The Wildcat Theater has gone dark for Weber State’s Chinese film series this school year.
With a black-and-white subtitled film that filled the screen, students and members of the community got some rare insights into Chinese cinema Wednesday.
This fall’s film series is called “Chinese Neo-Realism,” focusing on Asian cinema before liberation in the late 1940s.
According to Greg Lewis, professor of history and Asian studies program director, this is the first year they will be addressing Chinese culture during this infamous time.
“I’ve researched Chinese cinema for a number of years and I never did a series on the post-war,” Lewis said. “These are really prominent films because they are packed with Chinese history.”
This week’s film is called “The Spring River Flows East,” and focused on the tragedies branching from a split up family during wartime in China.
Divided into two parts, the first part of the film addressed the patriotism of Chinese families during the Japanese invasion in the 1940s by getting up close with an Asian couple who were forced to separate.
“They made this film, and what it says to me is that in the post-war period, they were trying to create patriotism,” said Lewis.
According to Lewis, this era was an unlikely golden age for Chinese cinema despite the war and inflation that devastated the country, affecting theaters and film studios alike.
For him, the neo-realism aspect of the film was what captured the true emotion and mood of the era.
“The realism is natural in the sense that they didn’t have to go very far to find subjects that were compelling,” Lewis said.
A part of the Asian Studies program for several years, Lewis not only wanted to shed light on this controversial time but also show the educational value in sharing historical films with the audience.
“When you watch these films, you’ll understand what they went through,” he said. “Showing you is as close as I can get you to that time. I’m putting the vision of China in front of you.”
Don Voight and Irene Voight, a couple from the local community, came to watch the Chinese films not just for the entertainment but to get in touch with Chinese culture.
“I don’t come so much for the quality of the movie or the creativity. I’m more interested in the seeing the Chinese culture and how it’s evolved,” said Irene, a former sociology major. “It’s neat to see the period of the 1940s in the films and compare them to current China.”
However, keeping up with the Chinese language is what draws her husband Don to the theater.
“(The film) lets you listen to spoken Chinese, but there are subtitles to these spoken words so that you can try and understand the language,” said Don, a second-year Chinese language student.
Along with bringing culture and building connections in the community, one of Lewis’s main goals is to also bring awareness to some of the hardships China endured during such harsh times.
Lewis hopes to give the audience a new sense of appreciation for how others around the world live.
“The beauty in these movies, and I hope people pick this up, is understanding the psychic damage that happens to people because of war,” said Lewis. “Part of this project is just to say, look at these people and the way they survived.”
Along with showing how Chinese filmmakers managed such great success during wartime, Lewis believes showing these films are also great way to get students involved on campus and with other cultures.
“You’re a living, breathing human being. You’re here to be educated, even if you don’t understand anything about the subject,” Lewis said. “I think there is something everyone can take away from these films.”
Starting at 7 p.m. every Wednesday, film screenings will continue through Dec. 3 at the Wildcat Theater. All are welcome.