March 2012 Archives

"Last Train Home" shows largest human migration

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last-train-home-movie.jpg(Photo Courtesy of Chino Kino)

The Office of International Education at IUP will screen "Last Train Home," as part of its Foreign Film and Music Series, on Sunday, April 1, at 5:30 p.m. in Sprowls Hall's McVitty Auditorium.

"Last Train Home" is Chinese-Canadian Lixin Fan's attempt to document a mass exodus of thousands of Chinese migrant workers to their home villages during the Chinese New Year. The project is a result of an extensive project begun by Fan, who follows a couple during their trek to their village.

According to EyeSteelFilm, the production company that supported the film, "Last Train Home" focuses heavily on the couple's teenage daughter, who resents her parents for leaving her behind in the village years ago to work in an unnamed city.

While "Last Train Home" seems to focus more on the industrial aspects of China, it's essential to understand a little bit of what present-day China has become.

Four years after the release of this film, China has managed to remain one of the top industrial countries in the world. However, it is a country of oppression, with its Communist government maintaining a tight control on its citizens. According to a report by Freedom House, a website dedicated to reporting on every country's freedom of the press, China currently does not allow its citizens to exercise freedom of press. In the simplest terms, Chinese citizens are unable to write, publish and- most likely- speak out against the Chinese government and its practices.

As of this entry, The BBC has reported that arrests have been made against Chinese journalists who stated that military vehicles were allegedly congregating on the streets of Beijing.

"Last Train Home" was well-received by many critics, including American journalist Roger Ebert, who gave the film four out of four stars. According to the IUP page regarding Last Train Home's screening, prior to the film, there will be a musician playing a Chinese bowed instrument. The film will then be shown in its original language, Mandarin-Chinese, accompanied by English subtitles.

"Upaj" Provides Glimpse at Dancers' Trip to India

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Chitresh Das and Jason Samuels Smith performing on stage in Fast Feed India Jazz Suites.jpg

(India Jazz Suites, From Left: Pandit Chitresh Das, Jason Samuels Smit; Courtesy of

Snippets of India Jazz Suites' documentary "Upaj: Improvise" was shown to audiences at 7 PM on Wednesday, March 21st in Eberly Auditorium at IUP, as part of the Ideas and Issues Series

This particular Ideas and Issues series commenced with an opening speech from Lively Arts director Hank Knerr, who briefly explained the origins of the India Jazz Suites before announcing a Question and Answer (Q&A) session and reception after the film. Since "Upaj: Improvise" was still in its editing stages, the audience was notified that they would be viewing a copy of the film that had not been finalized.

The documentary showcased the India Jazz Suites, a dance team who combines Eastern and Western dance. The two-man team is comprised of Indian kathak dancer Pandit Chitresh Das, 68, and Emmy Award-winning tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith, 32. Kathak is a classical Indian dance which tends to tell a story through dance.

India Jazz Suites was conceived at a 2004 American Dance Festival in North Carolina, an annual festival which features over a dozen dance companies. The two men met by chance and decided to collaborate; luckily, Smith and Das were able to collaborate so easily given that Smith resided in Los Angeles and Das in San Francisco. Their union and fame grew as the pair began performing across the nation; this past year, they even managed to take a month-long trip to India. This trip was featured heavily in "Upaj: Improvise."

The film showed the dancers traveling throughout India, showing Smith's culture shock as he witnessed the extremely different culture in India. As Smith would later explain, his biggest shock in the film seemed to come within minutes of its start, when he experienced the traffic situation in India. 

The film also showed India Jazz Suites visiting different locations, such as a Mumbai television show and a college in India. Mumbai is the center of Bollywood, India's version of Hollywood, and the show featured a variety of subjects in Indian pop culture.

Also discussed was Das' inspiration for dancing, his guru- to put it in simpler terms, a spiritual teacher. In India, gurus are revered for their knowledge; for Das, however, his inspiration came after the tragic death of his guru. In the film, Das shared with the audience the tale of how his guru was thrown onto iron spikes and killed. Losing someone of such importance to him inspired Das to begin dancing and led him on a lifelong path full of dance.


(Photo Courtesy of Kristen Gilmartin; From Left: Pandit Chitresh Das, Jason Samuels Smith)

During the Q&A, Smith elaborated upon his experience with traffic, describing it as hectic and seemingly dangerous. He explained how a person may make a U-turn in the middle of the street and traffic is expected to simply go along with it. There is no signalling, yet Indians merely adjust. Despite the likelihood of these traffic methods resulting in an accident in America, Smith said, he had witnessed no accidents during his month-long stay.

The Q&A session also featured an anecdote from Das about an experience that shocked Smith during his stay. The two had experiences with both the wealthy and the less-fortunate of India. First, India Jazz Suites had performed during a wedding before rich diamond merchants; later, they had been around prostitutes, who would sometimes service their customers before children. It was the latter group that Das and Smith had taught to dance.

