News and Reviews
Educating About Asia Through Film    


Summer 2014    

Issue: #53    


In This Issue
Letter From The Editor
Film Review: Hafu: The Mixed Race Experience in Japan
Film Review: The Mosuo Sisters
Film Review: Somewhere Between
Website: Digital Asia
AsiaLENS Fall 2014 Series
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The Summer 2014 issue of News and Reviews features films that engage the issue of complex individual and cultural identities in an increasingly globalized world.  Hafu addresses the experiences of mixed-race individuals and families in contemporary Japan ("hafu" being the Japanese rendering of the English term "half," a term used to describe the increasing number of Japanese residents with one non-Japanese parent).  The Mosuo Sisters traces the lives of ethnic-minority sisters as they try to make a place for themselves in modern China.  Somewhere Between tells the stories of four girls born in China and adopted into American families.  All explore issues of cultural and ethnic differences, negotiations of identity, and the quest for belonging in contemporary society.

As the incoming editors for News and Reviews, we would like to thank William Londo for his wonderful stewardship of the publication for the past two years, and our reviews and readers for the ongoing support.  We welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.  If you would like to see a specific film reviewed or would like to review it yourself, please do not hesitate to be in touch.


Thank you,

Elizabeth Oyler and Yimin Wang, co-editors


Hafu: The Mixed Race Experience in Japan


Directed by Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi. 2013. 87 minutes. In Japanese and English. Subtitled.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Oyler.


Hafu: the Mixed Race Experience in Japan is an intelligent and insightful exploration of five stories of "hafus" living in Japan.  "Hafu," the Japanese rendering of the English word "half," is a long-standing but debated identity category in Japan, referring to children born to one Japanese parent and one of a different origin.  The term "hafu" gained currency in the waning decades of the twentieth century as the number of mixed-race children growing up in Japan began to skyrocket, and has been used ever since to segregate or to empower the mixed-race individuals it describes.  As the film's concluding image suggests, the number of "hafus" in Japan continues to rise precipitously today, a trend that, as this film illuminates, suggests the importance for better understanding of mixed-race people and families in Japan. 


Filmed in the early years of this decade, Hafu provides, through interviews and footage of their everyday lives, nuanced portraits of people representing the breadth of "hafu" identity and experience. 




The Mosuo Sisters

Directed by Marlo Poras. 2013. 80 minutes. In Mandarin/Mosuo/Tibetan. Subtitled.


Reviewed by Wenrui Chen.

25-year-old Juma and her younger sister Latso come from a Mosuo family, an ethnic minority with a population of only 40,000 residing around Lugu Lake in southwestern China. The sisters had been working in Beijing since 2005, trying an alternative way of life to support their poverty-stricken family. As rural-ethnic-migrant women in urban China today, however, their options were limited and met with mixed fortune. Juma sang in a Mosuo bar and Latso worked there during daytime and enrolled in an accounting class at night. The bar went out of business in 2009 due to the "global economic downturn," according to the bar owner, and led to Juma and Latso's unemployment in the capital city. The Mosuo Sisters by Marlo Poras follows them back to their village in Yunnan and looks closely at the lives of Juma and Latso in the ensuing year and a half, following them as they face the difficult task of reversing their outbound journey. 





Somewhere Between


Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. 2013. 88 minutes. English and Chinese. Subtitled.

Reviewed by Gehui Zhang.


Somewhere Between is a film about seeking: four teenage girls adopted from China seek to reconnect with their birth families and Chinese identities; seek to explore the unknown chapter of their earlier lives before the adoption; and seek to answer the essential, and sometimes difficult, questions shared among many internationally adopted children: "Who am I, and why am I here?" 


Fang (Jenni), Haley, Jenna, and Ann are four Chinese girls adopted by American families at a young age.   Director Linda Goldstein Knowlton closely follows their unusual life journeys as they search for their pre-adoption lives and attempt to re-engage with their Chinese identities.  In front of the camera, these teenage girls describe from their own points of view how they make sense of being adopted Chinese children in American society and how their biological and cultural linkage with China may have impacted the way they connect with others and understand themselves. 




Digital Asia Link

Digitial Asia, a website bringing documentary films on contemporary East Asia to the classroom, has been launched by the Asian Educational Media Service (AEMS). In providing free access to excerpts of scholar made films on Asia, along with downloadable curriculum materials, Digital Asia offers high school and college educators an easy way to incorporate today's issues in Asia as part of their lesson plans. Digital Asia can be found at:  


Digital Asia is funded by the Freeman Foundation of Stowe, VT., New York City and Honolulu and by the IL/IN East Asia National Resource Center funded by U.S. Department of Education Title VI.


AsiaLENS is a series of free public film screenings and lecture / discussion programs -- organized by AEMS in collaboration with the Spurlock Museum and Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities -- presenting recent documentary and independent films on issues reflecting contemporary life in Asia.  Local and visiting experts introduce the films and lead audiences in post-screening discussions.


All AsiaLENS screenings are FREE and open to the public. 
Spurlock Museum, Knight Auditorium, 600 S. Gregory Street, Urbana, IL 

Our upcoming screenings are:

Somewhere Between
A film by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. 2012. 88 minutes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 -7:00 pm
Post-screening discussion with Gehui Zhang (Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology).

Double Feature:
Honor and Sacrifice: The Roy Matsumoto Story 
A film by Don Sellers and Lucy Ostrander, produced by Stourwater Pictures. 2013. 28 minutes.

He defied the Tide of Time
A film by Suzanne Concha Emmrich and Bilderall Emmrich. 2012. 29 minutes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 7:00 pm
Introduction and discussion TBA.

AEMS invites our supporters to make targeted donations to enhance our holdings and public programs. A donation of $30 can be used to purchase a film for the AEMS library. $300 will sponsor an AsiaLENS screening on campus or in the Champaign-Urbana community. $500 will help underwrite a film and curriculum materials in Digital Asia. Donations for specific materials or events will be acknowledged both in News and Reviews and at sponsored events. Thank you for your ongoing support of AEMS.

Follow this link to make an online donation.

You will be directed to the CEAPS Giving page.

After clicking "Continue With Your Donation" you will find a Special Instructions section where you can highlight "yes" under the question "Do you have other instructions for processing your gift?"

A text box will open where you can direct your gift to the following:
AEMS - Asian Educational Media Service Fund -or- Digital Asia Fund

Previous issues of News and Reviews:

Electronic newsletters - September 2010 - Spring 2014

Archived print newsletters - Spring 1998 - Fall 2009

Media Production Group
In addition to hosting film screenings, AEMS also produces and distributes its own materials under the brand name Media Production Group (MPG).  These are short educational videos and DVDs about an aspect of Asian culture suitable for classroom use and accompanied by curriculum. 

AEMS maintains a searchable database of over 6,000 films about Asia, including length, format, distributor and synopsis. 

The AEMS library, through its connection to the Illinois Heartland library system, circulates videos and DVDs locally from its collection of more than 2,000. Search our online catalog here.
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