Education About Asia

(culture, history, art, marriage, etc...)

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Film Review Essay, Resources

More About Mizusawa

More About Mizusawa is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Can’t Go Native (2010), a personalized, anthropological history of Japan. Featuring the lifelong work of American anthropologist Keith Brown in northern Japan, this second DVD delivers the details and delights of ancient Japan and the connections to Japan’s modern culture. Most of the film takes place in a Japanese home, as Dr. Brown is interviewed by various American experts—no doubt well-heeled in Japanese culture and hist...

Film Review Essay, Resources

The Nine Lives of Norodom Sihanouk

Throughout Cambodia’s modern history, marked as it has been by drama and tragedy in almost equal measure, there has been one constant: the presence of Norodom Sihanouk in his multiple roles. He has been king twice; chief of state; prime minister several times; and most controversially, an associate of the Khmer Rouge, who took power under Pol Pot in 1975. Still alive today at the age of eighty-nine and enjoying the title of King Father, Sihanouk is one of international politics’ great surviv...

Film Review Essay

Bhutan: Taking the Middle Path to Happiness

TOM VENDETTI AND JOHN WEHRHEIM VENDETTI PRODUCTIONS, LLC DVD, 57 MINUTES, 2007 From the opening photos of an idyllic remote setting to friendly young monks to prayer flags whipping in the morning breeze carrying peace prayers, you know where to find Shangri La. That is the strength and weakness of this beautifully filmed video portrayal of Bhutan. The Exotic Other is colorfully on display, providing a feast for the eye and ear that is fine as far as it goes but is thinner on real world perspe...

Film Review Essay, Resources

ANPO: The Art X War: The Art of Resistance

DIRECTED BY LINDA HOAGLUND, PRODUCED BY NEW DAY FILMS, 2010 JAPANESE WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES, 89 MINUTES ANPO is an intriguing mix of anti-war paintings, documentary, feature film, anime (animation) clips, interviews with the artists in Japanese with English subtitles, and brief English language comments by author and CIA critic Tim Weiner. Although there are references to such things as Japanese atrocities in World War II and the terror felt by victims of American firebombing, most of the emph...

Film Review Essay, Resources

The Revolutionary

PRODUCED BY IRV DRASNIN, STOURWATER PICTURES BY IRV DRASNIN, LUCY OSTRANDER, AND DON SELLERS 92 MINUTES, COLOR, 201 In 1945, Sidney Rittenberg arrived in China as a US Army language specialist. Soon thereafter, he trekked across the country to Mao Zedong’s capital in Yan’an and asked to join the Chinese Communist Party. For the next three decades, Rittenberg remained in China, serving as a vocal and powerful defender of Mao’s revolution. The Revolutionary combines powerful visual imag...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Water Puppetry in Vietnam: An Ancient Tradition in a Modern World

Water Puppetry in Vietnam An Ancient Tradition in a Modern World PRODUCED BY SAM PECK 31 MINUTES, COLOR BERKELEY MEDIA LLC, 2012 Water  puppetry arose in the Red River delta and other rice-growing regions of northern Việt Nam a thousand years ago, during the Lý dynasty. Villagers staged water puppet performances to celebrate the end of the rice harvest, at religious festivals, and simply for entertainment. Today, watching a performance of this unique folk art has come to be mandatory fo...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story

Nearly 20,000 lives were lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011. With such devastating losses, including over US $500 billion in property destruction, it is a challenge to sort out the many tributes to the many lives lost. However, Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story stands out as personal, reflective, honest, and richly filled with a sense of hope. While there are several YouTube, Facebook, and written remembrances of the lives lost in the quake (and sub...

Film Review Essay, Online Supplement, Resources

Teaching Post-Mao China: Two Classic Films

Introduction The Story of Qiu Ju and Beijing Bicycle are two films that have been used in classrooms since they were produced (1992 and 2001, respectively). Today, these films are still relevant to high school and undergraduate students studying history, literature, and related courses about China, as they offer a picture of the grand scale of societal change that has happened in China in recent decades. Both films illustrate contemporary China and the dichotomy between urban and rural life the...

Film Review Essay, Resources

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki: Shinto, Nature, and the Environment

The films of Hayao Miyazaki are some of the most popular in Japan and the rest of the world. Perhaps his most famous work, Spirited Away, is the highest-grossing domestic film in Japanese history. (note 1) It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Over the past two decades, the Walt Disney Company has reissued English-language versions of Miyazaki’s films with the voice talents of such famous actors as Patrick Stewart, Claire Danes, and Billy Bob Thornton. Often, these f...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Assignment China: A Documentary Series on American Reporting on China

Journalism is the first draft of history. Now is a good time to look back on the journalism of the United States’ relations with China and help our students understand how China has been reported and to be active and sophisticated users of the new media they seem to prefer. Assignment China is a well-researched and beautifully produced projected eight-part documentary series written and reported by veteran Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy and produced by Clayton Dube for the US China Institu...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Honor and Sacrifice: The Roy Matsumoto Story

Honor and Sacrifice: The Roy Matsumoto Story is an excellent case study that vividly illustrates issues surrounding early twentieth-century Japanese immigrants to the United States, their American-born children, and Japanese American military service during the Second World War. Narrated from the perspective of Roy Matsumoto’s daughter, Karen, the film has the intimate tone of a friend telling old family stories. The narrative begins with Roy’s father, Wakaji Matsumoto, arriving from Jap...