The "Upaj: Improvise" documentary and follow-up Q&A managed to show a side of India not typically witnessed in contemporary cinema. The interaction between the audience, Das and Smith further enhanced the experience by sharing personal stories about themselves and their trip to India. India Jazz Suites later performed in IUP's Fisher Auditorium on March 23rd at 8 PM.

Film Festival Documents Life Abroad

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The Foreign Film and Music Series kicked off Sunday, February 19th, with a film from Senegal, Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love. Youssou N'Dour tells the story of a Senegalese pop musician, Youssou N'Dour, who has collaborated with such legendary artists as Bono and Peter Gabriel.
(Courtesy of Jamhuriwear Blog)

The Foreign Film and Music Series is held each spring semester and features an array of films from foreign countries. The films are chosen and shown to audiences in Sprowls Hall's McVitty Auditorium each Sunday night between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. The films are shown in their original language accompanied by English subtitles.

Spring 2012's selections include:
  • The Paranoids, a Spanish film following the life of a fictional screenwriter in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was shown on March 4.
(Courtesy of
  • Kisses, an Irish film about two troubled teens exploring Dublin, which will be shown on March 18.
kisses poster.jpg
(Courtesy of Punch Drunk Critics)
  • Last Train Home, a Chinese film which aims to show the fictional homecoming of migrant workers in the country; this film will premiere on April 1.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)
  • Mid-August Lunch, an unusual Italian flick that shows a reclusive man's relationship with his mother; this will be shown April 15.
(Courtesy of

  • Terribly Happy, a film about a police officer in Copenhagen, Denmark, who relocates after suffering from a nervous breakdown; the final film in the series, which will be shown on April 29.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia)

The film festival is organized by the Office of International Education; according to the Foreign Film and Music Series page, the festival has been held regularly for the past fifteen years.

The festival is a great contribution to the campus, as it allows students an opportunity to view films that tend to go unnoticed in America. What makes the event so particularly admirable, however, is that the films show life in other countries from the point of view of those who live and work in those nations. The fact that this event has also been held each year for the past 15 years also happens to be a quite impressive feat: it proves there is an active attempt by IUP itself to integrate foreign culture into the university.

The Sherwin Series: An Exploration in Nomadic Lifestyle

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The Sherwin Series exhibit, by artist Joelle Dietrick, has been on display at IUP's Kipp Gallery for nearly a month. According to Dietrick's official website, the artist hails from Pennsylvania, and graduated from Penn State in 1996. She has gone on to create an impressive repertoire of artwork, including The Sherwin Series.

Dietrick's website also states that The Sherwin Series features "a group of paintings, prints and animations that remix foreclosed homes and Sherwin-Williams 2007 Color Forecast paints. Sherwin-Williams chose the colors during the height of the housing bubble before the foreclosure epidemic began."

An intriguing exhibit delving into the lives of female nomads, "The Sherwin Series" utilizes an array of color and shapes to illustrate their trials through abstract art.

Life as a nomad is one of the most difficult and misunderstood lifestyles a person can choose. Nomads are constantly on the move, traveling the world and very rarely stopping for long amounts of time. The beauty of this way of life, however, is the opportunity to see the world and experience cultures unlike any you may have encountered before.

The flip side to being a nomad, however, is that you don't have any sort of citizenship. You are, quite literally, a person without a country to call "home." This can result in all sorts of difficulties, especially considering that most job applications require you to list if you're a citizen. If you're not, the next question is typically "what country are you from?" An expatriate is unable to provide an answer to this.

The other issue for an expatriate is a home to call their own. As they're frequently on the move, they're often overcome with a desire to have a home, as many people do. However, their desire for travel tends to overpower their desire for a home and, again, they're on the move.

Joelle Dietrick's exhibit hopes to shed a little light on this issue through art.


The exhibit featured a total of 32 different paintings, 28 of which were combined into four different groups.

The first painting I noticed was "Untitled." A spiraling mass of crimson, it appeared as though it were a set of stairs- perhaps symbolic of the uphill struggle for women to succeed as nomads in the world.

The second work, "Sherwin's Balance Living," appeared as a presentation of serenity with pastel yellows, blues, greens and greys. Standing at a slight distance, one could nearly visualize a globe out of the colorful shards.

"Sherwin's Kinetic Contrasts 21," although presented differently on the website, seemed to document a neighborhood besieged by flames.

Overall, the exhibit featured paintings with a very earthy theme. Shades of brown and green often appeared throughout the paintings, perhaps representing a nomad's traversing of earth.

Joelle Dietrick's "The Sherwin Series" in itself was a global project. The exhibition itinerary states that the exhibit material was "conceived in Salzburg [a city in Austria], created in Florida and Pennsylvania, and animated in Berlin."
(Courtesy of

With architectural beauties like this, it's not difficult to see how an artist can become inspired.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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