DocuAsia Forum is an annual film event in Metro Vancouver focusing on sensitive and relevant social issues concerning contemporary Asia. By bringing together filmmakers, artists, academics, community representatives, and the general public, DocuAsia provides a platform for informed dialogue concerning the current cultural and economic development in Asia, and global implications for the future.
DocuAsia Forum tells stories about Asia in ways that brief news clips and often-polarized popular commentary simply cannot. Discussion in public spaces, initiated through interaction with thoughtful independent documentary film, provides a powerful opportunity for substantive reflection and communication that nurtures deeper intercultural understanding through a sense of shared purpose.
Where is ‘Asia’? Where is ‘East’?
What does it mean to be Asian in this globalized era where so many of us carry diasporic identities? In today’s world, is ‘Asian’ a geographic marker, a racial marker, an ethnic marker, a political marker, a cultural marker, or some slippery combination of all of the above? And where exactly is Asia anyway?
For the 6th annual DocuAsia Forum, we boldly turn our lens on Syria, a nation of the Middle East, a.k.a the Near East, a.k.a West Asia, called to action by the urgency of the brutal civil war and the millions of people displaced from their homes.
A combination of documentary film, short films, animations, as well as book presentation, live music and past screening panels, each event offers rare glimpses into the lives of Syrians whose personal narratives speak to the dire conditions that continue to be faced by millions at home and abroad.
Through various cultural mediums we hear the voices of Syrian filmmakers and artists whose very survival and hope depends on self-expression through the arts. As the state of things continues to deteriorate for Syrians everywhere, DocuAsia seeks to open up critical discourse and dialogue on the global implications and the urgency of the Syrian crisis.
Conceiving the Future: Navigating Culture, Gender and Health
The 5th annual DocuAsia Forum was presented in major partnership with the City of Richmond, SFU’s David Lam Centre, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the Vancouver Singapore Film Festival, and focused on the intersection of culture, gender, and health.
The opening film “Mothers” looks at how China’s family planning policy plays out on the ground level in a small village in rural China, where annual sterilization quotas are strictly enforced. “Menstrual Man” tells the story of a man who defied social stigma to bring affordable, disposable sanitary napkins to women in rural India, and empowered them to become small business owners while promoting feminine hygiene.
By turns funny and provocative, these two films open up conversations about the sensitive and often taboo topic of women’s health. It raises important questions about cultural differences in attitudes towards health. We are reminded of challenges within our own healthcare system. At the same time, we are forced to consider the ethics of population control. A mental exercise that is made more complicated by our increasing awareness of the rapidly diminishing supply of natural resources and the heavy toll that human settlements place upon the natural world.
Not for the faint of heart, this year’s DocuAsia Forum continues to challenge audiences by shedding light upon elements of culture that are often hidden from plain sight.
Extremely timely in light of recent backlash against the China-Canada FIPPA agreement and the presence of Chinese miners in Northern BC, the 4th DocuAsia Forum attempts to highlight the human stories behind broader social, political and economic shifts and envision a different kind of globalization – one that would move away from a model of cultural fragmentation to one of mutual understanding through discourse grounded in life and death concerns shared by all of us.
This year’s program features Extraction, a bilingual (English and Mandarin) documentary-style play by Theatre Conspiracy. Extraction, winner of the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award, delves deep into the heart of intertwined cultural phenomena: China’s rise as an economic power and oil extraction in Alberta by mining the biographies of non-actor performers.
We have chosen two documentary films, described below, as companion pieces to Extraction. We hope these films would inspire discussion about what seems to be an emerging narrative containing conflicting elements. “Globalization” connotes unity and wholeness regarding economic and cultural forces, while the realities of national and culture-specific perspectives can lend themselves to fragmentation. In the zero-sum race to extract energy resources to feed growing, and in many cases shrinking and unstable economies, the films suggest it is easy to fall into a cultural and national myopia, obscuring a larger question of ecological consequences that unite us in a global web of interdependence.
This year’s DocuAsia program does not confront ecological challenges directly. Rather, it raises questions about the troubling broader context of inter-cultural and inter-national miscommunication and the kind of impatience and aggression this so often yields.