As part of Brown’s Year of China, the film festival “Chinese Women’s Documentaries in the Market Era,” held this past weekend, projected female directors’ views of contemporary Chinese culture, politics and economic development.
The festival was organized through the Nanjing-Brown Joint Program in Gender Studies and the Humanities and sponsored by a number of University programs, including the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Six female film directors screened their works, with a question and answer session after each documentary. The festival will be followed by a symposium, with discussions about Chinese women’s film by international scholars and experts in gender studies, history and the study of sexuality, Wednesday at the Watson Institute for International Studies.
Brown has not previously held this kind of event, said Lingzhen Wang, associate professor of East Asian studies and the head organizer of the festival. “It’s probably also (the) first of its kind in United States, centering just exclusively on women documentary directors,” she added.
Many of the films touched upon specific gender-focused topics and themes. “My Fancy High Heels,” for example, illustrated the dreams and pursuits of three women – a farmer, the manager of a contract manufacturing firm and a wealthy New Yorker.
Some films were “not specifically gender-oriented” but rather reflected social issues through a female director’s point of view, Wang said. “Speaking Up 2″ and “Rice Distribution” do not specifically discuss gender issues, instead they focus on the lives of primary school children and the distribution of rice to the elderly, respectively.
The children in “Speaking Up 2″ already had set opinions about China’s foreign policy. They described China as the greatest country and Chinese people as the best and as more mild-tempered than “less civilized” foreigners. Asked how he felt about Japan, one child in the film said, “I hate Japan because they invaded our country.”
But the children in “Speaking Up 2″ did answer questions about one issue directly pertaining to women - foot binding, the painful practice of binding young girls’ feet that has largely faded into obsolescence – among other controversial issues in Chinese politics.
At the question and answer sessions following each film, several directors spoke in both Chinese and English, as the audiences included a large proportion of Chinese speakers.