Asian-American film fest to feature works profiling Tibetan culture

The seventh annual Asian Film Festival begins its five-day run Tuesday with the documentary film, “Unmistaken Child,” directed by Nati Baratz, showing tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Spurlock Museum.

The film festival’s theme this year is “Visualizing Tibet.” All of the films in the fest showcase films about Tibet. The festival includes an array of films such as documentaries and fictional films that each portray a Tibetan life in a historical and contemporary context. Nancy Jervis, program director of the Asian Media Service, said a variety of perspectives will give her audience a unique take on Tibetan life.

“What I really wanted was different points of view,” Jervis said. “The Chinese directors have been making films about Tibet for many years. So I wanted to find some Chinese films. I wanted to find American documentaries or films. I wanted to find films by Tibetans. So we have all of that represented.”

Each year the festival concentrates on films from a different region of Asia. Previous years have focused on films from Japan and South Korea, said Susan Norris, assistant program coordinator for the Asian Media Service.

When it came to choosing Tibet as the theme for this year’s festival, Jervis said she wanted a festival that was previously organized. She ended up meeting with the organizers of the Tibetan Harlem Film Festival in New York City, who sent Jervis all of their films.

The only concern was that a Midwestern audience might need background material on the content of films largely directed by Tibetan filmmakers. This lead Jarvis to explore different types of films and feature one commercially successful film, Kundun by Martin Scorsese.

Along with showing one relatively mainstream Hollywood film production, Jarvis decided to keep two of the films made by Tibetan filmmakers, as well as a film made by one of the organizers of the Tibetan Harlem Film Fest.

Jarvis also said she wanted to keep the focus on the culture of Tibet rather than the political drama that Tibet faces today.

“My idea behind this festival was really to portray the culture and the lifestyle of the people of Tibet without some of the political drama that is often associated with Tibet and without the exoticism that’s often associated with Tibet. So basically to give people as close of a realistic view of Tibet as possible,” said Jarvis.

The films in the festival will be introduced by a Tibetan specialist along with a question and answer session afterward.

Freshman Genevieve Scheele, freshman in LAS, said the fest is a good way to learn about a lesser known culture.

“Tibet is kind of a country that people tend to overlook and so it’s a culture so different from ours that I think it’s important to go because you learn a lot,” Scheele said. “Also, a lot of the films have to do with Buddhism and I don’t think a lot of people understand Buddhism. It’s like a new way to look at another religion.”