A fellow Mongolian living in New York informed me about the film ‘The Guitar Mongoloid’ directed by Swedish Director Ruben Östlund showing in The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York from today. According to The Washington Post ‘… Ostlund’s 2004 debut features disjointed vignettes about characters dwelling on society’s fringes. It takes its title from a boy with Down syndrome (Erik Rutstrom) who busks on the streets, whaling away tunelessly on a guitar while screaming obscene lyrics. But the other sequences, which focus on vandals, a woman with an apparent obsessive-compulsive disorder and drunks playing with guns, are equally odd.’
Here’s my email to the film festival organisers of The Film Society of Lincoln Center, AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
I am writing to you as a Mongolian and as the mother of a child with Down’s syndrome.
I learned today about the film “The Guitar Mongoloid,” which will be shown as part of your film festival.
The term “mongoloid,” referring to people with Down’s syndrome, was dropped by the World Health Organization in 1965 because it was (and is!!) considered to be offensive to those of Mongol ethnicity.
Furthermore, in many countries, the word has come to be used as a term of offense. See, for example, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
There are many campaigns around the world trying to stop the hurtful and offensive usage of “mongoloid” and to promote the original meaning, namely, “related to the culture, language and people of Mongolia.”
I do not expect you to reconsider your decision to show the film. However, it would be a gesture of respect to the Mongolian people and to those with Down’s syndrome to tell the audience, before the film is shown, that the term “mongoloid” is offensive both to Mongols and to the international Down’s syndrome community.
You can read more about the use of this offensive term at http://www.independent.co.uk/