Directors Documentaries Chair
List of documentaries about translators and interpreters

Are you a big fan of documentaries? For me, documentaries are a magical process where a filmmaker delivers his or her expression and ideas through the camera and represent the real life to us in a way they see it. If you are very fond of every kind of documentary as I am, or you are dreaming to be a translator or interpreter one day, you would not want to miss this article. In this blog, I am going to provide you with a list of documentaries that would bring you different angles of being a translator and interpreter.

1.The Interpreters (2014)

Being a professional translator and interpreter, you live in a completely different world depending on the company you work for,  the country you live or the person who you speak for. This is a documentary film that was directed by Patrick Reed, released in Canada in 2014. The length of the film is around 30 minutes. Patrick Reed, has been awarded for the best social/ political documentary program. His latest film has awarded him the Canadian Screen Award. Through his film, you would be surprised by the fact that people as interpreters living away from home and working in different environments could have very different lives and experiences. The film successfully portrays the real life of Afghan interpreters who work for the United States force back in 2010, struggling to obtain visa for settling their life in Canada.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7k1XJcDpV42

2.Kill The Messenger (2006)

Imagining working as an interpreter for your government?

Kill the messenger is a French documentary, which had spent two years discovering the persecution under the State Secret Privilege, and the new legislation about whistle-blower in U.S. The main role in this film is Sibel Edmonds who use to work as an interpreter for Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the miserable terrorist attack, which took place on September 11, 2001. During her working period, she found out and reported the fault of the FBI during September 11 attacks. This is turn terminated her working contract. In the film, she showed the dark side of working at the FBI as they put pressure on people within the office to insure everything that is confidential should stay in secret at all cost.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn10itGL5iM

3. Empire of dust (2011)

Having the knowledge of another language is no longer enough to be an interpreter and translator. The capability of understanding the culture differences is also an essential criterion to be a professional. Empire of dust has been translated into three languages: French, Chinese and Swahili, and with English subtitle. This interesting documentary presented the long-term business relationship between China and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It`s so called the dust of former Belgian colony.

Lao Yang is a typical Chinese employee who worked for a company called CREC (Chinese Railway Engineering Company) as the head of logistics group. Eddy, a native Congolese who can speaks Mandarin very well plays as an important role between Lao Yang and local Congolese entrepreneurs. Through this film, you will see how these people committed to the company’s goal of building a road between Kolwesi and Lubumbashi. The interesting part of the film would be the process of the negotiation between Chinese man, local Congolese and his interpreter; it has shown the culture clash of different ways of doing business.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a-QpyF7rNc

4.’The Whisperers’: A journey into the world of interpreters (2005)

Is being an interpreter your dream job? What kind of working life can you imagine?

The Whispers is definitely a good documentary for you when pursuing your dream.

As an observer, the filmmaker of The Whispers (2005) takes audience to a deeper insight level of understanding the work of interpreters. The film aims at showing the audience the profession of interpreters by presenting their colourful daily working lives. The life of interpreter is not as normal as people usually think; the work requires interpreter to have curiosity and sufficient knowledge for the quality of their work. This brings you the reality of how it is like to be a conference interpreter.

5. Translation: Myths and Reality (2014)

Translation is not just a process that you simply replace the words of the original with words of the target language. The target language needs to have the thoughts and meanings converted into it. This ten-minute short documentary discusses the kind of typical misconception of translation work. It features the profession of translators. It reveals the misconception of translation work, and it fully demonstrates the job as translators.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-gLNxEcJBw

6. The Interpreters: A Historical Perspective. (2009)

Working as interpreters at the United Nation (UN) could be the most interesting job ever! How does the working environment like to be? Is it an intensive job? Have a look at this documentary film, you will find it out! The Interpreters: A Historical Perspective is an educational documentary that was produced for UN’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The film presents the researching work, translation, and voice-over jobs that are done by dedicated interpreters at the UN. It shows how it is like to be a simultaneous interpreter at the UN. It also shows how the UN work together with its member states in different conferences by utilising six official languages.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bsjZQU9nuI

 

Being an interpreter and translators is never an easy job as any others. There is no definite standard that tells you how to be a professional. Yet through the lens of the film’s director, we seem to have the guideline for our own. Every film’s director has his or her critical viewpoint toward the issue they concern with, and from that starting-point could inspire us to see things in another way.