Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Everyone’s invited. Inclusive versus Exclusive

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Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture and Best Director at the 90th Academy Award this year. I truly believe it was deserved. Although tackling some extremely serious subjects, del Toro’s fairy tale approach allowed me to immerse myself freely in today’s reality through magic. Del Toro’s use of fantastical worlds allows personal interpretation of his ideas; an approach based on invitation versus invasion. In a society where we are constantly and forcefully bombarded with strong opinionated media, I found an open ended fairy tale to be the most approachable commentary on our world’s reality today.

A fairy tale is for everyone

Today’s topics on inequality in race, sex and status are so constantly pounded into our heads that there is often a feeling of helplessness which, can be followed by feelings of rejection and shut down. By aggressively addressing the differences there seems to be a push towards exclusivity instead of inclusiveness, which in turn only causes a larger inequality gap. The Shape of Water does an extraordinary job at addressing some very serious issues in today’s society without feeling like a personal attack. Just like old fairy tales, this is a story for anyone and everyone. The tale is not catered to a specific group of individuals which, in my opinion is the only way to tackle inequality.

“A Director doesn’t dictate; a Director interprets“

“The Shape of Water” screening on February 22nd at the Landmark Theater on Pico in Los Angeles.

I watched the film twice. The second time, a good friend took me to Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, screening on February 22nd at the Landmark Theater on Pico (LA). It was wonderful to see the film again, this time in the presence to the Director and Writers. Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor lead a fun and warm Q&A after the screening.

Gulliermo del Toro singing books and taking photo’s with his fans

Gulliermo speaks of his role as a Director and reminds the audience that “a director doesn’t dictate; a director interprets”. This was a phrase that really stood out to me. Dictating people into a way of thinking has never and will never have a successful effect. Again, the topic of inclusiveness versus exclusiveness. This is a thought process that rings true in so many aspects of our lives. Invading someone’s mindset versus inviting them for a stroll in your brain can have an immeasurable different outcome.

Me looking like an absolute maniac with Guillermo after I handed him a book about Russian fairy tales.

I managed to stop del Toro for a quick snapshot. As a “thank you”, I gave him a book about Russian fairy tales.

The Shape of Water definitely had an impact on me. It was gorgeous, the story was sweet but, what did it for me was the open ended magic. The need for every viewer’s opinion to complete a story. In a time of exclusive social movements, I felt included in something with everyone.

Guillermo, thank you for keeping fairy tales alive.

What I learned attending an international school

This past year has been a particularly tumultuous one. A lot is going on both politically and socially. People are upset, tired, and have strong opinions. Conversations have devolved into monologues. All this made me reflect on communication, and how essential it is for events to move forward in a productive manner. I use the cross-cultural communication skills I learned at ASM both in my professional, as well as personal life every day.

This short article, originally posted on Medium, is dedicated to the school that taught me how to live in a multicultural world.

A reflection of what I learned at the American School of Milan

Now that it has been more than a decade, since I graduated high school, I find myself looking back at my education at the American School of Milan more often than ever.

Photo by Nikita Andreev on Unsplash

Being brought up in a multicultural environment will have a priceless effect on your life. You will strive to be more open minded. You will be more patient. More compassionate. Humble. Your fluency in cross-cultural communication will make you easily adaptable to the most unexpected situations in life.

When I was in school, my group of best friends was made up of kids from Italy, South Korea, Finland, Turkey, Paraguay, Japan, United States, India, France, Switzerland. My classmates consisted of even more nationalities. This obviously meant, great food at slumber parties. It also meant we were able to ask questions most can’t.

When I saw something on the news happening in a country I knew nothing about, I could turn to a classmate and ask them about it directly. Conversations were encouraged in class, and teachers helped monitor difficult discussions that let us make sense of things. Looking back at this, it was incredible; it was like being part of the UN summit everyday.

ASM School trip to Madesimo, Italy, 2004

What I learned by being a part of an international community, is that everything can work while there is communication. All opinions are valid, and with enough conversation, there is always a solution. The minute we stop listening to each other, is when we let bigotry in.

Most of the hate in the world comes from ignorance. We all want the best for those we love. It’s easier to believe our opinions are correct and that we are fighting for the right side. It’s terrifying to question our certainties. In a country like the US, where everything is oceans away, and information is safely fed through media giants, it’s easy to get sucked into dangerous thoughts.

If you haven’t had the privilege of familiarizing yourself with other cultures in the past, it’s never too late to listen to a second opinion. Listen to what others have to say before you correct them by quoting your preferred newspaper. Embrace your international connections. While you can learn about the world through a screen, you need to meet it in person to understand it.

Photo by Slava Bowman on Unsplash

To students attending international schools all over the world: I wish you strength to keep speaking your mind and patience to keep listening even to the quietest of voices. Your ability to comfortably converse with any nationality is what keeps the world whole.

American School of Milan, Class of 2005, Milan Italy

To the American School of Milan: Thank you for having taught me how to navigate peacefully through our stormy world.

A Message to students : Your hard work counts and will make a difference in your career.

A personal story about how a student project launched me into becoming the designer I am today. Read the whole story on Medium

A Message to students : Your hard work counts and will make a difference in your career.