Asian Films

Lead by J Adrian Zimmer.

This six week class covers one feature film from each of Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, India, and Tibet.  Class discussions will zero in on culture, film making, and human nature.  SGMs are expected to watch the films and read two online articles beforehand.  

The Films

Grave of the Fireflies

   1988, Japan, Japanese or English, 89min

   direction/screenplay: Isao Takahata

   subject: animated film in which children face

                   the aftermath of WW II firebombing

   available: Vudu

   comment: difficult to imagine how this film

                could be as moving without the animation



   2011, Korea, Korean, 139min

   direction/screenplay: Chang-dong Lee

   subject: a woman lives with early alzheimer's,

                difficult responsibilities, and poetry

   available: Vudu, Amazon, Hoopla, Kanopy

   comment: the protagonist is beautiful in body and soul

                whereas the plot forces us to discuss blood money

A Touch of Sin

   2013, China, Mandarin/Cantonese, 130min

   direction/screenplay: Zhangke Jia

   subject: three fictionalized events of

                downtrodden people pushed to violence

   available: Vudu, Amazon, Hoopla, Kanopy

   comment: shows the underbelly of contemporary China

The Scent of the Green Papaya

   1994, Vietnam, Vietnamese, 104min

   direction/screenplay: Tran Anh Hung

   subject: servant girl grows up and transitions

                to middle class

   available: Vudu, Amazon, Hoopla, Kanopy

   comment: beautiful cinematography done

                on Paris soundstage with lush

                Vietnamese foliage


   2014, India, Hindi, 160min  

   direction: Vishal Bhardwaj

   screenplay:  Basharat Peer, Vishal Bhardwaj

   story:  retelling of "Hamlet" in Kashmir

   available: Netflix

   comment: translation of Shakepeare's play to

                Kashmir is faithful to both -- except

                for the play's ending


   1999, Nepal, Tibetan, 108min

   direction: Eric Valli, Michel Debats

   screenplay: Nathalie Azoulai, Olivier Dazat, Louis Gardel

   subject: leadership conflict leads to rival salt caravans

                (village chief, a friend of Eric Valli, plays himself)

   available: Vudu

   comment: beautiful cinematography done in remote village

                several days hike from nearest airport -- village is

           ethnic Tibetan located in Nepal -- almost all of the cast

           are villagers

Class Discussions

SGMs are required to prepare in writing one minute statements about the film and/or the readings.  These will be read without alteration by each SGM as the class begins.   This process will give us a sense of what others are thinking before we start discussing.  It is very important that the rules be followed:

  1. Prepare in writing ahead of time so we will understand your original, personal reaction.  Of course, you can change your mind after you hear what others think.  But our discussion will be the better for us knowing each other's original thoughts in advance.
  2. Read what you have written without change even if someone else has already said the same thing.  Repetition helps us get a sense of the class mood.

A large class will be broken into two or three breakout groups for this exercise.

The rest of the class will be lead by the SGL who will ask questions, accept comments, and show scenes from the film.

On Film Availability

All films except "Haider" are currently available on Vudu but not Netflix.  Vudu charges $3 or$4 per view and requires no subscription. "Haider" is currently available on Netflix but not Vudu.  A month's subscription to Netflix costs $9.  All in all this adds up to less than $30.

Of course there are often other possibilities and you may have your own subscriptions that can be used as well.  In such cases you can reduce the total cost.  A good source for finding all current possibilities for any film is

In the event that a film becomes unavailable online, another arrangement will be made.  Possibly the SGL will stream it over Zoom.  The later option works but is not ideal.   The need for this is not expected and if it happens you may find that the film will be shown at a time you cannot watch it.