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February 27 2014

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February 14 2014

A Love Story With No Kissing? That's Cinema in Iran

A Separation

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi in “A Separation.” Credit: Habib Madjidi/Sony Pictures Classics

This article and a radio report by Shirin Jaafari for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on February 13, 2014 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

For any film to be shown in Iran, directors have to follow the strict Islamic laws.


Male and female characters can't touch. Women have to cover their hair at all times.

“Can you imagine how many stories you’re unable to tell as a filmmaker if you cannot show the slightest physical touch between members of the opposite sex?” asks Jamsheed Akrami, an Iranian director based in the US.

Akrami spent five years interviewing a dozen Iranian filmmakers, actors and actresses. The result is his latest documentary: “Cinema of discontent.”

They all lament the hardship they face in telling a story in film when they have to follow all the Islamic codes they have to follow.

“I’m not only alluding to the romantic subjects, you know, we’re talking about situations where you can’t even show parental affection or a male physician for example, cannot be shown examining a female patient,” he adds.

One of the directors Akrami interviews in his documentary is Bahman Farmanara. He explains how he got around one challenging scene in his movie “A Little Kiss.”

“There is a sequence in ‘A Little Kiss’ where the father, after 38 years of being in Switzerland, has returned suddenly because his son has committed suicide and he comes to visit his daughter,” he says. “Well, obviously according to the laws that we have to obey, a man and a woman cannot embrace each other. Even though in this particular instance they are father and daughter.”

Here’s how director Farmanara got around it.

“So what I did … when the daughter takes a few steps towards him, he takes his hat off,” Farmanara says. “So, he makes a move to stop her from coming close…”

Farmanara added that Iran is a “nation that in our films we don’t kiss, we don’t touch, we don’t hug but somehow miraculously from 37 million we’ve gone to 70 million.”

There are so many similar cases in Iranian films that if you watch enough of them, you would actually be surprised if the characters do touch or dance for example.

Yet filmmakers and actors constantly challenge the red lines.

In one film called “Gilaneh,” a mother who is taking care of her paralyzed son bathes him, moves him around and even at one point starts dancing to cheer him up.

In Akrami's documentary, the director, Rakhshan Bani Etemad says that she worried about the sensors, but felt the story had to be told to break the taboo.

Akrami says as an Iranian filmmaker “your most prized skill is the ability to work around the censorship codes. The artistic gift is actually a secondary requirement when it comes to making films in Iran.”

But with all the restrictions, Iranian films have been part of festivals around the world. And they have received recognition.

In 2012, for example, Asghar Farhadi made history when he won an Oscar for his film “A Separation.”

Many others film have won international awards.

Meanwhile Mahdi Kouhian, a documentary filmmaker in Iran, says since the election of Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, there is a more positive atmosphere.

For example, he said he attended the Fajr Film Festival for the first time in four years.

The festival is held every year to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

But filmmaker Akrami isn't as optimistic. That's because he says he doesn't see any fundamental changes.

“The election of Mr. Rouhani, to me, is just a cosmetic change. It's like putting make up on a monster, which basically wouldn’t change the nature of that monster. You still have a monster,” he says.

For him, the saddest part about Iranian cinema is that its best movies never got to be made.

Video: Why Young Nigerians Leave Home

Nigerian netizen Kola Olaosebikan uses YouTube to address, among other topics, the question of why young Nigerians are running from home:

This video addresses moving back to nigeria, why i left nigeria, brain drain in nigeria, and issues impacting youth and progress in nigeria all wrapped up in a nice little bow of love.

February 13 2014

The Iconic Trinidadian Film You've Never Seen

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

The 1970s saw the release of two important indigenous Caribbean films: Jamaica’s iconic The Harder They Come, starring musician Jimmy Cliff, which still takes some measure of credit for introducing reggae music to the world, and Bim, which explores race, politics and working class challenges in colonial Trinidad.

If you’ve never heard of Bim, far less seen it, that’s all about to change, thanks to the power of social media.

Pat Ganase, who has had a long career in journalism, publishing and communications in Trinidad and Tobago, has started a Facebook page called “BIM the movie” in an attempt to ignite online discussion about the film and the issues it deals with.

