Public Lectures 2008

Grand Prize 2008: Ann HUI

Feminine Flexibility Crosses Borders
September 13, 2008 (13:30-16:35)
ACROS Fukuoka
Kenji Ishizaka (Winds of Asia Programming Director, Tokyo International Film Festival)
Nobuko Takagi (Writer)

‘The Worlds of Film and Literature’ was a discussion between the Grand Prize winner, Ann Hui and a novelist, Ms. Nobuko Takagi. As each commented on the other’s world, they found many points in common, to the audience’s fascination.

Part I  Ann Hui × Nobuko Takagi

Ishizaka: Ms. Ann Hui, many congratulations. You and Ms. Takagi belong to the same generation. We are happy to hear you talk in Fukuoka.

Takagi: To understand Ann Hui, the best way is to watch her masterpiece, ‘Song of the Exile’. It’s about a mother and daughter’s tense relationship. After World War II, a Japanese woman living in China couldn’t return home, married a Chinese, and then had a daughter. This mother and her daughter visited Beppu to meet their Japanese family. During this trip, the daughter began to understand her mother’s hardships and loneliness as a foreigner in China. The film is set in Kyushu, and it’s full of accurate depictions of human issues like nation, race, cultural differences and mother/daughter relationships.  I felt some irresistible force coming from Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Macao and Japan which appeared in the film. Were you aware of such a force while making the film?

HuiI: I made it 20 years ago when I was much interested in stories based on human relationships. During the discussion with the scriptwriter, I felt an urge to make a film about Hong Kong and Japan, incorporating a parent/child relationship. So first, I decided to show the contrast between these two places, and then wanted to embody the aura of the places and the emotions of their peoples.

Takagi: I live in Fukuoka. But I cannot develop a story based here, because I know too much of the city. It’s easier for me to construct stories, if I detach myself from my own actual environment. How about you?

HuiI: Yes, I’m the same. But recently the settings of my films have come back to Hong Kong. Because it has changed so much since I started my career 30 years ago. I am interested in what sort of changes have occurred, and am eager to show these to people in Hong Kong.

Ishizaka:  In Japan, a Chinese writer won the Akutagawa Award recently. It was symbolic in terms of awarding a writer who writes in Japanese, unrelated to his/her nationality. What do you think about such a trend, Ms. Takagi?

Takagi: It was indeed a landmark event that ‘A Morning when Time Blurs’, written in Japanese by Yang Yi, who grew up in China, got the Akutagawa Award. I think women are more flexible in accepting differences like this. To integrate the different sensibilities between one country and another, I think that female sensitivity is vital.

HuiI: I agree. And I hope that ‘The Postmodern Life of My Aunt’, which you are about to see, will illustrate this and much else.

Part II  Film Screening: The Postmodern Life of My Aunt

Hui: This film was based on a true story. It has a strange story line, neither a comedy nor a tragedy, which brought us difficulties and anxiety while shooting. However a positive review in Hong Kong, stressing its cross-genre approach and effective presentation of Hong Kong’s current problems and reality, made me happy. I learnt from this film that moving forward while in a state of anxiety presents challenges, but can produce good results. (Applause)

"The Postmodern Life of My Aunt"
  (2007; 110 mins.)
Awards: Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress
Director: Ann HUI
Cast: Gaowa SIQIN, Yun Fat CHOW

Academic Prize 2008: Savitri GOONESEKERE

From the Heart of Asia, on International Understanding of Human Rights
September  14 (16:00-18:00 pm)
ACROS Fukuoka
Hiroshi Nakamura (Research fellow, Ryukoku Univ.)
Chikako Taya (Professor, Hosei Univ.)
Monte Cassim (President, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific Univ.)

Prof. Savitri Goonesekere gave a lecture entitled ‘Asian Values and Human Rights’ followed by an animated panel discussion with Prof. Taya, Hosei Univ. and Dr. Cassim, the President of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific Univ., chaired by Dr. Nakamura, Ryukoku Univ.


but has incorporated Asian views and experiences

As the Bangkok Declaration on Human Rights (1993) reveals, some Asian countries are critical of ‘universal human rights’, emphasizing instead that Asia has its own values. They have seen the Eurocentric concept of human rights as invasive, and are concerned that it might be used to interfere in their internal affairs.

