The Fox Journal

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Multicultural film series shows at Fox

By Valerie Hilkert

Deepa Mehta's Earth debuts at UW-Fox in connection with the N.E.W. World Cinema series sponsored by the Fox Cities Multicultural Rotary Club in room 1338 on Sept. 16.

photo courtesy of IMDB
Deepa Mehta's Earth debuts at
UW-Fox in connection with the
N.E.W. World Cinema series sponsored by
the Fox Cities Multicultural Rotary Club in room
1338 on Sept. 16.

The N.E.W. World Cinema Series, in affiliation with the Fox Cities Rotary Multicultural Center premiered the movie Earth by director Deepa Mehta, at UW-Fox in room 1338 Sept. 16.

Earth was one of 12 films selected each year by the group's committee.

The group's mission is to educate people about different cultures in the world with help from the N.E.W. World Cinema Series. It's a program designed to celebrate diversity, reach out to people, and make them more aware of the way things are done in different cultures.

"N.E.W. World Cinema brings films from all over the world to Northeast Wisconsin... experiencing films from cultures different from our own is a profound step in understanding and appreciating the growing diversity of the Fox Cities," board member Badri Varma said.

UW-Fox has played 42 of the organization's movies. The N.E.W. World Cinema is thankful for the support of campus executive officer (CEO) and dean Martin Rudd.

Earth (India, 1998) is based on the novel "Cracking India" by Bapsi Sidhwa, who hails from Pakistan. The film was scheduled as a lead-in for the South Asia Writers conference at UW-Fox Sept. 22., one week after its premiere.

30 people attended the premiere of Earth. Some viewers had previously read Sidhwa's novel, others had not.

"The movie was pretty true to the book... both have their advantages and disadvantages, but the movie brings it to life," board member Sandhya Sridhar said.

The focal point of Sidhwa's novel and film is a reflection of her experiences in 1947, when the partition of the subcontinent and the borderlines between India and Pakistan were drawn.

The movie takes place in Lahore, Pakistan in 1947. The main character is the young, innocent Lenny-baby, who witnesses her caregiver, Shanta-Bibi, caught between the love of two Muslim men, as well as the rising tide of political and religious violence.

Like Sidhwa, Lenny-baby is a Parsi, a follower of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster.

Major themes in Earth include Indian beauty, music, romance, and interreligious tensions, as well as the love of family and friends of different origins.

"[The film portrays] a harmonious group that began to really inflect pain on one another in the same way that it was playing out in the streets," board member Jim Bork said.

Audience members participated in a movie discussion following the premiere of Earth. Symbolism was one of the favored characteristics of the film.

"Certainly music is an important part of most Indian movies, but I don't recall it telling a story as much as it in words of the songs of this particular crowd," board member Jim Bork said.

Viewers also enjoyed the historical aspects of Earth.

"Honestly, I was just telling my husband, I want to go home and study the history a little bit more. I wish I would have come with more of a knowledge," audience member Michelle Bork said.

The interpersonal relationship between Lenny-baby and Shanta-Bibi left an impression on audience members as well.

"The biggest question it left me with was how they could be so happy and so peaceful and living together in honesty, and then so quickly change," Bork said.

"It became so negative, so fast that the man who loved her betrayed her."

Varma has memories of this time in history, when he was eight years old. Regardless of his Hindu origin, the 8 percent of Muslims living in his hometown of Aligarh, India tried protecting him.

Sridhar, who came to the United States in the 1980s, does not think India can be a unified country again, like many others believe and hope for.

"I don't think it's possible, when people start talking about religion they get very emotional, they sometimes forget their rationality," Sridhar said.

Many audience members agreed that people's intolerance of different cultures remains unchanged.

"When I still see wars being fought and young people dying in Iraq, I wonder about whether we are getting better or not," Sridhar said.

They discussed the assault on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc. on Aug. 5. The alleged attacker thought the Sikhs were Muslim, a religious group who have been the target of many hate crimes.

"That kind of stuff doesn't change, even though it seems so senseless," Michelle Bork said.

Earth is just the start of this year's 19-movie series. One film is played each month, and all are open for public viewing. Show times are Sundays at 2 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. For more information, contact the Fox Cities Multicultural Center at (920) 968-6328.

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