Orienting Paradise: Western Projections of the East

  • April 8, 2022 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM | Friday
  • Oldham Theatre
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Orienting Paradise examines the ways Western filmmakers have projected their desires and anxieties onto Asia. In response to the “Mapping the World: Perspectives from Asian Cartography” exhibition at the National Library, this programme of nine films, many of which are considered canonical, including musicals, travelogues, psychological dramas and historical epics, frames cinema as a cartographic act shaped to different degrees by transnational desires, orientalist attitudes, and forms of Western imperialism.  While the map aims to be a spatial representation of reality based on claims to scientific rationalism, the cartographic film is charged with seductive visions of the so-called ‘other’ through narratives of adventure, discovery and moral panic.

Much like early maps, the ‘East’ is a simulation that exists for and within the Western filmmaker’s imaginative cartography, varying in its desire to capture spatial realities. While some traversed across the continent, such as in Chris Marker’s meditative travelogues, and Jean Renoir’s The River shot on location in Bengal, others fabricated a ‘paradisal’ Asia in studios in the West, for instance in the fictional Mopu of Black Narcissus and the Thai courts of The King and I. Within these simulacrums constructed through ornate mise-en-scène, characters uphold binaries supporting the positional superiority of the West against the East—of noble and savage, virgin and whore, modern and traditional. These narratives become trapped within its dialectics, creating fractal images of conflict, hysteria and horror where the boundaries of self and other are blurred.

Through the films, the idea of the Orient as a passive mirror that reflects and completes the Western conception of self reveals itself as inherently illusory. Instead, the narratives and images evoke a mise-en-abyme, an infinite mirroring where meaning becomes increasingly fragmented. Orienting Paradise provides a space to examine the tropes that contribute to this illusion of dichotomy, presenting possibilities to rethink the relationship between image and spectator. Across paradisal landscapes of the lush tropics and rugged highlands, the camera’s gaze does not only map, but negotiates, mediates and manipulates.

– Natalie Khoo, Programming and Outreach Executive

Orienting Paradise: Western Projections of the East will run from 8 – 29 April 2022 at Oldham Theatre.


Shanghai Express (1932), dir. Josef von Sternberg, USA
Black Narcissus (1947), dir. Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, UK
Lawrence of Arabia (1962), dir. David Lean, UK
The King and I (1956), dir. Walter Lang, USA
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), dir. Alain Resnais, France, Japan
Double Bill: Sunday in Peking (1956) and Sans Soleil (1983), dir. Chris Marker, France
The Last Emperor (1987), dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, UK, China, Italy, France
The River (1951), dir. Jean Renoir, France, UK, USA, India
Disclaimer: This programme features films which include outdated and historically inaccurate depictions, including instances of minstrel shows, yellow and brownface. Rather than deny or erase the colonial apparatuses in film history, these films and their complex legacies should be critically viewed in its original form, contextualised and discussed.

Tickets will go on sale Friday, 25 March 2022.

Oldham Theatre’s opening hours

Friends of AFA members may select the “Friends of AFA” option and enter your membership number if you wish to redeem your remaining complimentary tickets.

For further assistance, please contact us at ticketing@asianfilmarchive.org 

Important Notice:
Measures will be taken to ensure the health and safety of all patrons at Oldham Theatre. This includes wearing a mask at all times for both staff and patrons. From 3 November 2021, an individual is cleared for entry at Oldham Theatre if they fulfill any of the below criteria:
– Fully vaccinated (including the 14 days window after the second dose)
– Recovered from COVID-19 within the last 270 days
– Obtained a negative result on a pre-event test taken in the past 24 hours before the expected end of the event, either by means of ART or PCR testing through an official government approved medical provider
Please present proof of vaccination via the TraceTogether App, HealthHub App, or an official notice recognised by the Singapore government.
Do note that Oldham Theatre does not play ads and screenings will start promptly. Doors will open 20 minutes before showtime. Arrive early to register, find a seat and avoid disrupting screenings. All patrons are encouraged to purchase your tickets online to be able to secure a seat. If you choose to purchase tickets or merchandise at Oldham Theatre’s box office, cashless payment is preferred.

Concession tickets apply to Students (Local & Overseas), Full-time National Servicemen (NSF), Senior Citizens (55 years and above) only.
Please check film ratings before purchase of tickets. Please note that you may be asked to present your ID at the door (this applies to concession tickets as well). Only physical photographic identification is allowed, digital copies of identification are not allowed. AFA reserves the right to turn away any members of the public without physical photographic identification.
Upon confirmation of your order for Tickets, no exchange of Tickets will be made under any circumstances and Tickets are not transferable. No refund on Tickets will be made under any circumstances except due to cancellation of the event. The resale of Tickets at any price is prohibited.