Diane Lane’s character in this movie on her cross-cultural journey as she acclimates to life in Tuscany, but the process of watching her renovate the villa may have inspired my obsession with home renovation shows. The best part, if you ask me, is that the storyline doesn’t follow the standard rom-com arch. Instead, it teaches us about the importance and value of the relationships we have with friends who become family.