By: Lilly Flewellen, Contributing Writer
Last week Furman hosted the Chinese Environmental Film Festival and Workshop, presented by the Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) and organized by Asian studies professor, Dr. Tami Blumenfield. LIASE is a student task force dedicated to interdisciplinary studies of Asia’s environment, headed by Furman political science and Asian studies professor, Dr. Kaup. This organization was recently granted $50 thousand towards the development of this promising program on Asian environmental studies.
This three day event showcased eight films, each for CLP credit, featuring China’s environmental crisis. As the highest populated country in the world, China’s environmental impact and wellbeing are of utmost importance. Each of the films, produced in collaboration between prominent filmmakers and scholars, highlights such topics as pollution, dams and river management, the changing food culture in China, and a series of visual anthropology and ethnographic films.
Feb. 26, the films were categorized as “Narrating Environmental Challenges.” Feb. 27, the topic was “Resource Transitions: Food, Energy and Livelihoods.” Feb. 28, the program concluded with a filmmaker showcase, “Native Media and Rituals in Southwest China.”
All films were moderated by a designated speaker, with a question and answer session to follow. In addition to Furman students and faculty, filmmakers from Colorado, Emory, Davidson, and Yunnan Province China were in attendance. The final day of the festival also consisted of a workshop where experts and scholars presented critical commentary for the films.
Antonia Giles, a junior at Davidson, presented her first short film compiled on food and sustainability after a summer study abroad program. The topic of her film was “urban new farmers,” focusing on those who have capital in Shanghai but decided to move to the country to grow their own organic food out of mistrust for the food one could purchase in the city’s grocery stores.
“To hear people’s questions and comments has been a learning experience,” said Giles, who hopes to continue her studies on Chinese environmental issues and would like to produce another film in the future.
Dr. Jenny Chio, a professor of anthropology at Emory, presented the film “Peasant Family Happiness” about ethnic tourism villages in China.
“My film, I think, does touch on a lot of the issues that this film festival tried to address about environmental change and environmental protection but also about the debates around what is the nature of this relationship between humans and the environment. Is it different in China, what are some of the China-specific problems that are being dealt with, that are being confronted in the country, and how do we as scholars and students in the United States go about trying to understand those problems?” Chio said.
The great success of this event is further evidence that the LIASE grant is on its way to being a valuable addition to the Furman community.
In partnership with Yunnan Minzu University, in Yunnan province, China, this group plans to initiate an exchange program for students of both schools in order to perform environmental research. Over the next year, a group of Furman professors, both natural sciences and Asian studies experts, will participate in a LIASE Faculty Workshop to develop a curriculum highlighting the challenges and opportunities of China’s environmental situation.
A Summer China Environmental Experience program, hosted by Yunnan Minzu University, is also in the works. Additionally, a May Experience is planned in which Furman and Yunnan Minzu students would be paired to work in the field to further the understanding of the environmental issues facing China.