Each year, the Film Discussion co-chairs select films based on life in Asia, usually with Asian directors/producers, but sometimes by Western filmmakers who have spent many years in an Asian country. These films are typically well known because they have won recognition either by being nominated for an Oscar or having received European and/or national awards, and on occasion because they had a huge impact on a nation’s film-going audience. The actors and actresses in these films are typically well-established stars in the relevant Asian country, but also may be ingénues whose superb performances bring these characters to life. We have chosen films from a wide range of countries in South, South-East, and Central Asia. After each film, there is a 15-30 minute discussion, where participants are encouraged to give their opinions, ask questions, etc.
Tampopo (Japan): Juzo Itami’s directed film is at first glance a simple story of a cook trying to find the perfect recipe for making noodles, but along the way it takes in everything from a Seven Samurai-style “get the gang together” plot, to slow-boiled romance, bar-brawling cowboys and etiquette-obsessed housewives.
Water (India): Deepa Mehta’s “Water” is set in 1938. Though laws existed in India that gave widows the freedom to re-marry, this story shows an 8-year old widow, Chuyia, her hair cut off and wearing only a white widow’s garment, going into an ashram controlled by lifelong widows to spend the rest of her life among them. The film has characters in ashram that questions and explains this practice among themselves, and a few melodramatic occasions too.
From Mao to Mozart (China): This film won the 1981 ‘best documentary’ Oscar. It is based on violin virtuoso Isaac Stern’s goodwill tour of Red China. The film is well balanced, treating Eastern and Western musical culture with equal respect.
Ode to My Father (Korea): This is the odyssey of an ordinary Korean shopkeeper, separated from his family during the Korean-war when he and other refugees from North Korea were evacuated on a US cargo freighter. Driven by a single-minded obsession to find his father and sister, he works his way from the coastal city of Busan to the coalmines of Germany and the battlefields of Vietnam, and we view his many trials and tribulations.
Nabat (Azerbaijan): This is a rare art film was the country’s Foreign Language Oscar submission in 2014. It portrays the story of an elderly woman’s last stand in a war-evacuated mountain village during the Nagornah-Karabakh war of the early 1990s. The starring role is played by Fatemeh Motamid Arya, an Iranian actress who won the Best Actress Prize at the Montreal Film Festival in 2015