“I decided it was time for the first all-Trinidad film to have a Facebook fan page,” Ganase says. “It was the first film that didn’t just use our environment as a location and our people as exotic natives or extras. It is a film with a story that is authentic…and ours.”

Fellow journalist and writer Raoul Pantin collaborated on the script. The actors were all local. So was the majority of the film crew. The early fusion soundtrack was composed by Andre Tanker and performed by some of the country’s most outstanding musicians, including Mungal Patasar. But most importantly, it was a Trinidadian story.

Ganase is friends with Suzanne Robertson (who co-produced the film with her late husband Hugh, an American who edited the Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy) and says that even back then, the couple saw a bright future for the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The first Trinidadian film company was SHARC,” she explains, “named for Suzanne, Hugh and their children (Antonio and Anna) Robertson. Bim—and SHARC—probably failed then, for the same reasons that film, as a viable industry, is not succeeding today. There is a failure to appreciate it as a productive industry that can employ many, many people and bring returns on investment through distribution.”

As Ganase notes, the challenges for young filmmakers today are the same: “Funding, institutional support, distribution and marketing. The film industry is not a solitary art, which is why it is an Industry with a Capital I.” But the sense of déjà vu does not stop there—it extends itself to societal challenges as well. While the film marked a particular time in Trinidad and Tobago's history, addressing attitudes towards issues such as racial identity, Ganase believes  its lessons are still relevant. “Maybe it can tell us something about ‘crime’ in our society,” she offers. “It certainly has something to say about young men who grow themselves up, without father or family.”

The plot follows the main character Bhim (initially pronounced Beem) Singh, whose father, a union leader for workers in the sugar cane fields, is killed on the day of his sister’s wedding. Bhim leaves the only life he knows in rural Trinidad to live with his aunt and her ne’er-do-well husband in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. From the get-go he's an outcast, and is soon drawn into a life of petty crime, working for an underworld type who re-christens him Bim. Meanwhile, the winds of political change are blowing. Bim seizes the opportunity, crushes the son of the man who killed his father and gets himself elected as head of the sugar cane workers’ union. His victory is short-lived, however, and his demise comes rather quickly, as a result of alcoholism.

Upon its release, the film was not panned by critics, but it didn’t quite get rave reviews either. The New York Times critique in 1974, for instance, opened by saying, “By no conventional standards is ‘Bim’ very good, but it’s still vastly more interesting than lots of other movies you’re likely to stumble on.” ‘Interesting’ may have been an understatement; it certainly struck a note with local audiences, presumably even before anyone had even seen it. Trinidad and Tobago had an active Censors Board at the time and the film’s planned debut in December 1974 never happened thanks to a ban. A month later, after legal action was taken against the Censors Board, the film was finally screened—uncut—at the landmark Roxy cinema in St. James.

“The language is harsh; it had plenty cusswords [obscene language],” Ganase recalls, “but not unwarranted. People who have seen the film are the ones who perceive it as seminal and important. There is a ring of truth in Bim the movie.”

There's certainly a timeless quality to Bim. Ganase says that “viewers of all ages and in every decade respond [to the film] the same way…as if it is something that they were deprived of.” She thinks this is because the story is as relevant now as it was then. “It’s not that I want people to know the film,” she says. “It is that people have a hunger for it.”

In just three days, the Facebook page has received over 130 “Likes” and a substantial amount of commentary, both from people who have already seen the film and from those who would like to. Ganase says the page will develop according to the discussion it generates: “It will point us in a direction that comes from the collective.”

One idea that came out of user comments was the suggestion by Trinidadian visual artist Christopher Cozier to work towards having Bim listed in Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which restores and distributes films from countries that are underrepresented in global film culture. “It is a worthwhile idea that might be an avenue for new distribution,” Ganase explains. “There will be a showing in the future. But that will happen when the time is right.”

Janine Mendes-Franco is a communications consultant, media producer and writer. When she's not blogging about the Caribbean for Global Voices, you can find her blogging here and tweeting here.

The image used in this post is from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions, used with permission. A version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian Arts section.

