PREVIEW: U-M Chamber Jazz Ensemble

Jazz illicits an image of a smoky nightclub populated by a gaggle of elderly men in old-fashioned hats; the youth it used to enthral have aged, and have not been replaced by a new generation…or have they? The genre is in a strange place these days–it is somehow both the music of our grandparents and our own; its roots are deep and widespread and fully entangled in the rhythm and blues of both our Ella Fitzgeralds and our Daniel Caesars.

Come listen to the fusion of new and old 8 PM on Monday, November 19 in Stamps Auditorium at the Walgreen Drama Center. Michigan students will be performing both classic jazz hits as well as some of their own creations. There are no tickets, so make sure to come early to guarantee a seat!


PREVIEW: International Studies Horror Film Fest

Halloween is without a doubt the best holiday in the world. It is a time when the horrors of the night, of the darkest parts of the human psyche, are brought into the light to be reveled in.

With Halloween comes horror movies, of course! And while the great US of A has created a treasury of delightful slasher flicks, we are sometimes lacking in variation. Good thing we have the work of other countries to widen the palate!

Join me at the Hatcher Graduate Library’s Gallery Room from 11 am-6 pm on Halloween (if you’re not too scared). It’s free, there are snacks, and there are English subtitles. I will be in costume to uphold the sanctity of Halloween, and I encourage you to do the same.

Here’s the lineup:

11:00–Little Otik

1:15–What We Do In The Shadows

3:00–Ghost of Mae Nek

5:00–Go Goa Gone

See ya there!

REVIEW: Fall Film Series: Contemporary Cinema from the Islamic World (Wadjda)

My girlfriend and I have this joke between us, where I’ve compiled my top 25 favorite movies of all time, but actually the list is ever-growing and has long since left behind a number anywhere close to 25. This is not to say I am so easily influenced by any old sappy rom-com, but instead is only evidence of the seriousness of my Netflix addiction.

In any case, I consider all of my movie-watching experience enough to transform me into a reliable source for a good movie recommendation, and thus a solid judge of a film’s emotional quality.

In short, Wadjda was beautiful. The title character can only be described as spunky, with her Converse high-tops and the broadness of her grin, the quickness of her smart mouth and her mind for entreprenuership. I find that I no longer want to be like others when I grow up; rather, Wadjda is who I wish I was as a child. If I had had half that moxy at her age, who knows where I would be now.

The film goes on to document the girl’s dedication to saving up for a bicycle, a toy that she is repeatedly told is not for girls, as it is believed to harm the reproductive system, and is generally considered umseemly. Nevertheless, she schemes and studies her way to success, learning to recite the Quran for a school competition (with a cash prize, of course). All the while, subplots form, showcasing the female life in the midst of a male-dominated society: her mother’s fears of her husband leaving to take another wife; the principal’s rumored interactions with a non-relative man; the rule-breaking, magazine-reading girls at school.

If you’re a devout Wes Anderson fan, you’ll appreciate the monochrome quality of the movie–the pale yellow-cream is omnipresent, from the sand and sky to homes and buildings. This calmness of hue contrasted nicely with the small chaoses building in the film’s plot, and only made Wadjda stand out more starkly, racing her friend Abdullah down the dusty street or walking home from school. In a part of the world that restricts many of womens’ freedoms, the brashness of this little girl is striking.

A lot went into Wadjda‘s creation. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot be seen in public interacting with men outside the family, so the director Haifaa al-Mansour had to give directions to her male crew via walkie-talkie from the back of a van. She had to get govermental approval before she could film, and though she recieved funding from a Saudi company, much of her funding was from a German source. Not only was it the first feature-length Saudi film to be directed by a woman, it was the first to be shot entirely within the country, in which the first cinema opened just this past April following a decades-long ban.

This truly is a historic film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to do so! You will feel changed.

