COURTESY HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS
Tourists enjoy sampan rides on the Lesser Three Gorges. "Up the Yangtze" documents how the Three Gorges Dam has displaced families.
Timing is everything.
With the Summer Olympics in Beijing just around the corner, and a couple of major Asian exhibitions at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, it's only appropriate that a series called "Chinese Film Now" would begin this weekend at the academy's theater.
‘CHINESE FILM NOW’
Place: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Academy of Arts
Time: Saturday through July 3
Tickets: $7; $6 seniors, military and students; $5 academy members
The four features and one short film in the series have won awards at film festivals nationally and internationally, and all have been showcased at the Hawaii International Film Festival. Gina Maria Caruso, the academy's curator of film and media, said they "reflect the massive artistic, political, and historical transformation of China, as well as Hollywood's perception of Chinese Americans, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries."
The series was curated in conjunction with two ongoing academy exhibitions - "Shu: Reinventing Books in Contemporary Chinese Art" and "One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now," she said.
The schedule features:
» "Hollywood Chinese" and "The Blood of the Yingzhou District" (1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday): Arthur Dong's excellent documentary traces both the industry's racist portrayals of Chinese and the Chinese actors and filmmakers' hidden triumphs over its history. In a review of the film when it screened at HIFF's recent spring showcase, the Star-Bulletin's Nadine Kam wrote that "the dilemma of the Chinese in film closely mirrors that of the Chinese-American and Asian-American experience in daily life as a minority presence, marked by one stereotype after another."
"Blood" was the 2007 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Short Subject. The film exposes China's hidden AIDS epidemic through the stories of a couple of unfortunate children whose parents died from the disease.
» "Up the Yangtze" (7:30 p.m. Monday and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday): A moving and provocative documentary on how the construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam in the world, the Three Gorges, has displaced peasant families who lived along the banks of the Yangtze. We see the dispiriting shift in values through a couple of young employees who work on a luxury "farewell" cruise on the river. While Western tourists try to catch the flavor of an idealized if disappearing culture, the film focuses on two young people working on the boat: one, an uneducated girl from one of those displaced families, who finds it rough going on the boat, and the other an ambitious and self-possessed young man who comes from an educated and well-off family who has stars in his eyes about his supposedly bright future.
» "Summer Palace" (1 p.m. June 26 and 27, and 1 and 7:30 p.m. June 28 and 29): Director Lou Ye was banned from making movies in his home country for five years after screening this love story, a film critical of China's censorship laws, without government permission at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Set at the time of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the story follows a country girl who goes to study in Beijing, where she falls in love with a fellow student. Their sexually charged relationship becomes one of dangerous games, betrayals and recriminations.
» "Nanking" (7:30 p.m. June 30, 1 and 7:30 p.m. July 1 and 2, and 1 p.m. July 3): A powerful film that tells the story of the Japanese invasion of Nanking in 1937, in the early days of World War II, focusing on the efforts of a group of unarmed Westerners who established a safety zone where more than 200,000 Chinese found refuge.
The events are told through riveting archival footage, deeply moving interviews with Chinese survivors and chilling testimonies of Japanese soldiers, all interwoven with staged readings of the Westerners' letters and diaries that form the narrative spine of the film.