Free Asian films a possible source of summer fun

Organizers of the series hope to inspire interest in foreign films and culture.

by Tyler Rushmeyer

Summer filmgoers tired of the typical blockbuster Hollywood gore, slash and kiddie comedy now have more thought-provoking options.

Every Thursday, through Aug. 31, the University’s Institute for Advanced Study, in collaboration with the department of Asian languages and literatures, will present free Asian films in 125 Nolte Center.

The series, in its first year, consists of 11 films in Japanese, Cantonese, Korean and Hindi. Christine Marran, event organizer and associate professor of Asian languages and literatures, said she hopes the series will set a precedent to become an annual tradition.

Marran said the film series targets students involved in Asian language programs, but added that it will be a unique and interesting experience for anyone.

“The goal behind the series is to simply give people a place to see these Asian films that they would never otherwise come across,” Marran said. “In my experience, people who take the time to come and see them are instantly hooked.”

Choosing the films was difficult, Marran said. The goal was to find a balance of films discussing contemporary and political issues that would appeal to youths, mixed in with classics, Marran said.

The result is films including Chan-Wook Park’s 2003 Korean film “Oldboy,” which ran July 13, and “Mother India,” a 1957 Hindi film directed by Mehboob Khan that is to run Aug. 17.

Michelle Lekas, lecturer from the Office of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, said people should see the films for their global influence and valuable insight into other cultures.

“I’ve heard the expression that cinema is a universal language,” Lekas said. “But that is far from the truth – people need to see films from other spots across the world to appreciate the differences.”

Cinema influence tends to come from the industry producing the largest amount of films and right now, that is Asia, Lekas said.

She said the University lacks opportunities to see a variety of films in comparison with other universities. Other campuses constantly have films showing and that just doesn’t happen here, Lekas said.

“The summer films that Hollywood is putting out are terrible, so this gives people a great opportunity to see some very well-done movies for free,” Lekas said.

Theresa Purcell, president of the Trash Film Debauchery student group, said foreign films in general are becoming more popular in the United States, especially films from Japan, China and Korea.

“I believe that Asian films are written with more passion, rather than simply writing to pull strings and make money,” Purcell said.

Purcell said Asian films are influencing Hollywood, especially in the horror genre.

“The psychological thriller concept is heavily influenced by Asian film and it offers more than the typical American slash film,” Purcell said.

Rosie Chang, an English junior, said she is familiar with many Asian films and that the University’s summer series has put together a good variety of films in terms of subject matter and the year they were made.

The films all seem to have a combination of powerful meanings, prominent directors or well-done cinematography, Chang said.

“I think it is important to take in the films to experience popular culture from another country,” Chang said. “What’s popular here is not necessarily what’s popular there. It just gives another perspective.”

Dayton Jagiela, an agriculture, food and business management junior, said most of the Asian films he has seen have been of the action or fighting genre, but said he thinks the event can showcase the variety in Asian cinema to the University community.

Kane Ishibashi, vice president of the Japanese Student Association, said it is important for people to see the films.

“The films show that there are different cultures out there and that each one has its own style of art and filmmaking,” Ishibashi said. “The movies are good exposure for the Asian community, and it gives people an opportunity to see something totally different than the stuff they’re used to seeing.”

Marran said funding for Asian study at the University has increased in recent years.

“We’ve had these discussions, ideas and dreams of various projects we’d like to do for many years, and now we’ve finally got the funding to go through with them,” Marran said.

Along with the Asian films series running through the summer, the Institute for Advanced Study and its Asian Film Collaborative will show an Asian documentary every Thursday evening in the fall semester.

“Hopefully, people will get into the routine of taking in these films on Thursday evenings and it can carry over to the fall,” Marran said.