Film series examines diverse Asian culture

By Tanika Ely

Students and community members gathered for the Pan-Asian Film Series at the Virginia Theater March 11 and12. The series, sponsored by the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, showcased seven different films from Asia.

Sarah Barbour, coordinator for the cinema series, said she believes the series was important because it provided community outreach to people who otherwise might not be exposed to Asian art and culture.

“There are so many new movies out there and a lot people haven’t heard of them,” Barbour said.

This was the third year for the event with a few changes from years past, Barbour said. She said she chose the films for this year’s series and said her reasons for picking them was for variety.

“The first year we showed films that were all from Japan, and the year after they were Chinese-language films,” she said.

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Karen Kelsky, department head of East Asian Languages and Cultures, said she came to see Shoalin Soccer, a Chinese-language film that uses digital effects to parody kung fu and traditional action movies. She said that showing films on a yearly basis would be a welcome addition to the Champaign-Urbana community.

“It’s the best thing to do for Asian studies,” Kelsky said. “It’s absolutely important to have something like this in our community.”

Kelsky said that the selection of films helps to show the diversity of Asian culture.

“Many of these films are full of variety,” Kelsky said. “They are well done, innovative and others can learn about contemporary Asian society.”

Barbour said she also believes that showing these films helps to exemplify the diversity of Asian culture.

“They show the interesting talent that is coming out of Asia,” Barbour said. “I hope it will minimize the stereotype that Asian films are all about samurai or kung fu – there are different genres and styles. South Korea is really building its film industry and there are also some interesting films coming out of Thailand and Mongolia.”

Barbour said the cinema series had other benefits as well.

“It’s fun, free and sometimes it’s nice to see these movies on the big screen,” she said. “With a lot of these movies people didn’t have the chance to see them in theaters.”

One of the many people who attended the event, Kathryn Uihlein, said she attended the series on both nights. Uihlein said she particularly enjoyed Friday’s showing of The Vertical Ray of the Sun, a movie set in Vietnam that focuses around three sisters and how they choose to cope with their love lives.

“I don’t know how many Americans see these movies,” Uihlein said. “But I think it’s extremely important that this festival is here and for people to have the opportunity to experience something different.”

Uihlein said she believes there were more people at this year’s Asian film showcase than in years past and exposure is helping to inform people about a different part of the world.

Other films shown at the cinema series were Story of the Weeping Camel, Millennium Mambo, Small Voices, Kick the Moon and Last Life in the Universe.

Kelsky said she hopes the series will have some positive outcomes that will hopefully transfer into more of these kinds of events.

“It’s an interesting part of the world and maybe people will become interested enough in Asian culture to take classes,” Kelsky said. “I really hope more people will see films like these.”