Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jason goes to Asianfest--Day 5

Here's a refrain I'll be writing all this week--"Two more movies last night."

In this case, the two movies were two excellent and very different documentaries, starting with the Korean War short-ish (official running time is listed as 37 minutes) documentary MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN WAR. 2013 is the 60th anniversary of the armistice that "ended" the Korean War (and with current events, who knows how much longer it will last.) So this timely documentary is a sobering account of how we actually got here. I learned more about the history of Korean war in the first few minutes of this documentary than...well, I guess I've never really spent much time studying the Korean War, but I learned a lot more than what is in the general culture.... There's more good information in here than in all of M*A*S*H (both the movie and the TV series.) Like, the exact dynamics of the post WWII U.S. vs. Soviet Union power struggle/proxy war on the peninsula. Or how arbitrary the 38th parallel was. Or how the cease fire suddenly put cities and towns that were on one side of the 38th parallel on the other side of North/South divide (e.g., Kaesong) and how that split up families where members ended up on different sides of the DMZ. This history lesson is told a little bit by historians and academics, but far more by survivors, and especially by survivors who emigrated to America and still carry the damage from their torn country with them.

Chief among them was Grandma Kim, a feisty but life-loving old woman who was there for the Q&A and totally owned that room. The poor translator tried to keep up as she exhorted us all in Korean to live and love life, and to not just laugh a little but enjoy big belly-laughs at life.

Then we were treated to mini concert of by the drumming group Jamaesori and singer/rapper Skim. That was pretty damn cool. If I had stayed, I also could've taken a picture in the interactive photo booth set up by HOBAK, but alas I had to run off to my second film of the night.

And that was another documentary, but a much more playful and cheerful (pun intended) one, THE CHEER AMBASSADORS. It's the story of the team from Bangkok University who took the world of International Cheerleading by storm. Starting with just some goofy, energetic kids from Thailand who loved to stay up all night to watch cheerleading on cable TV (where it came on--sometimes--at 4 am. Sometimes it was scheduled and didn't come on at all.) The high school competitions were already pretty popular, but these kids took it to the next level and went from relative unknowns to getting the whole audience (including competing teams) to cheer "Bangkok! Thailand!" in Orlando. And they did this with very sparse facilities, with incredible drive and dedication (their captain actually has a seizure from the stress of it all), with dreams (the poor country girl who couldn't afford college without a cheerleading scholarship and goes on to be a champion...awesome!), and most of all with a sense of style, pageantry, and cheer that other teams can't match. One of my favorite parts was when an official explains how other teams might have the technical skill, but only Thailand looks like they're really having fun out there. I normally wouldn't be that interested in competitive cheerleading (which still seems pretty silly to me) but these characters and their journey was more than interesting, it was exhilarating.

Total Running Time: 132 minutes
My Total Minutes: 322,329
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