February 11 2014

A Personal Tribute to Jamaican “Interventionist” Stuart Hall

As tributes to late Jamaican cultural theorist Stuart Hall keep coming, Jamaica-based blogger Annie Paul posts a personal and stirring acknowledgement.

Titled “A Stuart Hall-shaped hole in the universe…”, she begins by saying:

When I saw Stuart at his home in London on December 14, 2013, I knew he wouldn’t last much longer. He had been ill for years and his health had deteriorated considerably since the previous year when we celebrated his 80th birthday at Rivington Place, the art centre born of his inspiration and hard work. All the same his departure comes as a blow. It’s too early for me to come to terms with this loss, for Stuart has been a close friend and mentor since 1996 when he came to the University of the West Indies to speak at the Rex Nettleford Conference.

Paul chooses to share some of her own photographs in the post, which alone makes it extraordinary – snapshots of Hall with Paul herself; with David Scott, the editor of Small Axe magazine; a few pics of him both in England and in Jamaica. These are rare glimpses into the ordinary days of an extraordinary man. Paul says:

Stuart Hall was such an extraordinary thinker that his work ranged over a broad field of interests including visual art which was the one thing we truly bonded over. It was a preoccupation that didn’t get much coverage in other interviews which tend to focus more on his activism, his Marxism, and his political interventions.

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 - Photo by Annie Paul

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 – Photo by Annie Paul

She links to a post she wrote in November 2013, in which she reviews The Stuart Hall Project, the John Akomfrah film about him, which she hopes will be screened in Jamaica soon. In it, she says:

One of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, Stuart Hall, was born and brought up here, made his career in Britain, become an intellectual powerhouse there, and is virtually unknown in the land of his birth. So true what Jesus said: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Ah well.

Still, she shares links about his life and work in an effort to make “young people here realize that Jamaicans excel not only in track and field and music but also in the intellectual arena…”

Another piece of memorabilia Paul shares in the post is one of her “treasures”:

…a letter Stuart wrote to the Librarian at Birmingham U so that I could gain access to their inner sanctum.

She ends with an upload of an interview she did with Hall, titled The Ironies of History:

The Ironies of History:An Interview with Stuart Hall by Annie Paul

The interview (read it, above) begins by quoting Professor Grant Farred of Duke University:

Such was Hall’s impact on the US, British, Euro pean and Australian academy via cultural studies, mainly through a range of essays he published during the 1980s, that by the 1990s he became one of the preeminent intellectuals in the world. In truth, because of the international rise of cultural studies, Hall came to be regarded as an academic star, an intellectual celebrity, and a philosophical guru: he became the incarnation of cultural studies, first in Britain and then in the United States, widely anointed as the spokes man for the politics – and the endemic politicization – of the popular, the theorist in the fore front of politicizing (all) identity.

In it, Paul discusses with Hall everything from immigration and deportation to dancehall music, black masculinity and homophobia. He talks about art, architecture and visual culture. He even talks about himself and his work:

I was an interventionist, my writing is interventionist ok? That is to say I write in order to intervene in a situation, to shift the terms in which it’s understood, to introduce a new angle, to contest how it has been understood before; it’s an embattled form of writing…a kind of intellectual interventionism.

This is a kind of politics in theory, because it’s interested in struggling thought – struggling in thought. Not interested in the production of pure truth, absolute truth, universal truth. It’s interested in the production of better ideas than the ones we used to have. So it’s a kind of struggle in thought, a struggle with thought and a struggle inside thought, struggle inside thinking to change the terms of reference with which we’re thinking. There’s also a politics of thought in the sense that it wants to make the ideas useful for some purpose; it wants to help people think more clearly about their situation or to help to advance nationalism in a more progressive direction or to help the world become a more equal and just place.

The image used in this post is by Annie Paul, used with permission.

February 07 2014

Film Shows How ‘Development’ Turns Tribal People Into Beggars

A new film, ‘There You Go!’, has been launched by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, which takes a satirical look at how tribes are often destroyed in the name of ‘development’. The 2-minute animation shows how ‘development’ can rob self-sufficient tribal people of their land, livelihood and pride and turn them into beggars.

Please watch the film here.

