As part of the Orienting Paradise: Western Projections of the East programme, film and media scholars Olivia Khoo and Sandeep Ray will discuss how Western filmmakers projected their desires and anxieties onto Asia through cinema.
The panel aims to provide context to the films, consisting of musicals, travelogues, psychological dramas and historical epics, which can be understood as part of the colonial apparatus and contain outdated and historically inaccurate depictions of Asia. Rather than ignore or erase these histories, the films and their complex legacies provide opportunities to be critically viewed, contextualised and discussed. What is an ‘Asian’ accent and how was it shaped in these films? How does ‘going native’ trivialise relations of power and inequality? And why the obsession over harems?
Through navigating orientalist tropes within these classic films, this conversation hopes to reveal their distorted myth-making mechanisms while re-orienting us to consider their subversive potentials. By examining what these fantastical cinematic landscapes hide, the discussion aims to illuminate and rethink the illusion of dichotomy —of West against East, native versus savage, camera and subject.
Get tickets and explore the Orienting Paradise programme here.
Screenings at Oldham Theatre run from 8 – 29 April 2022.
Faris Joraimi is a PhD student at NYU. A writer and researcher specialising in the history of the Malay World, he has authored various essays for print and electronic media. He is also co-editor of Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History (Ethos Books, 2021), a volume of essays on Singapore’s decolonial history. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History from Yale-NUS College.
Olivia Khoo is Associate Professor in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. She is the author of Asian Cinema: A Regional View (Edinburgh University Press, 2021) and The Chinese Exotic: Modern Diasporic Femininity (Hong Kong University Press, 2007), which examines new representations of diasporic Chinese femininity emerging from Asia Pacific modernities since the late twentieth century.
Sandeep Ray is a writer, visual artist, and historian. He is the senior lecturer of Southeast Asian history at the Singapore University of Technology and Design where he also heads the Non-fiction Film Lab. With a filmmaking background, he has produced a diverse body of non-fiction films in Kolkata, Java and Greece, among others. His documentaries have been reviewed in the American Anthropologist, screened at festivals including Busan (BIFF), Taiwan (TIDF), Copenhagen (DOX), and exhibited at the Whitney and Getty Museums. He is the author of A Flutter in the Colony (Harper Collins, 2019) and Celluloid Colony (National University of Singapore Press, 2021).