Ang Lee’s films to be focus of ‘On the Same Page’ program
| 20 February 2008
Most of next fall’s freshmen are in for a surprise this spring: They’ll receive two free DVDs in the mail, courtesy of the College of Letters and Science and its signature program, “On the Same Page.”
As part of their orientation packages, new freshmen and transfer students in L&S — who account for more than three-quarters of the campus’s undergraduates — will be asked to watch two of celebrated film director Ang Lee’s productions: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Ice Storm. Lee and his longtime collaborator and screenwriter, Berkeley alumnus James Schamus, will be the program’s featured speakers at a March 2009 event co-sponsored by Cal Performances.
“This is a great choice for the program, because film is a great starting point of discussion,” says film-studies associate professor Mark Sandberg. “Film is the great cultural vernacular of our time, but careful film analysis and discussion in a university setting can help students become more active and questioning in their relationship to the medium.”
Launched in 2006, “On the Same Page” encourages student engagement in rich intellectual dialogues through a variety of activities planned around a central work of art, science, or literature, with the author or artist making related presentations on campus.
In its first two years the program focused on two widely acclaimed books and their famous authors: A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills. But the program was never intended solely as a book project, explains L&S Executive Dean Mark Richards.
“When we created the series, we were very attracted to the ‘On the Same Page’ name because the page can be metaphorical,” says Richards. “We wanted to be open to artists who don’t necessarily write books: playwrights, screenwriters, filmmakers, musicians, composers. We left that door open.”
Richards emphasizes that next fall’s program is “a double feature” focused on the artistic collaboration between Lee and Schamus — not just on the better-known director.
With their heart-stopping action, breathtaking special effects, tormented romances, sensual love scenes, impeccable acting, and jaw-dropping fight scenes, Lee’s movies have something for everyone. Most of all, the films’ ability to cut across cultural, national, and even sexual boundaries is what organizers hope will resonate especially well with a diverse student audience.
Born in Taiwan in 1954, Lee studied theater and cinema in Taipei before going on to earn a B.A. in drama from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in film directing from New York University. His films include Brokeback Mountain, for which he won an Academy Award as best director in 2005; Lust, Caution; Hulk; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Ride With the Devil; The Ice Storm; Sense and Sensibility; Eat Drink Man Woman; and The Wedding Banquet.
Schamus, an award-winning film producer and screenwriter in his own right, is perhaps best-known for his longtime collaboration with Lee, with whom he co-wrote and produced eight feature films. Also a published film historian, Schamus earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D. from Berkeley. He holds a faculty position in film at Columbia University.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Ice Storm were chosen for “On the Same Page” for their groundbreaking qualities and their contrasting styles and settings. Crouching Tiger, which won the 2001 Oscar for best foreign-language film, accomplished the astounding feat of selling a Mandarin-language martial-arts romance to mainstream audiences. The Ice Storm, based on Rick Moody’s 1994 novel, follows the funny yet tragic dynamics of two upper-class suburban Connecticut families trying to cope with a terrible Thanksgiving ice storm. The novel deconstructs the American family in a rapidly changing world: 1970s America in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and Watergate.
During the 2008 fall semester, students will be encouraged to participate in “On the Same Page” events and lectures, including a panel on screenwriting and the featured presentation by Lee and Schamus at Zellerbach Hall. The Pacific Film Archive is also expected to run a retrospective of Lee’s work in the fall.
For more information about the program, visit onthesamepage.berkeley.edu or contact Alix Schwartz of L&S at 642-8378. The public event with Ang Lee and James Schamus is run in association with Cal Performances' Strictly Speaking series. Tickets will be available starting Aug. 3 through the Cal Performances ticket office, 642-9988. Student tickets are half off regular price.