iheart(asian)cinema

Aside from the Oscars, co-hosted by James Franco (wouldn’t you hate to be working with that guy on a big project due on Monday?) and “that annoying girl” Anne Hathaway (my mother’s words; I’m rather fond of her), Yale also had the honor of playing host to renowned Japanese filmmaker Koreeda Hirokazu. I had been a fan of his ever since I saw the critically acclaimed 誰も知らない or Nobody Knows (2004), which a friend had recommended to me as being the most depressing movie she’s ever seen. And indeed, it was heartbreaking, but it was also a beautiful piece of work, subtle and poignant as a lot of the best in Japanese cinema can be.

I wasn’t able to attend the two workshops that were held over the weekend, but I did manage to catch a screening of Koreeda’s latest? work, Still Walking (2008). A narration over the course of roughly a day, the film is an in-depth portrait of a middle-class Japanese family, coming together in a clash of personalities while sharing an in an important common bond. Through the voice of older son, Koreeda tries to convey that family life is to be cherished and nourished. Beautiful and moving, the film certainly succeeded in invoking these sentiments.* I don’t think anything that I can write could do it justice, so maybe you should just check it out for yourself.

I could go on and on about East Asian/Southeast Asian cinema (Bollywood is a different genre altogether), but perhaps I’ll just leave you with this: Yes, there’s been a lot of film screenings this year—I don’t know when all the organizations started popping up/why they all decided to let us watch free movies—but I’m certainly not complaining. They’re really worth checking out if you can spare 2 hours of your regularly scheduled Hulu-watching. And I’m always open to movie (and drama!) recommendations, so drop a line if you’ve got something that everyone needs to see.**

* Actually, I was reminded of Tokyo Sonata (2008), another Japanese film that I had watched recently that also explores the Japanese family but with a slightly higher focus on the struggle of individual personalities to shine through in Japan’s familial structure and roles. It actually made me really angry for a good three-quarters of the film, but the mood it manages evokes modern-day Japanese society so poignantly that it’s hard not to look back on it fondly. Also worth a watch.

** Despite the content of this post humor is actually preferred! Not that I really understand absurdist Japanese humor (but so many puns ♥)…

The Case of the Zainichi: Preserving an Identity

“Ahnyoung…hase…you.”

He had a Korean last name, but he stumbled through this simple Korean phrase of hello, offering a series of quick bows as if he was embarrassed at his less than perfect Korean. As part of a mission trip to Tokyo last winter, I found myself fascinated by the conversation I had with the Waseda University student who was a third-generation member of the Zainichi Korean community in Japan. Even an ocean away, I could relate to the Waseda student’s question of identity and assimilation to the issues Asian Americans face in the U.S.

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Why do Asians all look the same?

All right, obviously, we don’t. I’ve never been too bothered by people who think that though, for one because their own inattention and lack of exposure isn’t my problem, and also because I actually frequently think, “Wow, that person I just saw on the street looks exactly like [acquaintance of the same ethnicity!]!”

But sometimes it does gets a bit old, like when your seminar professor, one of those “hardcore,” demanding types who makes a big show of getting to know each student personally (and also frequently white, male, and over 50 years old in my past experience but I won’t comment on that) constantly calls on you by the name of one of the two other Asian girls (both of whom are from completely different Asian countries) in your class. And vice versa. End personal rant.

Think you would never do such a thing? Try taking the age-old quiz at http://alllooksame.com/ and see if you really know what Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people look like. And if your score makes you feel like you’ve dishonored your family, perhaps this handy guide can be of use… http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2008/09/ultimate-korean-looks-list-how-to-pick.html

By the way, I’m pretty sure I got below average the first time I took that quiz. I guess all these years of watching different Asian dramas have all been for nothing.

Chinese Activist Goes Home After 3 Months in Tokyo Airport

Since last Novemeber, 55-year-old Feng Zhenghu has camped out at the Narita International Airport to protest China’s multiple refusals to let him return to Japan. He survived on food and clothes donated by travelers. After talking to Chinese officials, Zhenghu has decided to end his protest. Read the full article at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100202/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_terminal_activist