Peace Corps - in Popular Culture - Films

Films

In popular culture, the Peace Corps has been used as a comedic plot device in such movies as Airplane!, Christmas with the Kranks, Shallow Hal, and Volunteers or used to set the scene for a historic era, as when Frances "Baby" Houseman tells the audience she plans to join the Peace Corps in the introduction to the movie Dirty Dancing. The Peace Corps has also been documented on film and examined more seriously and in more depth.

  • The 2006 documentary film Death of Two Sons, directed by Micah Schaffer, juxtaposes the deaths of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean-America who was gunned down by four New York City policemen with 41 bullets, and Peace Corps volunteer Jesse Thyne who lived with Amadou's family in Guinea and died in a car crash there.
  • In the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Angelina Jolie's character Jane reveals to her husband John (Brad Pitt) that she lied about being in the Peace Corps. Visibly upset, he responds, "I really liked that about you!".
  • Jimi Sir, released in 2007, is a documentary portrait of volunteer James Parks' experiences as a high school science, math and English teacher during the last 10 weeks of his service in Nepal. James speaks Nepali fluently and brings you into a culture where there are no roads, vehicles, electricity, plumbing, telephone or radio.
  • The 1970 movie ¿Qué Hacer?, filmed in Chile and directed by Saul Landau on the eve of the election of Salvador Allende as president of Chile, tells the story of CIA agent Martin who is sent to Chile to recruit Suzanne, a volunteer. Suzanne instead falls for the Chilean revolutionary Hugo and gets involved in a plot to kidnap Martin. Suzanne finally realizes that the revolution must be fought, but that for her the fight is back in the U.S.
  • The movie El Rey, directed and written by Antonio Dorado in 2004, attacks corrupt police, unscrupulous politicians and half-hearted revolutionaries but also depicts the urban legend of Peace Corps Volunteers "training" native Colombians how to process coca leaves into cocaine.
  • In the 1969 film, Yawar Mallku/Sangre de cóndor/Blood of the Condor, Bolivian director Jorge Sanjinés portrayed Peace Corps volunteers in the camp as arrogant, ethnocentric, and narrow-minded imperialists out to destroy Indian culture. One particularly powerful scene showed Indians attacking a clinic while the volunteers inside sterilized Indian women against their will. The film is thought to be at least partially responsible for the expulsion of the Peace Corps from Bolivia in 1971. Peace Corps volunteer Fred Krieger who was serving in Bolivia at the time said, "It was an effective movie – emotionally very arousing – and it directly targeted Peace Corps volunteers. I thought I would be lynched before getting out of the theatre. To my amazement, people around me smiled courteously as we left, no one commented, it was just like any other movie."
  • In the film Jumanji, Kirsten Dunst explains that Robin Williams' character is such a mess because he is a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer.
  • In the film Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio's character offers an interesting take on Peace Corps: "Peace Corps types only stay around long enough to realize they're not helping anyone".

Read more about this topic:  Peace Corps, In Popular Culture

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