F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 19, 2013)

19 07 2013

Exporting RaymondIt’s all too easy to throw around the word universal; you can look and see I’m guilty of it myself.  While a nice idea, it is a little naive to assume that there can truly be an experience that unites the entire world.  It’s an especially tempting descriptor for comedies, which often play to broadly shared feelings to illicit the desired response.

But in my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” Phil Rosenthal’s documentary “Exporting Raymond,” we get a hilarious crash-course in how great a cultural divide can be.  Rosenthal, the creator of the hit CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” takes us along for the ride as he advises Russian television personnel as they struggle to adapt his show for their market.  To his surprise, more has to be changed than just the language.

As creative staff and executives prepare “Voroniny” to hit the Russian small screen, Rosenthal finds himself explaining things about Ray Barone and his family that he took for granted as just being understood.  The entire way in which Americans enact concepts of family, gender, and power are foreign to the Russians.  Rosenthal finds himself in the precarious position of trying to maintain the integrity of “Everybody Loves Raymond” without setting it up for failure in the Russian marketplace.

For those like myself who found Ray’s antics quite relatable, “Exporting Raymond” is a gentle and well-meaning reminder that our response to his character is largely conditioned by the culture in which we watch him.  Rosenthal shows us how hard intercultural communication can be, but he ultimately demonstrates how valuable the additional understanding we gain really is.

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