From my own work experience, I believe that human rights are extremely important. Everyone should have the right to be protected from conflicts, from abuse of power, from exploitation and oppression. Everyone has the right to live in a peaceful society, free from violence and conflict.

The human rights concept was born from Western civil liberties, but it has changed much thanks to the ‘indivisibility of rights’. We now think that rights of groups like the handicapped, the elderly and children are also important. So are individual civil liberties. Recent treaties, for example, concerning women, children, the elderly, and the handicapped, have incorporated both civil liberties and basic needs like education and health. With the passage of time, the importance of families has been recognized. Communities, and the rights of communities have also been recognized, and the value of care and respect in relationships has been acknowledged. For example, responsibility to children means that they must be brought up in a good environment to become good citizens. If they suffer from abuse and violence, the state has a responsibility to intervene. Thus many Asian countries, including Japan, have enacted laws for preventing domestic violence and child abuse. The purpose of these laws is states’ intervention, if necessary.

Think about South Asia. Some states, such as India, have achieved outstanding economic growth. But the states are also responsible for ensuring education and health care, and therefore they are culpable if they fail to do this. Non-state actors like private companies also have responsibilities, although in different spheres. In the context of Western tradition, the prevention of human rights abuse was regarded as exclusively a state responsibility. But recently it is understood that non-state actors are also accountable in regard to human rights.

International human rights have developed very much from their roots in merely Eurocentric liberalism. Asia and other areas of the world have contributed considerably to this progress by expressing their ideas at both national and international levels. Asian views have helped broaden the original concept of human rights in many areas, especially in the interpretation of human rights, in children’s rights, in women’s rights, in the definition of equality, discrimination, abuse, and oppression, in both constitutional and case law. As the connotations of human rights grow more extensive, they eventually become international standards to be adopted by individual countries.

Panel Discussion

Nakamura: In Prof. Savitri’s talk, I felt her sadness about the current social and political conditions of Sri Lanka, but also her hope of overcoming these. When she spoke about ‘Asian values’, I was thinking that behind these there must be a broader history of struggling peoples, not only in Asia but also other regions such as Africa.

Taya: Changes are occurring not only in the concept of human rights but also tradition, religion and communities. I think it important for Asia to stop using ‘tradition’ as an excuse for maintaining discrimination and to accept the Western idea of human rights, so that human rights can evolve in such a way that Asia can contribute to an international standard, and that a shared understanding of human rights can connect Asia and Europe.

Cassim: For humans to live together in a society, the power of ‘rules’ like laws and the power of ‘gatherings’ of people to find a way to respond to the changing reality, must go together. I think the same thing can be said about human rights. When the existing ‘rules’ reach a deadlock, gatherings’ push the society. To make this possible, the media must be protected to guarantee freedom of speech and education must be available to foster a sense of society and of individual conscience.

Academic Prize 2008: Shamsul Amri Baharuddin

Many Ethnicities, Many Cultures, One Nation: the Malaysian Experience
September 14, 2008 (13:30-15:30)
ACROS Fukuoka
Akira Suehiro (Professor, Institute of Social Science, Univ. of Tokyo)
Takashi Torii (Professor, School of Commerce, Meiji Univ.)
Hiromu Shimizu (Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto Univ.)
Ryo Onoyama (Secretariat, Fukuoka NGO Network)

Prof. Shamsul gave a lecture entitled ‘Many Ethnicities, Many Cultures, One Nation: the Malaysian Experience’, followed by a panel discussion with specialists working on multiethnic countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka. They presented interesting case studies and opinions, and the audience asked many questions, showing their deep interest in this issue.

