Asian Film & Talk series successfully relaunches after year-long hiatus
This month's movie, The Lunchbox, is the story of Ila, a lonely housewife, who adds a note to her neglectful husband's lunchbox one day in order to bring back the spark of their marriage. When the lunchbox accidentally winds up in the hands of Saajan, a widower, the two start an unlikely friendship without ever meeting in person.

Asian Film & Talk series successfully relaunches after year-long hiatus

Since 2016, various faculty in International and Area Studies and Chinese Language and Culture have held the Asian Film & Talk Series as part of the “New College: Connecting the Art + Humanities” season, in partnership with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. After taking the year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Film & Talk Series returns with new funding and a 2021-2022 season being led by Associate Professor of History and International and Area Studies Xia Shi and Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Culture Fang-yu Li. The series’ first event on Sept. 10—a screening of The Farewell (2019)—attracted over 50 attendees from on campus and the Sarasota community, and the series continues to entertain and educate people on Asian societies, art and culture.

This year’s theme is “Identity, Community and Family,” and Shi said that this season’s films span across Asia, “including India, Indonesia, mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Asian American communities.”

“Through the lens of identity, community and family, it offers an illuminating comparative perspective to learn and understand these diverse countries and their peoples,” Shi continued.

“When we came up with the theme, we actually planned out everything for last year, before COVID-19,” Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Culture Jing Zhang elaborated, who also ran the Asian Film & Talk Series in years prior. “We came up with the theme mainly based on our guest speakers’ interests. But it worked perfectly for this year because that’s the theme that occurs the most in our daily conversations. How COVID-19 keeps us away from our family, and how much more we understand the importance of having a family, having a community and supporting each other.”

Zhang also explained that the only difference between this year’s series and previous series is that food is no longer being served at screenings in response to the pandemic. She also said that while last year’s break was also done out of a concern for safety, it was also partially because online alternatives did not foster the same sense of community.

“We didn’t feel like using the online format because it would be technically very challenging to do, and there’s not really a sense of community watching a film online,” Zhang said. 

This month’s screening of The Lunchbox (2013) on Oct. 1 at the Sainer Auditorium had a turnout of about 30 attendees—both students and community members—and next month’s events include screenings of the documentaries “In the Name of Belief” and “A Return to Peace” on Nov. 5, as well as a Javanese dance workshop taught the following day. All events in this series are free to attend.

“We wanted to offer something new to our students, something that our existing curriculum does not often offer,” Shi said. “I hope these films and our post-screening discussions will stimulate students’ interests in studying the rich cultures, histories and traditions across a range of Asia societies.”

Willa Tinsley contributed reporting.

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