The Chinese Film and Culture Festival is in full swing at Cal State Long Beach.
Thursday we kicked it off with an opening ceremony attended by the Lieutenant Governor of California, the Vice Minister of Culture from China, the Consul-General to LA from China, the CSU Board of Trustees (who came in a bus), the President and Provost of CSULB, the head of Disney Shanghai, and numerous other dignitaries. The show kicked off with an Ansai Drum performance. Then there were speeches. Next came a Sichuan Opera mask changing performance, and then there were promo clips about the festival and all the related activities.
The Asian Studies Graduate Society (of which I am president this year) provided parking lot and ushering services. I was stationed at the entrance to the parking lot to direct the Chinese speaking drivers to their reserved spaces (in Chinese). I had a few of my classmates near me to run to the other lane and signal the campus police that this car was a VIP. Then the appropriate welcoming committee of local Chinese dignitaries greeted the visiting dignitaries and some other of my classmates who were stationed by the spaces led the dignitaries and their entourages into the theater. (Our campus is very large and confusing for first-time visitors.) Inside the theater more of my classmates led people to their seats and kept the riff-raff (mere students and faculty) in the back section of the theater. One of my Taiwanese classmates guarded the mask changer while he put on his secret make-up and masks. He got lost between the freeway and the campus, so she also had to direct him in Chinese by cell phone to the parking lot behind the stage.
My classmates saw most of the performances, but I missed the drums because I was waiting to be sure there were no stragglers. I brought in the last group of honored guests by myself. The mask changer was terrific. The speeches were inspiring, and just as the promos were going, I was called upon to ride with the limos to another part of campus to pick up the dignitaries at the end of their tour of campus and viewing of the art exhibition part of the festival. Campus police had specified a certain area for the limos because they would not fit in the driveway to the parking lot behind the student union.
My classmates brought up the rear of the gaggle from the theater making sure that no one got lost on the campus. None of the high mucky-muckies from our school knew their way around the student union (where the art exhibition is set up) very well. When the time came for the Vice Minister to leave, I got a phone call to come in and lead him out. So I was the representative from the school who saw all the Chinese diplomatic dignitaries and their entourages into the limos. It was fun; we had a good conversation in Chinese. I shook hands with all of them and wished them a safe journey.
Friday we saw two films.
The first was "Eternally Enthralled" which stars Zhang Ziyi and was directed by Chen Kaige. The professor from the Beijing Film Academy who gave the post-screening discussion of the film had been Chen Kaige's teacher. He is considered to be the "Roger Ebert" of China. I had not intepreted for the Vice Minister because of the status issue: it looks bad for a student to interpret for such an important dignitary. I did the interpretation for the professor. It was quite fun. He did not pull any punches. All the currently famous Chinese directors were once his students, and he was quite critical of all of them. He told us that he felt the movie "Red Cliff" is an unmitigated failure. American professors in the audience disagreed with him, and there was a great discussion back and forth.
The second was "The Everlasting Flame: Beijing 2008." It is the official documentary of the Beijing Olympics. The lead director of that film was there for the first US screening last night. She was very nice and very tired, as she came straight from the airport to the festival. It was quite interesting to hear how she had made the film and how long it took them to get all the footage. She described how they took 400 hours of footage to get 1 1/2 hours of film.
Monday I will interpret for the associate dean of the Chinese School of Film and Animation Academy as he discusses a film called "Invisible Wings."
Beginning on Tuesday the Asian Studies grad students will lead cultural studies discussions of the afternoon films for the last three days of the festival.
And then there will be mid-terms...
One of the professors on my thesis committee sent back my third chapter with suggestions for major structural revisions. She likes my analyses, but she thinks I need to cut and paste. My thesis committee chair liked the idea so much that she wants me to go back and reapply it to the entire thesis. But because we are now intensively working on perfecting the research paper that we will present in Singapore and Hawaii (we got accepted there, too), I have a major time crunch. Long story short: I will take the time I need to do all things well. And I will not graduate in May 2011. That is actually a good thing because I was not sure how I was going to get all the writing and classwork done as well as retaking the GRE during mid-terms and applying for PhD programs during finals. Now I can take things just two or three at a time instead of seven or eight at a time.
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