February 04 2014

Silence, on tourne… malgré tout

Il y a quelques mois, un dimanche du mois d'août, malgré un temps splendide propice à la flânerie, une trentaine de personnes avait trouvé place dans l'arrière-salle d'un café non loin de la Basilique de Saint-Denis, en banlieue parisienne, pour assister à un « Open Mic » — tout un chacun pouvait venir proposer un sketch, un poème, un slam ou une chanson : Pascal Tessaud n'est pas sur les planches mais il est le véritable animateur de cette scène ouverte, séquence de son film, Brooklyn. Après son très (...) - Le lac des signes / France, Audiovisuel, Cinéma, Culture, Finance, Jeunes, Musique, Banlieues, Film

Mozambique's LGBT Community: Tell Your Story

Lambda, the Mozambican Association for the Defense of Sexual Minorities, invites [pt] adult members of the LGBT community to participate in a short documentary. ”Your story in the first person” is the title of this film project which aims at “documenting our trajectories of self-acceptance, our battles and conquests as LGBT people in Mozambique.” More information on how to take part is available in the LambdaMozi Facebook page. The deadline is February 21, 2014.

January 28 2014

South Korea: ‘Less is More', Net Users Turn Sour on Typical Movie Poster

French Poster Image of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

French Poster Image of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

A massive Disney hit movie, Frozen is rapidly gaining traction also in South Korea. However, more young Koreans are turning sour on typical Korean-style movie poster, which has long been criticized for being either too confusing or overly interrupted [ko] by extra-bold text dropping names or media/net users’ reviews ridden with cliche [ko]. One net user from the TodayHumor site compared different versions [ko] of Frozen poster (allegedly tailored for audiences in US, France, Japan, China and Korea) and Koreans exchanged heated discussions on what has made Korean movie distributors select such cluttered posters as one can see below. (In comparison, on the left is the poster released in France which has been lauded by many net users for its artistic simplicity) 

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie 'Frozen'. Fair Use Image

Three Korean Poster Images of Movie ‘Frozen'. Fair Use Image

 

January 27 2014

What Does Climate Change Mean to You? Documentary Competition

Young filmmakers from all over the world are invited to produce and submit a 1-12 minute video documentary telling a story about climate change. What the #Action4Climate video challenge wants to know is:

How is climate change impacting your community? What are you doing about it? What needs to be done to solve the climate challenge?

The deadline is April 1, 2014. To learn more about eligibility, prizes and the jury, visit the competition's webpage at connect4climate.org and watch the short video below: 

Updates are being shared on Facebook and Twitter.

January 26 2014

Independent Ukrainian Filmmakers Create #Euromaidan Documentaries

In Ukraine, several filmmakers united to produce a video chronology of the events that came to be known as the Euromaidan protests. “BABYLON'13″, named after a bar in which the filmmakers came up with the idea for the project, is a collection of short documentaries reflecting the development of the mass protests and particular incidents during the rallies.

A screenshot from one of the short documentaries about #EuroMaidan on YouTube.

A screenshot from one of the short documentaries about #EuroMaidan on YouTube.

The films are available on the project's Facebook page “Babylon'13″ and YouTube channel “BABYLON'13″ with English subtitles.

January 24 2014

VIDEO: Memories of the Violent Eviction of Brazil's Pinheirinho Community

Two years after the violent eviction of the Pinheirinho community in the city of São José dos Campos in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, a short documentary “Somos Todos“(We Are All), which collects testimonies from activists involved with the cause and victims of the episode, has been released online. The eviction became known as the Massacre of Pinheirinho.

The synopsis of the film on YouTube reads:

Eram seis horas da manhã, em janeiro de 2012, quando oito mil pessoas, assustadas, começaram a chorar. Pinheirinho dali em diante não seria mais o lar que construíram há cerca de oito anos. Somos Todos dá rosto aos Pinheirenses e voz a dor de quem até hoje espera solução para uma reintegração de posse repleta de contradições judiciais e humanas.

It was six o'clock in the morning, in January 2012, when 8,000 people, frightened, began to cry. Pinheirinho henceforth would no longer be home of those who built it eight years ago. Somos Todos gives a face to the Pinheirenses and gives a voice to the pain of those who today are still waiting for a solution to the repossession, which was full of legal and human contradictions.

