SAN DIEGO — Tonight's free screening of the Brazilian motion picture "Gaijin" is part of a film series that attempts to convey the cultural diversity of Latin America.
"Gaijin" is a story about the cultural shock of Japanese immigrants settling in Brazil at the turn of the century. Made by Brazilian director Tizuka Yamasaki, the film is in Portuguese and Japanese with English subtitles. After Brazil outlawed slavery, thousands of Japanese emigrated there to find wealth in a new land. The movie provides an account of these early Oriental pioneers by tracing the story of one young Japanese woman. Instead of making a fortune, she and her countrymen find that they are isolated and exploited in a strange, unfriendly land where a wealthy few dominate.
Eventually, those Asians learned Portuguese and became assimilated. "Gaijin" will be shown free at 7:30 p.m. in Room 130, Hepner Hall on the San Diego State University campus.
Part of the purpose behind films such as "Gaijin" is to show the breadth of ethnic cultures that are a part of Latin America. "Latin America is not just your 'Mexican-looking' person," said Kirsten Mulvey. "It has a lot more diversity." Mulvey is the administrative coordinator for the SDSU Center for Latin American Studies, which sponsors the film series called "Ventana Latina " or "Latin Window."
"Two years ago, some of us thought that a film series would be a fun way of presenting Latin America and Latin American views," Mulvey said. She and some students rounded up support from a number of campus organizations, particularly the Cultural Arts Board, which along with the center provided most of the funding. She said she thought films would be an approachable avenue to Latin American culture.
In programming films, the center works with other departments such as political science, telecommunications and foreign languages. Films such as "Gaijin" offer students of Portuguese, Spanish and other foreign languages a chance to hear a language spoken in a contemporary context. Not surprisingly, news of the film series has reached high school and community college language students, who regularly attend the screenings.
Normally the movies, which are shown in an auditorium-sized classroom, draw audiences of 150 to 200. Another reason for the high attendance at the films, which are open to the public, is their quality. "A lot of these films are in the category with 'Citizen Kane,' Mulvey said. "They're Latin American classics."
Among those seen previously are Cuban director Humberto Solas' "Lucia" and Armando Robles Godoy's Peruvian classic, "The Green Wall." That 1970 movie is one of the most honored Latin American films of all time.
Upcoming movies include "Alsino and the Condor." Miguel Littin's 1983 tale of a Nicaraguan boy's ride aboard a military helicopter will be screened on March 4. Luis Bunuel's "Viridiana," about a religious woman who starts a refuge for derelicts on her estate, follows on March 18. While she is away, her guests have an orgy and rape the woman upon her return. Both "Alsino" and "Viridiana" are in Spanish with English subtitles.
"How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman," comically uses cannibalism as a metaphor for imperialism. The Nelson Pereira dos Santos 1971 film, which is in French with English subtitles, will be shown April 1.
The final movie of the semester is April 15. Costa-Gavras' "State of Siege" reveals the employment of "special advisers" in this tense and unflattering portrait of the role of the United States in Latin America.
"We try to give a broad spectrum and not cover one area," Mulvey said. "Basically, I like to get away from the political side. But you can't do that with a lot of the greater films. It's part and parcel with life in much of Latin America."
She tries to select films that portray a variety of cultures, including the many different Indian tribes, some of which are dying out. "Most Latin American films are from Mexico, Cuba and Brazil. We try to have representatives from a number of countries. So far the film series also has presented movies from Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Chile.
"Ventana Latina" is one of several outreach activities by the center. Another is a program in which senior citizens are given guided tours of Tijuana. The center's program of study, in which bachelor's and master's degree are offered, focuses on the urbanization and modernization of Latin America.
The Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies at UC San Diego, which works in a consortium with the Center for Latin American Studies, also will launch a Latin American film festival this spring. Motion pictures such as the Cuban "Sugarcane Alley, " "Erendia," a movie adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude," and a reassemblage of Sergei Eisenstein's "Que Viva Mexico" will be among the films shown at UCSD beginning April 18.