Film Review Essay, Resources

In The Grey Zone and A2-B-C

In the Grey Zone In these two highly revealing documentaries on the Japan triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear accident) of March 2011, film director Ian Thomas Ash gives us a picture of the Japanese people struggling with the immensity of the event. An American who has lived in Japan for eleven years, Ash’s command of the Japanese language, his patient ability to wait for answers from those he interviews, and his gentle mix of the visual harshness of the disaster cont...

Film Review Essay, Online Supplement

Shifting Gender Roles in Postwar Japan: The On-Screen Life of Actress Hara Setsuko

Hara Setsuko (born Aida Masae, 1920) is one of Japan’s most admired actresses from its golden age of cinema. During her twenty-eight-year career, spanning the mid-1930s to early 1960s, she appeared in over one hundred feature films. Best known for her portrayals of ordinary, middle-class women, Hara’s performances were anything but ordinary. With large, expressive eyes and striking features, her unforgettable depictions of women from all stages of life, including daughters, wives, mothers an...

Film Review Essay, Online Supplement

Mrs. Judo: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful

“Be strong, be gentle, be beautiful” is not only the essence of the art and sport of judo, but a clear six-word biographical description of the life of Fukuda Keiko, AKA Mrs. Judo. The only woman in judo’s history (since 1882) to achieve the difficult tenth-degree black belt, Fukuda’s life is not only the story of achievement in a sport, but the struggle to overcome tradition and sexism. Japan’s men expected their wives to be at home each evening, when judo classes were taught. But Fuk...

Film Review Essay, Online Supplement, Resources

Film Review: Cocktail Party

As a frequent film critic for Education About Asia, I have viewed and critiqued several documentaries. Cocktail Party, however, is the first full-length movie I’ve reviewed. It features superb acting, an intriguing plot, and an informative portrayal of the social conditions on Okinawa that have complicated US and Japanese relations for decades. A documentary of the Okinawa problem may not have the personal and emotional impact this film has on the viewer. Based on the novel by Tatsuhiro Osh...

Film Review Essay, Resources

My Life in China

Not all of us have directly faced the challenges of immigration, but in many classrooms, there will be one or more students who have firsthand experience. Their stories and the growing body of published first-person accounts can open an immediate window for students into the ongoing immigrant experience and feelings of immigrant pioneers. Through the storytelling of new arrivals, we can also begin to examine our place and context within this landscape of settlement— how do we encounter and bui...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Chinese Calligraphy, a Dance on Paper: The Art of Professor Yang Xin

Calligraphy is among the most recognizable markers of Chinese culture. Even Americans who have never stepped foot in a Chinatown have likely encountered Chinese characters gracing a takeout restaurant sign or peeking out from a neck tattoo. Partly for this reason, Chinese characters provide an accessible entry point to learning about China and East Asia. It is a process that can begin as simply as it did for me when, as a young child, I was shown at my local public library how the character ...

Feature Article, Film Review Essay, Special Segment: Koreans and Japanese: Honoring Colonial Lives

So Long Asleep: Waking the Ghosts of a War

So Long Asleep: Waking the Ghosts of a War is a well-produced documentary that traces the finding, excavation, and repatriation in 2015 of the remains of 115 Korean conscript laborers whom the Japanese forced to work in Hokkaidō, Japan, and who died during World War II (referred to as the Asia–Pacific War in the documentary). The documentary focuses mostly on interviews with the volunteers who traveled to Hokkaidō to exhume the remains of the laborers, footage of the work itself, and sites o...

Film Review Essay, Resources

Proof of Loyalty: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawai`i

The story of the internment of Japanese-Americans on mainland USA during World War II is well-known. Lesser-known is the story of 150,000 Japanese-Americans living in Hawai`i, fewer than 2,000 were interned. Why the difference? Perhaps because in Hawai`i: Japanese-Americans had long been accepted as loyal Americans. Proof of Loyalty is the story of Kazuo Yamane, a Japanese-American born and raised in Hawai`i, who made immeasurable contributions to the successful Allied war efforts and the sto...

Film Review Essay

Maineland: Directed by Miao Wang. Reviewed by Carol Stepanchuk

Stella (Xinyi) Zhu instantly engages with the camera: “Today is a very special day for me—I’m so happy to receive an offer from Fryeburg Academy—it’s my ideal school, my dream come true. . . I won’t let you down!” Harry (Junru) He also received an offer from Fryeburg: “I feel very fortunate, so I prepared a song for everyone,” he says in Chinese. He turns from the camera and starts to play an original composition on a piano in a room filled with books, family pictures, and m...