PREVIEW: Fall Film Series: Contemporary Cinema from the Islamic World (Wadjda)

We are often exposed to far too little of the world, even in our self-proclaimed melting-pot of a country. This fall film series is trying to help solve this problem, by presenting several recently-made movies from the Islamic world. If you need a better reason to show up, it’s free!

This week on display is a film called Wadjda, in which a very determined young girl enters a Quran-reciting contest for money to buy a bicycle. Released in 2012, this is amazingly the first feature-length film created by a female Saudi director (Haifaa Al Mansour).

Come watch with me (really, sit with me–I’ll be the one in the lion hat) this Tuesday, October 23 at 7 PM in the East Quad Benzinger Library.

PREVIEW: Blue Moon over Memphis

Friday the 12th of October, the Univeristy of Michigan will be treated to to a unique take on Japanese Noh Theater, with a performance of Blue Moon over Memphis by the English speaking noh-drama troupe THEATER NOHGAKU.  It will be at the Power Center located right off central campus and completely free to the public. This unique east-meets-west theater experience explores one of the most revered and influential figures in American pop-culture history, through the unexpected lens of a several century-old form of Japanese theater.

This event is a part of the Toyota Visiting Professor 30th Anniversary Special Lecture Series and made possible by the Japanese Studies Department. The play itself  will explore one woman’s haunting loneliness as she makes a pilgrimage to Graceland on the anniversary of Elvis’s death, where she has an otherworldly encounter with the spirit world .

If you plan on attending, please head over to Eventbrite and RSVP for Blue Moon Over Memphis here.   The event is entirely free, but space is limited so don’t forget to RSVP and check for an email confirmation.

Additionally, if your interest has been thoroughly piqued as mine has, definitely check out the play’s brief promotional video bellow to get an idea what’s in store!

REVIEW: Fiction At Literati: Akil Kumarasamy


Image result for half gods 

am discovering a litany of South Asian female writers, from the much-loved Jhumpa Lahiri and her Pulitzer-Prize winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and recently, the Fatima Farheen Mirza’s brilliant debut novel, A Place For Us. Being Indian myself, it is refreshing to see the emergence of these writers documenting their stories in gorgeous, intelligent prose. I am thrilled to announce Akil Kumarasamy with her debut collection of ten short stories entitled Half Gods among their ranks.

Kumarasamy’s ten stories tell the loosely interconnected lives of immigrants, people displaced by the civil war in Sri Lanka, a Chinese neighbor, and many others. Myriad viewpoints in character and perspective– bouncing between first, second, and third person– and an interesting cast of characters elucidates Kumarasamy’s deep wisdom in exploring the lives of many different kinds of people. You feel as though she knows more than she ought to know about subtle suffering, disorder, displacement– but there is a viscerality to the characters that makes them all real.

This is how I felt at Literati while Kumarasamy read a short story from her collection. The story she’d read was written in the second person, which gave it a sense of being fragmented; it felt like we knew a whole lot about the main character without ever learning their gender or name. It was a skilled use of the second person, as her character was an actor and the perspective amplified the effect of him in a mask. Kumarasamy’s language hones in on the physical details and nuances of the world around her, and looks at the world with almost godly eyes– as though consequences and actions are rendered as one. Her work is lyric– poetic– rich. Divinely so.

And yet, I felt occasionally that there were aesthetic niceties that strained the story. This is perhaps a matter of personal preference, and I have not read but two stories in the collection. At least during the reading, I felt sometimes disconnected from the character and story. I think this may be because I didn’t have the text of the story in front of me and I had to rely solely on oration– sometimes that can be tricky with stories rich in language and content.

Kumarasamy read one story at the reading. I wish she could have read more. I wanted to compare a second person story to one of her other stories, as I feel like a second person story is a category of its own.

When Akil Kumarasamy releases her next book, I await to read it– I’m interested in the projection of this writer’s career and the literary feats she will accomplish. She’s released a stunning debut, acclaimed by the New York Times, the New Yorker, USA Today, and I’m sure anything she has yet to make will stir the literary community.