The documentary was screened in Recife one year after the eviction in January 2013, and has won awards at several festivals, including Visões Periférias (Peripheral Visions) in Rio de Janeiro in the Imaginary Borders category and the Porta Curtas jury. “Somos Todos” can now be viewed in full on YouTube or on the website of the project.

According to the film's directors and producers, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú:

Sobre nós, muito mudou depois do Pinheirinho. Crescemos tanto depois de ouvir os pinheirenses, depois de sentí-los. Hoje, olhamos para o lado com muito mais força, muito mais vontade de transformar. Olhamos também para as nossas lutas pessoais de um jeito diferente, mais maduro. As casas do Pinheirinho foram destruídas. Os sonhos dos Pinheirenses, não. E para que haveríamos de nos emudecer, se os sonhos, tão grandes, transformam a vida, o mundo? Nós, Bruna Monteiro e Nathália e Dielú, escrevemos cada um dos textos que vocês acabaram de ler. Nós, fizemos as entrevistas nos abrigos, na associação. Nós seguimos nessa direção pelo simples e enorme desejo de fazê-lo nos acompanhar. Não só no Pinheirinho de São José dos Campos, mas nos tantos que estão muito perto dos nossos olhos. Nós só conseguimos porque pessoas especiais nos ajudaram nessa missão. Esse site é resultado de um sonho, o de inspirar pessoas, o de lembrar o Pinheirinho como um episódio triste, que não pode ser abandonado. Nem por você, nem por nós.

About us, much has changed after Pinheirinho. We grew so much after hearing from the Pinheirenses, after we felt them. Today, we look to our surroundings with more strength, with more willingness to transform. We also look at our personal struggles in a different, more mature way. The houses at Pinheirinho were destroyed. The dreams of the Pinheirenses were not. And why should we mute ourselves if big dreams change lives, change the world? We, Bruna Monteiro and Nathália Dielú, wrote each of the texts you just read. We did interviews in shelters, at the association. We follow this direction because of the simple and overwhelming desire to make it follow us. Not only in Pinheirinho in São José dos Campos, but in the many that are very close to our eyes. We only succeeded because special people helped us in this mission. This website is the result of a dream, one to inspire people, to remember Pinheirinho as a sad episode that cannot be abandoned. Not by you, not by us.

Take a look at the teaser trailer below:

Also check out Global Voices coverage of the eviction: 

22 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Occupation dwellers surprised by violent illegal eviction
25 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho” Causes an Uproar
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: Military Police Asks “Understanding” on Pinheirinho Eviction by E-mail
27 Jan, 2012 - Brazil: A View from Aboard on Pinheirinho Eviction
03 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Pinheirinho Videos ‘Cover-Up’ Leads Activist to Hunger Strike
10 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “We Are All Pinheirinho” Spreads Around the World
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Month Later
22 Feb, 2012 - Brazil: Global Act “We Are All Pinheirinho”
19 Mar, 2012 - Brazil: Should Pinheirinho Eviction go to the International Criminal Court?
25 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: Families Evicted from Pinheirinho Still Without a Proper Home
28 Jan, 2013 - Brazil: “Massacre of Pinheirinho”, One Year Later

January 22 2014

10 Documentaries on South American Music to Watch Online

Nick MacWilliam from the blog Sounds and Colours has compiled a list of 10 documentaries, “looking at all manner of musical styles and movements from the region, with films focused on Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Venezuela.”

This list makes no attempt to rank the films, nor does it purport that these films are any better or worse than other music documentaries related to South America. The idea is to provide a sample of some of the films out there so that, firstly, they are enjoyed and, secondly, we hope they will open a few doors for our readers into new areas of regional identity.

The films are available online, for free.

January 17 2014

Mexican Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón Nominated for Oscar for ‘Gravity’

Imagen compartida por la página oficial de Gravity en Facebook.

Image shared on Facebook by Gravity's official page.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón Orozco has been nominated for Best Director in the upcoming Academy Awards for the feature film Gravity, in which he also worked as producer, editor and writer.

