Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Raised From Dust

Since we've arrived in Beijing, I've watched 8 feature length fiction films, 2 full length documentaries, one digital experimental short, one narrative short, a number of animated shorts, one live play, and a partridge in a pear tree. Hah. Just seeing if I still have your attention. :)

Never have I watched so much of anything, let alone Chinese media specifically. Some of it I've really enjoyed (for all its lush, sentimental aesthetic, I was a big fan of Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love), some of it has been good but hard to watch (it's become a running joke to warn one another that the next movie we're watching will be long and depressing because--joke's on us--all Chinese movies happen to be), and some of it is just not very well done. This brings me to the subject of my current post.

Yesterday, we watched this really long, drawn out movie called Raised From Dust. Set in a rural village in the Henan province, it tells the story of a woman and her daughter trying to make ends meet while Dad is sick in the hospital from breathing in too much brick dust. One of the major (and surprising) themes of the film centered on the village's very active Christian community. Sometimes, the conversations between believers seemed so hackneyed that I couldn't for the life of me figure out what kind of commentary the filmmaker was trying to make. Aside from that, the shots were incredibly long and boring--which is not always bad, except for when a director is doing it just to be artsy, in which case I find it pointless--and he chose to use no music whatsoever, aside from the bad rendition of "Here Comes the Bride" the congregation played for a wedding.

Part of the reason this movie was so hard to watch is because these Christians' conversations were so jarring against the main character's weary life. Not to spoil the movie (since I know all of you are running to your neighborhood Chinese independent film purveyor to get your copy right now), but the poor woman's husband dies toward the end after spending the entire movie coughing in a rickety hospital bed tucked into this awkward alley in a rundown building. Meanwhile, the believers are talking about praying for him, and hope, and how Jesus makes everything easy, and...I don't know, it just didn't register to me. And believe me, I wanted it to, because you know, I'm a fan of faith and all.

Anyway, the producer of the movie came and spoke to us in class today, revealing that the director himself is Christian (and reportedly quit smoking, quit gambling, and got married as a result). Apparently, the director wanted to respond to all the issues in the Henan house churches (sects splitting, aberrant theology, etc.) by picturing a normal, peaceful Christian life, which I guess explains all the "perfect" Christian dialogue. (That's so cynical of me, right? Like there's something inherently suspicious about Christians being too nice...)

One of the cool things about this program is that because we have Chinese directors or independent film curators come speak to us, it gives us extra perspective into the films we're watching. Turns out the director took this piece to Henan and held screenings and Q&A sessions in a few churches, and even filmed these events to record audience reactions. All very interesting stuff... according to the producer, most audience members wanted the filmmakers to shut up so they could analyze the film on their own. I found that endearing.

So, if any of you actually stuck it through this entry, I entreat your graces. To make it up to you for having to read a long entry that's really just my sorry excuse for processing the academic mumbo jumbo that goes on in my brain, here's a picture of my latest mosquito bite:

I used a blue pen to mark the circumference around the swelling. That's where my skin begins to rise higher than where my leg normally is. The whole red area is kind of hot and stiff to the touch. Basically, that side of my leg now feels like a very firm ruby red grapefruit. Yum. Meanwhile, my hand is there to provide some perspective on just how big this magical welt has gotten. People have started staring at it, and this afternoon in class it became the center of a 5 minute long discussion. Makes me wonder if I should start shaving my legs...

6 comments:

Tawny said...

lol. i enjoyed your post. every bit of it. even the "mumbo jumbo." put the chinese medicine stuff for insect bites on your bites. it works like a dream. i put some of that stuff on one of jonathan's insect bites here that wasn't going away--it must have worked because the bite disappeared soon enough(or maybe burned it off. not sure which. also...the medicine might have been expired many ages ago). hahahha

Florence said...

haha. you're naive american blood is not yet acclimated to the poison that China's mosquitoes have. Give it some time and your blood will be immune to their toxins. hahah i'm curious to know what type of 5-minute discussion would be prompted by your mosquito bite.

oh and that reminds me: "mos-kwee-toe!" :o) Miss you!

Jirat said...

Hey Guys!

I'm on my laptop at Thai Basil right now. =D There was a customer reading the menu when I began to read this entry, so I skimmed the first paragraph. After the first paragraph, I took the customer's order and proceeded back to your entry. I felt bad so I re-read it from the beginning carefully since there wasn't anyone in line, which I'm glad I did b/c the amount of film collection you've been watching sounded mundane. I was like yeah, yea...oh that sucks, man that's boring, la la la, poor Marilyn, more Chinese films, and a partridge. That part was funny.

Btw, your reaction to mosquito bites is exactly what happens to me in Thailand. It swells up like crazy b/c we're allergic to it. I want to poke your stiff bubble, hoping that clear liquid and baby mosquitoes will stream out. That would be so satisfying. *slurp* tastes salty...

Kristen M said...

i'm really loving these updates. thanks for keeping us in the loop. while you were watching a long, drawn-out chinese flick earlier this week, I was at briarwood dollar theater with Adam's two teenage cousins watching Horton Hears a Who (Dr. Suess, anyone?), and wondering what I was doing with my life...

Victoria said...

okay. so i'm just catching up.

but how did no one comment on the hairy legs (except marilyn herself)?!?!

anyhoo, sorry about the bites. yeah.. definitely get that smelly chinese medicine. yum.

oh man, i miss you guys. hope you're surviving. and doing well :)

Ingrid said...

HAHAHAHA, so throughout the whole entry, I totally thought I was reading Josh's writing. I wondered why he was watching so many Chinese movies (must be a good husband!) and then I wondered why his leg was so hairless... then I thought, man, his hands sure are girly, and look! His ring is so pretty.... then I finally realized...

miss u guys. buy a puppy!