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Escape on a Human Cargo

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CULTURAL DIFFERENCES PORTRAYED IN THE FILM:
ESCAPE IN A HUMAN CARGO (1998)

Escape in a human cargo tells the original story of an American prefab housing engineer who goes to Saudi Arabia to close a multi-million dollar deal. When he arrives he discovers that his bargain is will not be honored. The main character in the film winds up a virtual prisoner with no guarantees for his safety once the job is completed. As the plot unfolds, we are able to experience the slow realization that he is being cheated by his Arab clients, that his chances of full payment are slim and finally that his life is in danger. What is interesting about this film is that rather than being just another action movie, it’s a very scary and true story of cultural clash and a surprisingly balanced look at the uncertain justice system of Saudi courts. The following paper will discuss certain cultural differences that were portrayed in the film.

Justice System:
In an early stage of the film, we see a scene of a woman publically beat with stones. The characters Arab middleman later explains that she was stoned to death as a result of being suspected to have thought about adultery. Although this seems to be the normal justice system in Saudi Arabia, brutality as a form of punishment is not tolerated in North America. The film properly portrays the Americans discomfort insight of this treatment.

Business interactions In addition to the differences with regards to the justice system and the treatment of women, many differences are evident for regular business activities. For example, while Canadians and Americans are more likely to get straight to business, the Saudi culture has a less rigid concept of time and schedule. “Nobody is in a rush here, everybody has all the time in the world”, says the American in a mocking tone. We notice that in Saudi Arabia, meetings are often loosely scheduled and are often interrupted. The 2 am business meeting towards the end of the film also serves to demonstrate this concept.
The movie also demonstrates that you it is important not to rush a Saudi businessman. They do not discuss hard details of business deals immediately. Instead, they first chitchat and inquire about the each other's welfare. The Arab client explains to the American that this step is important as trust must first be established prior to feeling comfortable discussing serious business matters. “Getting straight to business I see? Ha! Ha! Doesn’t work like that here”.

Secondly, with regard to business interactions, we notice that Saudi Arabia businessmen put less focus on contracts and written agreements. When finally discussing business deals, it is common for both parties to part with a verbal understanding. As the film progresses, we witness that what he bargained for wasn't actually much of a bargain. His original deal with the Saudi government collapses and the contract is not respected. In the scene where the crane was not provided by the seller (as stated by the contract) the American businessman loses his temper and attempts to reinforce he contract that is in play. This attempt fails when the Arab clients response is “you keep referring to these agreements and the contract as if it is a fixed thing: things change”. This quote clearly demonstrates the differences for respecting business deals.

Other cultural differences:
The above topics were the main ones portrayed in the film as they affected business between the countries. However, certain minor cultural differences were also shown. These include but are not limited to; young children operating motor vehicles, having right hand steering in cars, women not being allowed on the streets and the lack of infrastructures. Another example is that men kiss each other (3 times on the cheek) while in Canada and US, a handshake is a more common mean of introduction. The main character states, “I’m sorry, we don’t kiss on the first date”.

The film Escape in a Human Cargo proved itself to be an interesting film that properly demonstrated the challenges of dealing with different cultures.…...

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