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Please use this forum to discuss Asia-focused feature and documentary films. Create a new topic for each newly introduced film (put the title in the subject line). If someone has already started a discussion about a film, please add your comments to that discussion rather than starting a new topic.
1/5/2017 11:26:06 PM

Mayw
Mayw
Posts: 30
Subject: Film Review
Students will develop an understanding of the historical complexities of samurai life through Akira Kurosawa’s classic film “Seven Samurai”, also known as the most influential films ever made. I would use this film in the classroom by first asking students what they know about samurai warriors, then have them think, discuss in pairs, share their ideas in class and finally introduce the film. This masterpiece shines a light on 16th century Japan torn by war. The Seven Samari fight sacrificing their lives to protect the helpless farmers from bandits who steal their crops. The powerful themes of honor, service, loyalty and self-sacrifice inspires artists to re-tell this story.

Another influential poetic piece by Uesugi Kenshin also portrays the life of a samarai: “Fate is in Heaven, the armor is on the breast, and success is with the legs. Go to the battlefield firmly confident of victory, and you will come home with no wounds whatever. Engage in combat fully determined to die and you will be alive; wish to survive in the battle and you will surely meet death. When you leave the house determined not to see it again you will come home safely; when you have any thought of returning you will not return. You may not be in the wrong to think that the world is always subject to change, but the warrior must not entertain this way of thinking, for his fate is always determined.”
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1/17/2017 8:04:02 PM

jdoll
jdoll
Posts: 69
Subject: To Live (with spoilers)
As Roger Ebert described it, “‘To Live’ is a simple title, but it conceals a universe.” Indeed, “To Live” is a remarkable movie in that it deftly balances the complexity of interpersonal relationships with an epic span of intense historical change. It is all the more remarkable when we understand the constraints and risks the filmmaker, Zhang Yimou, faced in order to make it. The film ran afoul of China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), who banned Yimou and lead actress Gong Li from working for two years. This movie could be used to convey a sort of compressed timeline of Chinese History from the period spanning the triumph of the communists in the Chinese Civil War to the ill-fated Cultural Revolution. Although the film is not explicit in its history, the story and the portrayal of the characters packs an emotional punch that profoundly affects the viewer. Because they will care about the characters, students will naturally want to learn more about this period of Chinese history. The film revolves around Fugui, his wife Jiazhen, and their children, and spans a period of nearly four decades. The film takes them through the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War and several other important events in modern Chinese history. Fugui begins as a wealthy layabout with a gambling problem. When he loses everything in a dice game, his pregnant wife leaves him and he is forced to make a living as a puppeteer. He plies his craft, first with the Kuomintang (he is conscripted) and then with the communists (liberated? conscripted?), and is finally reunited with his wife and children. Fugui’s “riches to rags” experience proves to be a blessing in disguise as the landlord class falls prey to the revolution (as is played out by the unfortunate winner of Fugui’s house and possessions). From there the family experiences the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), each period bringing with it profound joy, uncertainty, and loss. In each of these epochs Fugui and Jiazhen endure personal tragedies that are a subtext for the greater calamities endured by the Chinese people. The Great Leap forward is portrayed as a time of blind optimism, showing communist party members urging citizens to ever greater efforts to meet quotas and surpass the productivity of their enemies. In a heartbreaking scene, Fugui and Jiazhen’s son is killed in an accident, an avoidable tragedy and a microcosm of the reckless policies that would leave millions of Chinese dead from starvation. Later, Fugui and Jiazhen lose their daughter during childbirth because there are no experienced doctors to assist her when she begins hemorrhaging. The tragedy is foreshadowed when they are told by a cheery young “Red Guard” nurse that all the doctors had been “sent away” because they were “reactionaries.” This criticism of the Cultural Revolution is what invoked the ire of Chinese censors and the reason ZhangYimou and Gong Li were banned. The film ends on a happy note, however, as Fugui and Jiazhen enter their elder years, they have their grandson and son-in-law to comfort them. Although life has been hard they have survived with their humanity and dignity intact.
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1/17/2017 8:29:57 PM

elizabethr
elizabethr
Posts: 75
Subject: "Silence" by Martin Scorsese
I happened to see this film after Christmas, not knowing that it depicted a portion of the Tokugawa Shogunate period that we learned about in Session 4. (I cannot show this film to my students, so I will look for something else for them.) This film is based on the novel "Silence", by Endo Shusaku. Mr. Shusaku said that he saw a (fumie) crucifix in a museum in Nagasaki that was well-worn, he surmised, from many Christians stamping their foot on it to denounce their belief in Christ. He understood how they must have felt, and said that he (as a Catholic) most likely would have done the same, rather than face persecution or death. It made him curious, and so he researched Jesuit archives and found a story of a man named Giuseppe Chiara, which abruptly ended in 1630. He created a possible scenario of what happened to him for his novel. The film changes the story slightly, depicting Portuguese priests, rather than Italian.
This could be a great film for high school. Portions are even suitable for junior high.

Although I cannot show the film 'Silence" to third grade students, I can show a portion of it to illustrate what life was like in Japan during the 1600's, and how it is different now by showing them a film my daughter made on her trip to Japan in 2015. She traveled there with her choir from California Baptist University and pieced together her footage and photographs set to music. If you would like to see it, please email me at elizabethrosales@me.com. I'm sure she wouldn't mind sharing. It occurred to me as I watched it how much Japan has changed. It was quite a contrast.
edited by elizabethr on 1/22/2017
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1/21/2017 10:00:33 PM

rcharles
rcharles
Posts: 35
Subject: To Live
Students will research and develop an understanding of the human experience in a culture that is the mirror opposite of their own. In a time in which capitalism in China bodes the same reaction socialists did in America, students will investigate the role of the government and how much control it should have on the lives of its citizens. Exploring a culture through the arts makes accessible qualities that cannot be quantified in the black and white texts of historical fact telling. The Film To Live was window into a world that is the mirror opposite of Western Culture. It helps to not just understand the what but the why, the subjective and the visceral. This film is a great way for students to travel through the milestones that we will discuss in class such as The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution or even to look at ways being labeled a “capitalist” impacted citizens much in the same way being labeled a “communist” destroyed lives here in the U.S. The film really makes the hardships of The Cultural Revolution accessible to students who would otherwise not have a point of reference. Students will compare and contrast Zhang Yimou’s work in To Live to that in House of the Flying Daggers. These films are so visually different I think that its not only a testament to how he’s evolving as a filmmaker, but also how he is being shaped as a storyteller evolving as an artist within the confines of Chinese Censorship. We will also discuss media representations with discussion about the lead character Fugui (Ge You) who is not featured on the movie poster, but is replaced by his wife Jiazhen (Gong Li) who was also banned from making films as a result of her role in this film.
edited by rcharles on 1/21/2017
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