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by Grace Liao, staff writer

 


This spring’s committee includes Dr. Grace Cheng, chair of the committee and assistant professor of political science, and Dr. Christopher Fung, assistant professor of anthropology, along with faculty members from the EFP, communication, management, and English departments.

“ This film series is intended to be a co-curricular activity that aims at engaging students in academically relevant issues and subjects,” Cheng said. She and Dr. Elaine Madison, associate professor of English, were intrigued by the fall 2004 “mini series” organized by Dr. Phyllis Frus, also an associate professor of English, and they developed it into the semester-long spring 2005 series, which included only documentary films.

“ We would like for the series to be an activity that students attend because they want something interesting, free, and accessible, which also enhances their educational experiences,” Cheng said. “With that in mind, we have decided that feature films should be included also,” she added.

The committee determined the following themes for the spring 2006 Viewpoints Film Series: Films from the Islamicate world, the world of business, and the natural and social world. The topics of the films in the series reflect many issues that are addressed by HPU’s curriculum, and the films for the spring semester series were selected from titles suggested by HPU students and faculty throughout the past year. The final selections were all prescreened by committee members.

The committee hopes that the films will introduce students to the complex and dynamic conditions behind the issue or historical experience addressed. “Good films can really convey that there are more than only ‘two sides,’ which so many media commentators and people in general always assume,” Cheng said. “In reality there are many different aspects to every human experience, as well as intended and unintended outcomes.

“ We want the film show to bring issues to life by capturing these many dimensions and perspectives,” Cheng continued. “Films can do much more to expand students’ interests as a person, a student, a citizen, an activist, and more—but most importantly, they can provide them with a variety of viewpoints—hence, the title of this semester’s series.”

 

The Islamicate films
“ Islamicate” describes the parts of the world where Islam is the civilizational core, whereas “Islamic” refers to the religion of Islam. Viewpoints presents three Islamicate films.

Silent Waters (Pakistan, 2003), set in 1979 Pakistan, where General Zia-ul-Haq has imposed martial law and the country has been decreed a Muslim state, is the story of a young man who gets involved in radical sectarian politics, and his mother, one of many Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim women left on the wrong side of the border after the 1947 partition. Feb 1,2, 3.

Osama (Afghanistan, 2003), the first Afghani film since the fall of the Taliban, shows a young girl’s life under the Taliban as she poses as a boy in order to work and support her family. Osama won an honorable mention at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Feb 8, 9, 10.

Crimson Gold (Iran, 2003) dramatizes the experiences of a Hussein, a humble pizza deliveryman who feels continually humiliated by the injustices he sees all around him in contemporary Tehran. Opening in the midst of a jewelry store robbery, fhe film then flashes back several weeks to show what unpleasant experiences have brought Hussein, the robber, to the breaking point. Feb 15, 16, 17

Rana’s Wedding (Palestine-Israel, 2002) The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is explored through the eyes of a young woman who has only 10 hours in which to negotiate her way around roadblocks, soldiers, overworked officials, and into the heart of an elusive lover in order to get to her wedding. This timely feature, shot on location in East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and at checkpoints in-between, explores love among the ruins of an occupied territory and won the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival’s 2003 Nestor Almendros Prize for courage in filmmaking. Feb 22, 23, 24.



The world of business
Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room (United States, 2005) is a multidimensional study of one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history. Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, the film chronicles one of the greatest corporate disasters in history, in which top executives from the seventh largest company in this country walked away with over one billion dollars, leaving investors and employees with nothing. The film features insider accounts and rare corporate audio and videotapes that reveal colossal personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy. The human drama that unfolds within Enron’s walls resembles a Greek tragedy and produces a domino effect that could shape the face of our economy and ethical code for years to come. Mar 2, 3, 4.

The Take (Canada, 2004) turns the globalization debate on its head. In suburban Buenos Aires, after Argentina’s economic collapse in 2001, 30 unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats and refuse to leave. All they want is to restart the silent machines. These former employees of the Forja auto plant are part of a daring new movement of workers who are occupying bankrupt businesses and creating jobs in the ruins of the failed system. What shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers’ lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied. Mar 8, 9, 10.

The Corporation (United States, 2004) is a controversial documentary on how corporate behavior can threaten economic, political, and social life around the globe. The film is an in-depth psychological examination of the model of the corporation as a legal “person” through various case studies. What the study illustrates is that in its behavior, this type of “person” is typically a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience, a profound threat to our world and our future. We also see what people with courage, intelligence, and determination can do to stop it. Mar 15, 16, 17.

 

The natural and social world
Spirited Away (Japan, 2001) is an anime film by master animation director Hayao Miyazaki who follows up on his record-breaking 1997 opus Princess Mononoke with this surreal Alice in Wonderland-like tale about a little girl lost in a strange and and fascinating other world and her quest to return to her own. Mar 22, 23, 24.

Being Caribou (Canada, 2005) is about an environmentalist Leanne Allison and wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer who followed a herd of 120,000 caribou on foot, across 1,500 kilometers of rugged Arctic tundra including the herd’s calving grounds in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The husband-and-wife team wants to raise awareness of threats to the caribou’s survival. The journey, which includes hordes of mosquitoes and an encounter with a hungry grizzly bear, forces them to reevaluate what it means to be a part of true wilderness. Dramatic footage and video diaries provide an intimate perspective of an epic expedition. April 5, 6, 7.

Simple Courage (United States, 1992) is an Emmy-winning documentary by local filmmaker Stephanie Castillo that compares the handling of the leprosy epidemic in the late-19th century with the global AIDS situation today by documents the treatment of leprosy victims in Hawai‘i in the 19th and early 20th century. More than 8,000 sufferers, mostly native Hawaiians, were banished to an isolated peninsula and practically abandoned except for the efforts of one man, a Catholic missionary from Belgium, Father Damien, who in a simple act of courage took it upon himself to bring comfort to these hopeless people. Archival footage and moving interviews with survivors show how the emotional pain of banishment from their ancestral homes added to the ravages of the disease and how Damien transformed their prison into a place of decency and respect. Apr 19, 20, 21.

Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers and Tides (Germany, 2001) is a beautiful documentary that depicts the magical relationship between art and nature while painting a visually intoxicating portrait of famed artist Andy Goldsworthy. The film follows the bohemian free spirit Goldsworthy all over the world as he demonstrates and describes his unique creative process as he creates masterpieces--long-winding rock walls, icicle sculptures, interlocking leaf chains, and multicolored pools of flowers--entirely of natural materials, so natural that nature threatens and often succeeds in destroying his art, sometimes before it is even finished. Apr 26, 27, 28.

The Viewpoints Film Series schedule for spring 2006 can be found on Pipeline, where students can also participate in online discussions of each film as well as suggest films for future discussion.
For more information, call or e-mail Dr. Grace Cheng at 544-9384,or gcheng@hpu.edu.

 
 

 

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