Asian Film Festival to explore Asian identities

Author: Elizabeth Rankin

Asian Film Festival

Showcasing the creativity of contemporary Asian filmmaking, the University of Notre Dame’s annual Asian Film Festival will bring five films to the Browning Cinema of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts March 19 and 20 (Friday and Saturday).

“It’s a rare opportunity to see films exploring Asian identities in the context of globalization, dislocation and migration,” says Sylvia Lin, associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures, who served on the student-faculty committee that organized the event. “Most of the films will be screened for the first time in the U.S. here at Notre Dame.”

“The festival gives people an opportunity to learn about other cultures and values,” said Notre Dame senior Sunny Chung, who co-chaired the festival committee with sophomore Priscilla Choi.

Choi points out that the films illustrate how different Asian peoples are dealing with change.

“I am excited to share films that deal with identity,” she said. “Koreans who were deported to Central Asia by Stalin, the dilemma of the Taiwanese aborigines who are on the crossroad between modernization and tradition, for example.”

Film director Y. David Chung will kick off the screenings by introducing his documentary “Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People” and taking part in a post-screening Q&A on Friday evening.

Enriching the festival is an academic panel featuring Chung, Nicholas Kaldis, the director of Chinese Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY); and Brandon Frost, a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame. Frost, who was instrumental in organizing previous festivals, is now a graduate student in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University.

Students who participate in festival offerings including the academic panel can register beforehand to receive academic credit. Information is available here.

The films that make up the festival encompass documentary, drama and comedy. They are:

  • “The Unreliable People,” March 19, 6:30 p.m. Directed by Y. David Chung & Matt Dibble (2007), a harrowing saga of survival on the open steppe, showing the sweep of Soviet history through the eyes of Koreans deported from Russia after Stalin designated them as an “unreliable people” and enemies of the state. The film won the National Film Board of Canada’s Best Documentary Award in 2007.
  • “Cape No. 7,” March 19, 9 p.m. Written and directed by Te-Sheng Wei (2008), a Taiwanese romantic comedy centering on a would-be pop singer in a small town, who with his Japanese girlfriend unravels the mystery of a 60-year-old packet of love letters. Immensely popular, the film was Taiwan’s entry in the 81st Academy Awards for best foreign language film.
  • “Children In Heaven,” March 20, 3 p.m. Directed by Mayaw Biho (2009), depicting a shantytown of indigenous people living underneath Taiwan’s Sanying Bridge. The film addresses indigenous people’s right to housing by observing the yearly cycle of the community’s forcible eviction and rebuilding of their demolished homes. (Double feature with next film.)
  • “Malakacaway (The Rice Wine Filler),” March 20, 3 p.m. Also directed by Mayaw Biho (2009), featuring the Pangcah people of eastern Taiwan. The film examines the annual ceremony of Ilisin, providing an intimate look inside one of the world’s most unique traditional societies.
  • “Chicken Poets,” March 20, 8 p.m. Directed by Beijing theater director Meng Jing Hui (2002), an insightful, poetic look at materialism and the younger generation in China. The film focuses on a discouraged young poet who seeks the advice of an old friend who raises black chickens. Will success—if and when it comes—solve all his problems?

For ticket information, visit or call 574–631–2800.

The 2010 Asian Film Festival is presented by Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, with the support of more than a dozen departments, offices and organizations at Notre Dame.

Contacts: Elizabeth Rankin, writer/editor, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-9184 or; and Therese Hanlon, events coordinator, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-4150 or