PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2006, 12:00am

A film about racism in the city of Los Angeles, Crash is the kind of cinema that leaves a mark.

It unveils disturbing and universal truths about social prejudice and racial discrimination.

The movie - which won Best Film at the Oscars in March - is the directorial debut of Paul Haggis, the writer of Clint Eastwood's award-winning Million Dollar Baby.

The story revolves around 11 characters from different racial and economic backgrounds, whose lives unexpectedly collide one day.

One thing unites them - anger. 'I'm angry all the time and I don't know why,' says Sandra Bullock's character after she and her husband (Brendan Fraser), a district attorney, are robbed by two black thugs in their car at gunpoint.

The rage of the characters makes the first 30 minutes of Crash a hellish snapshot of racially-divided life in Los Angeles.

Among many ugly incidents, we witness a well-educated black couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) being harassed by a racist white cop (Matt Dillon) and an owner of a gun store insulting an Iranian shopkeeper and his daughter.

The racial abuse - both physical and verbal - are so degrading that you may feel the urge to cover your eyes and ears.

But when the anger simmers down, some heartfelt and sublime moments emerge, reminding us that we are as much innately good as bad.

A racist white cop can risk his life to save a black woman - whom he molested the night before - from a capsized vehicle; a thug can be the saviour of a group of Asians suffering at the hands of human traffickers.

Haggis uses the complexities of the characters and the ironic turns of events to show that racism springs largely from personal frustration, which stems from a social system that fosters alienation and indifference.

Crash leaves plenty of room for us to reflect on the real cause of our prejudice.

Crash is now showing