In the same category, David O. Russel, Alexander Payne, Steve McQueen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated. The winner will be announced at the official ceremony to be held on Sunday 2nd March, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Entertainment news presenter, René Franco [es] had the following to say about Cuarón's work in the director's chair:

Gravity es extraordinaria, impecable en su dirección. Y Cuarón se merece el Oscar. Pero no solo dan Oscares por eso.

Gravity is extraordinary, impeccable in its direction. And Cuarón deserves the Oscar. But they don't give Oscars only for that.

Franco also reminded us [es] that the filmmaker is not the only one to have stepped into the spotlight of U.S. cinema in the last few months, at the same time as mentioning another of the reasons for which Cuarón should be given the statuette:

Además, es un gran año para los mexicanos en el cine gringo: Eugenio Derbez les llenó los bolsillos de dinero, y dejó muy en claro que en los centros comerciales de todo Estados Unidos, los mexicanos (legales o no) son los que llenan las salas comprando boletos para familias numerosas. Así que a Hollywood le conviene quedar bien con nosotros, no solo porque sean unos liberales que odian a los republicanos de Arizona y se suben medio borrachos a recibir sus premios, sino porque esos millones que genera un público tan agradecido y comprador, merecen una recompensa.

Furthermore, it's a great year for Mexicans in U.S. cinema: Eugenio Derbez filled their pockets with cash and left it very clear that in shopping centers all throughout the United States, Mexicans (whether documented or not) are who fill the movie theaters buying tickets for their numerous families. So it benefits Hollywood to get along with us, not because they're Democrats who hate Republicans in Arizona and who go up half drunk to the podium to receive their award, but because those millions of dollars that generate a thankful audience with buying power deserve a bit of compensation.

The blog Cine más pod [es] reminded us that Cuarón has already been recognized for his work on Gravity, with nothing less than a Golden Globe:

Apenas el domingo Alfonso Cuarón recibió el premio a mejor director en la entrega de los Globos de Oro y hoy ya tiene posibilidades de llevarse también el codiciado Oscar.

Just on Sunday Alfonso Cuarón won best director at the Golden Globes and today he's got the chance to pick up the much sought-after Oscar as well.

Enrique Lores on the blog CarlosDragonne [es] had this to say about Gravity:

Aunque algunos me dijeron que es una película lenta, a mí no me lo pareció en lo absoluto. De hecho se me pasó bastante rápido y terminó antes de que me diera cuenta. Y sí, estuve en la orilla de mi asiento, emocionado y angustiado, en más de un momento. También me hizo pensar sobre la fragilidad de la vida, la confrontación del duelo y dónde está el verdadero valor de la existencia en este universo del que somos sólo una pequeñísima parte.

Even though some people told me that it's a slow film, it didn't seem that way to me at all.  In fact, it went by quite quickly and finished before I knew it. And yes, I was on the edge of my seat, excited and anxious, in several moments. It also made me think about the fragility of life, confrontation [we face] in duels and where the true value of existence is in this universe in which we are such a miniscule part.

Reactions to Cuarón's nomination were also expressed in Twitter. The user Posmoderno (@LuisMendezPosmo) talked about his interest in seeing the filmmaker's work:

Now that they're premiering Alfonso Cuarón's new movie again, I'll go and see it. Perhaps it'll be interesting, perhaps they filmed it in space #Cuaron

For his part, Arturo balboa (@arturo_rdz94) made mention of the lack of opportunities for other filmmakers in Mexico:

[It's] huge what #Cuaron has achieved until now. A clear example of how if they don't give you opportunities in your country, you look for them in other places.

Luis Castro Salgado (@Wicho_kstro) spoke ironically about the fact that Eugenio Derbez wasn't nominated in the upcoming Oscars:

#Cuarón goes for 10 Oscars…Derbez is off for popcorn to watch the ceremony at home. #Oscars2014

Rodrigo Dominguez (@rodrigodomm) showed his pleasure at the news:

Really glad to see the 10 nominations for Gravity #Oscars #Gravity #Cuaron #OscarNominations

On a national level, Alfonso Cuarón has stood out for works such as Sólo con tu pareja [es] (1991) and the famed Y tu mamá también (2001). On an international scale he's known for his direction of Great Expectations (1998), Harry Potter And the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Children of Men (2006).

