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Teaching Blackness in Japanese Cinema
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of North Georgia, United States
How do we create projects that allow students to perceive their blindness towards other cultures, and in so doing recognize the biases towards their own? Linda Ehrlich and Ning Ma argue that one of the most difficult aspects of screening films to students is shaking students free from established ways of seeing and understanding representational systems outside their own experience. Students come to the East Asian cinema classroom with presumptions already in tow, and have to be taught not just how to read a film, but how to reconsider their own narratives in light of alternative cultural modes of representation. For eight weeks, students at the University of North Georgia, engaged in a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) exchange with Nanzan University, Japan. The collaboration centered on Japanese cinema, and the topic ‘Diversity’. The students worked to create a podcast exploring themes of home and difference through two documentary films— the American film Step (2017) and the Japanese film Dear Pyongyang (2006). Both films not only deal with the minority experience and the tensions of history, invisibility, oppression and culture, but also seek to present alternative representations of the black other. Through a consideration of student responses in the COIL final podcast project, this paper explores the postwar legacy of African-American and Korean visualizations in Japanese cinema by directors Kurahara Koreyoshi, Takechi Tetsuji, Wakamatsu Koji and Oshima Nagisa, and how examining the marginalized in Asian Cinema allows insight into our own inherent biases about Asia, blackness and nation as home.