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Film festival focuses Asian culture through a cinematic lens

Brian Doxtader | Friday, February 3, 2006

The University of Notre Dame will be hosting the annual Asian Film Festival this weekend, the biggest cultural phenomenon to hit the United States since Yao Ming. Organized by Susan Bloom, the Director of the Center for Asian Studies, and Aaron Magnan-Park, a professor in the Film, Television and Theater department, the festival will highlight Asian cultures revolving around the silver screen.

“The Asian Film Festival was started several years ago independent of the FTT Department, as the courses that taught Asian cinema were not FTT,” says Professor Aaron Magnan-Park. “Since then, the Festival has become interdisciplinary and includes FTT as well as East Asian Languages and Literature (EALL).”

The Festival is intended to highlight the diversity and importance of Asian cinema in a global context, as the rise in prestige and awareness of the continent’s films rose dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century.

“The United States as a country, and Notre Dame in particular, has far stronger ties to Europe and the Americas than to Asia,” said Magnan-Park. “I’m not sure why that is, but I think something like the Asian Film Festival would bring a heightened awareness to Asia and would help remove some of the mystery.”

The festival will feature four films, all presented in 35 mm prints:

u “The Terrorist” (1999, directed by Santash Sivan), an Indian film about a political assassination

u “Song of the Stork” (2004, directed by Jonathan Foo and Phan Quang binh Ngyuen), a film about the Vietnam war, collaborated on by a Vietnamese and a Singaporean director.

u “Peacock” (2005, directed by first-timer Gu Changwei), a Chinese film about the Cultural Revolution

u “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War” (2004, directed by Je-Gyu Kang), a Korean film about a family during the Korean War

The opening of the Debartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC) has provided a proper and convenient on-campus venue for the screenings. This year, the films highlight the diversity of the festival, which has increased in size and stature over the years. They emphasize the range of styles and themes of different cinema from different countries within Asia.

“In the beginning, there was one film from one country,” noted Magnan-Park. “Then, by last year, we had expanded to three films from three countries. This year we have four films from four countries -China, Korea, India and Vietnam.”

The Asian Film Festival is especially noteworthy because of the talent it draws. In the past, such luminaries as Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Tomorrow Never Dies”) and Lu Chuan (director of “The Missing Gun” and “Kekexili: Mountain Patrol”) were the guests of honor, speaking to audiences after screenings of their films.

“Professor Jonathan Noble has many connections in China and is able to attract talent to the University,” said Magnan-Park.

This year, director Je-Gyu Kang will be present at the screenings of his picture “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.” Considered one of Korea’s leading filmmakers, Je-Gyu Kang’s latest picture followed the international success of 1999’s “Shiri” – a critically acclaimed landmark in the progress of the rapidly rising Korean film industry. He will be speaking about “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War,” which tells the Korean War from the perspective of two brothers forced to fight in the South Korean army.

“We are still in the university-mandated decade of the arts,” said Magnan-Park. “It is important for students and faculty to understand the prominence of art performance. The Asian Film Festival is an excellent way for them to be exposed to a type of cinema they might not otherwise necessarily see.”

Conveniently located at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, the Asian Film Festival provides a convenient way for students to acquaint themselves with foreign cinema while remaining on campus.

With a personal appearance by Je-Gyu Kang, the world-renowned director of “Tae Guk Gi,” the Asian Film Festival is an excellent opportunity for all members of the Notre Dame community to discover Asian cinema.