Gravity will compete for more golden statuettes in the 86th Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Film Editing and Best Film.

January 10 2014

‘Abita', Animated Short Film About Fukushima Children


“Abita”, an animated short film about Fukushima children who can't play outside because of the radiation risk, delicately illustrates their dreams and realities. The film, produced by Shoko Hara and Paul Brenner, won the award for Best Animated Film at the International Uranium Film Festival in 2013.

Shoko Hara, a student in Germany who was born in Okayama in the western part of Japan, wrote about the metaphor she used in the film.

We used Japanese symbolism in our film. The Dragonfly represents the Japanese island, because of its form. It also symbolizes hope, perspective, dream, energy in Japan and it unites all the natural elements like water, earth and air. These were destroyed with the Fukushima disaster, they don't have any perspectives for their future. Furthermore dragonflies in japan are carriers of fertility. The Dragonfly represents the inner world of the child, that it wants to be free in the nature, but it can't. Dragonfly is a popular symbol in japan and we often use it in arts, poems and in literature. 

Despite scarce media coverage in Japan, the film has been shared widely on social media.

Radiation remains a serious problem for residents in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant since the plant suffered a meltdown following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

January 09 2014

‘Hafu’ Film Explores Mixed Race Japanese Identity

Determining our own identity and how we fit into the puzzle around us goes far deeper than a label or definition. In October 2013 Megumi Nishikura, a documentary filmmaker, talked at TEDx Tokyo about explorations into being hafu/haafu (ハーフ hāfu), a term used in Japanese to refer to somebody who is biracial, or ethnically half Japanese.

Upon returning to Japan in 2006, after having lived in the United States for 11 years, Nishikura found herself facing identity issues that she had thought she had put behind her. Then she met others who, like herself, were “hafu”, including the founder of Hafu project, an exploration of the experiences and identities of mixed-Japanese people through portrait photographs and in-depth interviews launched in London in 2008.

By social researcher Marcia Yumi Lise and photographer Natalie Maya Willer, the Hafu Project probes the half-Japanese experience by asking what it means to be half-Japanese inside and outside of Japan. To date, the project has collected 130 portraits and 65 extensive interviews, exploring topics ranging from background and upbringing to personal identity and sense of belonging.

 

Inspired by the Hafu Project, what began as a personal quest for Nishikura has grown into an exploration of identity and expanded into “Hafu the Film”, co-produced with Lara Perez Takagi:

Narrated by the hafus themselves, along with candid interviews and cinéma vérité footage, the viewer is guided through a myriad of hafu experiences that are influenced by upbringing, family relationships, education, and even physical appearance. As the film interweaves five unique life stories, audiences discover the depth and diversity of hafu personal identities.

Hafu - the mixed-race experience in Japan. For more about the film, view the press release here

Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan. For more about the film, view the press release here [pdf]

Notions about and the conditions of hafu among Japanese do not necessarily coincide with what each hafu person feels about themselves. Sociology student Fujisaka Shunsuke at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto wrote what he learned about hafu:

I learned about hafu in this class and I learned the situation of hafu. My opinion was changing gradually. After I read a first reading, I leaned how hafu people think. Then I saw the opinions from classmates and I thought hafu people faced more difficult situation than I thought

Another student, Kanami Hirokawa wrote about the tendency of Japanese to exclude people who standout:

Japanese tend to ask hafu questions like “where are you from?” even if they grow up in Japan and have Japanese values and Japanese culture. Japanese must know that people who have different looks with Japanese live in Japan as Japanese. Moreover, Japanese should accept hafu as a member of Japan and should not make borders between Japanese and hafu because they grow up in Japan and have same identity with Japanese. In order that hafu become Japanese completely, not only Japanese accept hafu as a member of Japanese in Japanese society but also Japanese government should begin the approach to make Japan a ‘true’ multicultural country. Japan is based on the idea of jus sanguinis and conservative to foreigners. Today, in the world, globalization is developing now and Japan should review their principle.

While the film captured under the label of “hafu” may not intend to speak for all the mixed race people living in Japan, it touches millions who seek the answer to the question “Who am I?” Check out the latest screening information and more about the film here.

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