Campus News

First-of-its-Kind Symposium on Asian Cinema

March 11, 2015
Lisa Gulasy
Asian Cinemas in a Global Context poster
A series of events is taking place March 12-15, including the symposium Asian Cinemas in a Global Context; the lecture “Why Cinema Has Not Yet Been Invented: or Taking the Digital in Hand,” by University of Chicago Professor Tom Gunning; and the lecture “Globalization from a Local Lens: Creative Conceptions of a Taiwanese Director,” by documentary filmmaker Ho Chao-ti.

Asian cinema experts, filmmakers, and enthusiasts will come together in Oberlin this weekend for a series of events that includes the symposium Asian Cinemas in a Global Context; the lecture “Why Cinema Has Not Yet Been Invented: or Taking the Digital in Hand,” by University of Chicago Professor Tom Gunning; and the lecture “Globalization from a Local Lens: Creative Conceptions of a Taiwanese Director,” by documentary filmmaker Ho Chao-ti. The symposium, a collaborative effort between the Department of English, the programs in East Asian studies and cinema studies, and Oberlin Shansi, is the first to explicitly bring together Indian and Chinese cinemas for discussion.

Anuradha Needham, chair of the English department and Donald R. Longman professor of English, and Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, associate professor of Chinese and author of Adapted for the Screen: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Fiction and Film, organized the symposium in conjunction with courses they are teaching this semester: Bollywood’s India: An Introduction to Indian Cinema and Popular Chinese Cinema and Public Intellectualism. Needham, who studies Indian cinema and recently published the book New Indian Cinema in Post-Independence India: The Cultural Work of Shyam Benegal’s Films, says it was students expressing interest in Bollywood cinema who inspired her to teach her course and, ultimately, co-organize the symposium.

Needham says she and Deppman planned the symposium for this weekend because it coincides with Tom Gunning and Ho Chao-ti’s lectures. “It’s a series of happenings all on cinema. They are related to each other; they piggyback on each other,” she explains.

Tom Gunning’s lecture on March 13 will be the ninth in the series Oberlin Lectures in English and American Literature. The series is made possible by an endowed fund created for that purpose by Andrew Bongiorno, a former English department chair and professor who died in 1998.

Ho Chao-ti’s lecture will launch the Jacobson-Cocco Distinguished Lecture Series, endowed by Oberlin Shansi in honor of former Executive Director Carl Jacobson and Associate Director Deborah Cocco, who, according to Oberlin Shansi Campus Coordinator Sophie Grimes, worked for the nonprofit for 36 and 27 years, respectively. In addition to her lecture, two of Ho Chao-ti’s documentaries, My Fancy High Heels and Sock ‘n’ Roll, will be shown.

According to Needham and Deppman, the symposium and other related events epitomize many of Oberlin College’s core values. These include diversity, originality, and, most notably, collaboration, the latter of which is demonstrated by the cooperation of the various departments, programs, and organizations involved. Additionally, the symposium will welcome three Kenyon College faculty and their students who, along with three Oberlin English faculty, are part of a Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) supported collaborative grant.

Needham cites the number of symposium registrants—now more than 100—as an indication of people’s interest in the topic of Asian cinema. “This is the first instance any symposium combines Indian and Chinese cinema,” she says. “We are excited that so many people are excited about it.”

For more information about the symposium and a complete schedule of events, visit shansi.org.

The symposium would not have been possible without funding and support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures (OCLC); the President’s Office; the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Art History Baldwin Fund; South Asian Students Association (SASA); Leading Edge Fund; and the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC).

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