Keynote Speech: Shamsul Amri Baharudin

Malaisian diversity enriches people’s experience

Malaysia is one nation, but has many ethnicities and many cultures. Its population includes 50% natives Malay, 23% Chinese, 7% Indians; and 7% others (including Siamese, Eurasians, and Pakistanis). In religion, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism coexist, and there are also Confucianism, Taoism and shamanism, and various other religious beliefs from China. The languages spoken are equally diverse, and include Malay, English, Mandarin, Tamil, Iban and Kazatan in Borneo, and more than 200 local languages.

These facts show Malaysia’s incredibly rich diversity. The provocative question, ‘Is diversity advantageous or disadvantageous to Malaysia?’ has often been asked by scholars across the world. My answer is, ‘Malaysian diversity enriches people’s experience.’

Malaysian people understand that everyone is different, and that their tastes and objectives also differ. But how can we deal with differences based on real diversity? Diversity as such is fine, but it should be controlled somehow. Otherwise our nation might become dangerously explosive. But I think we can handle difference and diversity in various ways.

In future, it will be good for Malaysia to have a two-party system because this will provide a watchdog and help maintain a good balance. To survive as a nation, Malaysians must continue on negotiating at every level in society to ensure that each culture is recognized by the others. This is vital, and certainly has been very effective.

Panel Discussion

Suehiro: People from diverse ethnicities and cultures, not just the ‘Malays’, constitute the nation of Malaysia. The nation respects each different culture, but all belong to one nation and one nationality. It could be said that Malaysia is making an unprecedented experiment.

Torii: I think there are four reasons why the multiethnic country of Malaysia is a model of management. They are, the rules between ethnicities defined by the Constitution, a well-functioning political system, sustainable economic growth, and the living memory of ethnic conflicts, which was mentioned in the last part of Prof. Shamsul’s speech as a psychological factor.

Shimizu: Sabah in east Malaysia is more advanced in ethnic coexistence than the peninsula. As Prof. Shamsul said, cultural and ethnical diversity, being different, is important. I think Japan can learn a lot from Malaysia, because its society is moving toward multiethnicity as international marriage increases and more foreign workers arrive.

Onoyama: Sri Lanka, like Malaysia, is a multiethnic country, but unlike Malaysia, is sadly in the middle of conflict. I hope that the violence will stop and that dialogue and justice will prevail. Meanwhile local empowerment, and protection of civil rights and minority rights, should be pursued. We, members of Japanese civil society must hope that Sri Lanka will find peace and social enrichment like Malaysia, and we must do what we can to support the cause.

Arts and Culture Prize 2008: Farida Parveen

An Evening with ‘Baul Songs’ (UNESCO Intangible Heritage)
September 13, 2008 (17:00-19:00)
IMS Hall
Tomoaki Fujii (Director, International Institute for Culture)
Farida Parveen (vocals, harmonium)
Gazi Abdul Hakim (bansuri)
Shake Jalal (dotara)
Debendra Nath (tabla)
Reza Babu (dhol)

With her ‘Baul Songs’, Farida Parveen’s powerful voice and the soft sounds of her harmoniam held the audience spellbound, accompanied by four musicians playing traditional instruments. 7 pieces of music were played and the coordinator, Tomoaki Fujii gave a commentary, interviewed Farida, and introduced the band members and their instruments.

Spreading love of mankind through Lalon songs

The more I know the songs of Lalon and try to understand his philosophy, the more new realizations have been born inside me. Now I believe simplicity is the real expression of humanity. Absolute freedom and happiness of human being lie in leading a simple and easy lifestyle. Now I do not consider myself just as a singer of Lalon songs but also a researcher and campaigner of Lalon. In this world of increasing wars and clashes I am trying to foster and spread the message of brotherhood and humanity among the people through the songs of Lalon.

Spreading love of mankind through Lalon songs

The more I know the songs of Lalon and try to understand his philosophy, the more new realizations have been born inside me. Now I believe simplicity is the real expression of humanity. Absolute freedom and happiness of human being lie in leading a simple and easy lifestyle. Now I do not consider myself just as a singer of Lalon songs but also a researcher and campaigner of Lalon. In this world of increasing wars and clashes I am trying to foster and spread the message of brotherhood and humanity among the people through the songs of Lalon.

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