Amoeblog

Scimitars and Sand Dunes - Rethinking the Middle East, Arabs and Islam

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2009 10:41pm | Post a Comment
With President Obama's recent address at the University of Cairo, there has been a veritable sandstorm of media discussion about the Middle East, the Arab world and the Islamic world; three concepts lazily interchanged in the American mainstream media (including the supposedly smarter public radio). Despite some overlap, the indiscriminate use of the terms, both out of ignorance and deliberately,  minimizes substantial heterogeneity and differences -- to the detriment of our understanding of reality, and as a result contributing to the undermining and hindering of attempts at peace in the region. While I did find the president's speech fairly nuanced, intelligent and inspirational, until substantial actions reflect those attractive words, they offer nothing more than hope.


"Neighbour to the Moon," the legendary Christian Lebanese singer, فيروز.

Today Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners remain some of the last people in the west for whom racism is not only extremely common but also widely accepted, even governmentally endorsed. Merely advocating equality and human rights for Arabs and Muslims is often met with charges of racism and embracing hatred, probably the only people likely to ellicit that response besides Germans. Given this reality, centuries of negative stereotypes and repeated military and political actions that reflect undeniable double standards, it's no wonder that many view the frequent proclamations that "Islam is a beautiful religion" and hands extended in friendship with widespread suspicion at best.

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No sound no tell, Gay Cinema in the silent era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 31, 2009 12:12pm | Post a Comment
Frederic Lord Leighton Flaming June
Frederic Lord Leighton's Flaming June

June, in addition to being Vision Research Month, Fireworks Safety Months, Light the Night for Sight Months, National Candy Month, Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, Cancer in the Sun Month, Dairy Month, National Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Month, National Iced Tea Month, National Pest Control Month, Safety Month, Scleroderma Awareness Month, and Zoo and Aquarium Month, is also Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, first established by Bill Clinton back in '00. Therefore, I may in the coming weeks blog about iced tea or become aware of Scleroderma, but for now I will focus on Gay Cinema.

One of the first things I noticed about gay people's feelings toward Gay Cinema is that they're almost all negative.  Exceptions are usually foreign films, which are almost invariably downers. The first year Amoeba observed Gay and Lesbian Pride month in the movie department in the form of a display, we all had an uncomfortable chuckle about the unfailingly depressing storylines of the films we featured. Films based on the lives and deaths of famous gays like Joe Orton, Brandon Teena, Oscar Wilde and James Whale all ended tragically. And here I thought gay meant happy!

closet

The history of Gay Cinema is quite unlike most minority driven alternatives to Hollywood. Unlike American Asians, blacks, Latinos and Natives -- whose identities have always been fairly obvious (except in cases of passing) -- gays have always had the option of remaining invisilble. Therefore, gays were never required to sit in the back of the bus, attend special schools or live in segregated neighborhoods. In the silent film industry, most gay actors understandably chose to hide their identitites. Though there are few overt representations of homosexuality in silent films -- mostly in European films -- most are merely hinted at. More importantly, however, the contributions of gays both in front of and behind the camera are many and noteworthy.

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Asian-American Cinema Part IX - the 2000s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 27, 2009 04:00pm | Post a Comment
The ninth of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera

INTRODUCTION TO ASIAN-AMERICAN CINEMA


The first efforts to combat negative racial stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans in film began in the silent era, when a few empowered figures attempted to create an alternative Asian-American Silent Cinema. After their efforts faltered, Hollywood provided most cinematic images of Asians in the '30s, 40s, 50s, and '60s. With the birth of Asian-American theater, Asian-American cinema was revived in the 1970s and began to take off as a viable independent cinema in the 1980s. By the '90s, the scope of Asian-American Cinema broadened considerably, a trend that continued in the 2000s.

APAMERICA IN THE 2000s
In the 2000s, Asians became the fastest growing racial minority in the county. As of 2006, there were over thirteen million Americans of Asian descent (not counting Native people). Of the top ten languages spoken in American homes (English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Italian and Russian), four are Asian.

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Asian-American Cinema Part VIII - the 1990s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 26, 2009 11:55am | Post a Comment
The eighth of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera


INTRO TO ASIAN-AMERICAN CINEMA

In the silent film era, a few Asian-Americans braved decidedly limited opportunities and even attempted to create a cinematic outlet for their voices. By the dawn of the sound era, Asian-American cinema disappeared and Hollywood once again controlled depictions and roles. In the post-war era, roles for Asian-American actors grew in number, if not diversity. As a result, Asian-American theater arose to fill the void, ultimately leading to the rebirth of an authentic Asian-American Cinema that grew slowly over the next two decades before expanding rapidly in the '90s and continuing in the 2000s.

APA DEMOGRAPHIC MILESTONES IN THE '90s

The 1990s were a time of tremendous growth in the Asian-American population, resulting in a notable demographic milestone when Monterey Park became the first Asian-American majority city on the US mainland. It was soon followed by several others, including Cerritos, Cupertino, Daly City, Milpitas and Rowland Heights in California as well as Millbourne in Pennsylvania.

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Asian-American Cinema Part VII - The 1980s

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 25, 2009 04:16pm | Post a Comment
The seventh of a nine part series on Asian-Americans in front of and behind the camera

 APA GROWTH IN THE '80S

In the 1980s, the Asian-American population grew radically, with over 2.5 million immigrants joining the already large, native-born, Asian-American population. Nonetheless, Asian-Americans continued to be disproportionately underrepresented on the silver screen.

APA THEATER IN THE '80S

On the stage, David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly was the first Asian-American play to appear on Broadway. Other successful Asian playwrights followed, including Philip Kan Gotanda and Velina Hasu Houston. New APA theaters were founded too, including Cold Tofu Arts and Entertainment/Theatre inLos AngelesNew York's Ma-Yi Theater Company and National Asian American Theatre Company, and the Asian Story Theater in San Diego.

ASIAN HOLLYWOOD IN THE '80S

Whilst in Hollywood most Asian males were invariably cast as fortune-cookie mystics and ninjas, a new stereotype emerged for younger Asian males; the studious, awkward and almost always heavily-accented Asian nerd (e.g. Long Duck Dong, Data WangToshiro TakashiVinh Kelly, &c). One notable exception to the young Asian nerd stereotype in Hollywood is Dustin Nguyen as Harry Truman Ioki on 21 Jump Street. In 1987, Pat Morita stars on the TV show Ohara, the third series with an Asian lead.

APA CINEMA IN THE '80S

Asian American media arts organizations including Los Angeles' Visual Communications and New York's Asian CineVision began producing Asian American works.

 
                                  Wayne Wang                                                                               Steve Okazaki

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