Monday, September 30, 2013

Amour (Haneke, 2012): Mini-Film Review

Just like one of the classical music CDs that Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) listen to in Amour, Michael Haneke's 2012 film is like a record that one plays again from the beginning as soon as it ends. After all, the beginning of the film is the ending of the film, linked by memory as the credits roll in silence, while the film's ending itself is a new beginning. Because it is Haneke, we have come to expect, correctly, an extreme representation of tension, something psychologically bleak and violent. Yet it is the film's daily, mundane depictions of age, frailty, and relationships that captivate here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Harris, 1993): Mini-Film Review

Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Harris, 1993), an excellent U.S. independent film of the early 1990s, presents a sharp teenage African-American protagonist named Chantel (Ariyan A. Johnson) who tells her story as she sees it, while it unfolds -- her life in Brooklyn, relationships, pregnancy, and the pursuit of academic goals -- by addressing the audience directly. Sometimes it is noticeable that the film was shot on a low budget in just 17 days, yet for many reasons this does not take away from the film's consistently clear depiction of its reality -- something money/high production values can not buy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Migration, Transnational Theory, and Film

One of the best, or at least favorite, books that I read over the summer on the topic of transnational studies was Thomas Faist, Margit Fauser, and Eveline Reisenauer's 2013 text Transnational Migration (Polity Press). The topic itself is essential and fascinating within transnational theory, alongside issues of mobility, displacement, and the nature of cultural flow.

The introduction to Transnational Migration provides succinct, clear descriptions of its key terms, namely "three transnationals" that I hope to consider further and use within the classroom. These three terms include: "transnationalization" -- the site of transaction/s; "transnational social spaces" -- spaces created and formed in the contact zone/s of transnational exchange; and "transnationality" -- the various forms of connection between transnational participants (2).

When reading this text I kept reflecting on transnational film industries, and the ways in which festivals, films, capital, production crews, the news media, etc., cross and intersect various borders physical, cultural, technological, and ideological. For example, (among other possibilities) what are the sites of transaction in the film industry (investment capital, film production and distribution, even purchasing a ticket at the theater), the social spaces created due to film exchange (festivals, university courses and conferences, award ceremonies), and the ways in which participants remain connected and communicate?

And in terms of formalist film analysis, what techniques are used within specific films to represent these sites of exchange via image, sound, noise, editing, music? Keeping transnational representations in mind throughout the reading was not difficult since the book draws attention to such connections by beginning with a commentary on The Edge of Heaven (Akin, 2007).

So I found that the contribution of the text, which uses the transnational as a lens, might further theories of the transnational in media studies -- just as the text contributes to sociology -- in interesting ways that I continue to reflect on. Especially considering, as the text observes, the challenge of integrating the exchange of so many participants at multiple levels.

A link to this text on the Polity website is: here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

China Scholars on Twitter, Fall 2013

... I've benefited and learned a lot these days by the wealth of informative news about greater China presented by academics on Twitter -- so I would recommend checking out China scholar Jon Sullivan's blog post: "The China Studies Twitterati 50" if interested in links to current China news. Sullivan's list created a buzz in my Twitter feed today as scholars expressed their gratitude to be included in his list. And I found a lot of scholars to follow thanks to this list. Such a cool way to stay connected. Also, if you survey the posts, you'll also find yours truly in Sullivan's public list of scholars writing and presenting links to Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong news.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, 1997): Mini-Film Review

Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami's exploration of film creation and narrative manipulation are perhaps best displayed in Taste of Cherry (even though I like Kiarostami's must-see Close-Up even more due to its use of tone, color, and especially its characters). Taste of Cherry seems to ask if we watch movies in order to witness narrative resolution or creation -- if its the former then there is no hope for the viewer, if it is the latter, maybe there is no hope for the idea of the film's protagonist. No other film is quite as successful at both instigating this question and leaving it unresolved.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Postcolonial Literature Texts, Fall 2013

This fall I've been inspired by university instructors who have shared their course reading lists in order to exchange information and receive feedback. Following suit, the following is the course reading and film list for my fall (2013) upper-division postcolonial literature course which I am teaching for the third time -- if you have any suggestions, recommendations, or note any glaring or significant omissions, please let me know (there are so many additional texts I would love to add!).

The theoretical framework of postcolonialism continues to inform my approach to transnational studies. During the semester students analyze texts that describe the effects of the colonial experience in terms of geography, history, and culture and engage in conversations with cultural theorists, theologians, philosophers, and historians who are who are interested in a variety of questions regarding gender, ethnicity, class, postmodernism, and theories of transnationalism.

  • Buddha Bless America (dir. Wu, 1996)
  • Black Girl (dir. Sembene, 1966)
  • When the Mountains Tremble (dir. Sigel, Yates, 1983) 
  • Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness (Norton Critical Editions). New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.
  • Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York.: Random House, 2008.
  • Wu, Zhuoliu. Orphan of Asia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. 
  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 2008.
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. The Autobiography of My Mother. New York: Plume, 1997.
  • Menchú, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. New York: Verso, 1984.  
  • Satratapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
  • Kanafani, Ghassan. Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc., 1999.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Bad Sleep Well (Kurosawa, 1960): Mini-Film Review

Thanks to a Criterion Collection half-off sale, I ended up with The Bad Sleep Well, the first film by the director's Kurosawa Production Company, and starring the divine Toshiro Mifune. At 150 minutes, I watched the film over a couple sittings, but what a great film. The protagonist's righteous, unbridled thirst for revenge is half of the story, while a romantic relationship composes the other -- the result is, expectedly, a crisis of interests: characters either carry out, prevent, or become victims of the protagonist's desires. Again, Kurosawa is the master of the partial resolution: nothing turns out exactly as (we) hope/d.