I have a class in which we watch a couple of movies revolving around racism, stereotyping and cultural problems. Then there is supposedly a discussion.
In the first class we received a list of movies we’d watch during the semester. One about Koreans living in Japan, one about the Holocaust, genocide in Rwanda, child soldiers in El Salvador, a political prisoner in Chile and finally about the Japanese history textbook scandal.
We were organised into groups and were given a movie to do a short presentation on them beforehand.
The titles of the movies were in katakana. I tried asking the professor how my movie, ショア, was really spelled, but she had absolutely no idea. Really though, I should have expected that. Japanese customs dictate to rewrite everything in katakana, following some rough pronunciation. The only problem is it’s usually futile to even try to decipher what the original word was, especially the case with names.
I know, I should look things up in Japanese instead. It would improve my language skills.
A few keywords in google helped me out soon enough, and the Wikipedia even has a disambiguation for ショア. Without any sarcasm this time though, I should have known the Jewish word for Holocaust (Shoah). Or could have known about this apparently famous movie.
Mentioning the Holocaust also led to an interesting experiment, when the professor asked the students if they knew what the word meant. To my honest surprise none of them could explain, and only a few have heard it before. Even considering the predominant attitude of japanese students towards questions asked by lecturers (stare at notes, don’t say a word), this was quite shocking.
I don’t think you could get away with not knowing what happened – for example – in Hiroshima in any European university. And how is the Holocaust any different? Maybe history is like geography: for those living in the top economic powers it’s safely negligible.
Or I’m being a snob.
Anyway, today we finished with the first movie, パッチギ, about the life of a Korean family (?) in Japan. To be honest I didn’t like it one bit. It had everything that makes contemporary Japanese movies unwatchable. It just pelt stupid, with the actors running around with flailing arms at supposed fight scenes, the incessant shouting matches. The acting was so overdid and insincere that could only be compared to the TV dramas here. It just didn’t feel right with a topic originally serious to fool around like that.
Coming home I looked up the title and I learned two things. It is actually a comedy/drama, which explains the absurdity of it. I suppose I just don’t have the same humour the Japanese have. And also that it’s a sequel (?) to a previous one with a similar title.
What the class completely failed at was the discussion part. It could have been actually interesting for once to pick the brains of my fellow classmates on the topic of foreigners living in Japan. Not that I expected anything resembling a honest conversation… not in class. (Well, not wherever.)
We didn’t have time to actually talk about anything we saw, and next week we’re going on to the next movie. I suspect though that even if we did have an attempt at discussion, no-one would have spoken up anyway.