Night of a Thousand Subtitles offers international experiences

by Mary Grandy

Tuesdays at the Procrastinator are going global, and historical, with The Night of a Thousand Subtitles Foreign Film Festival. Three nights of free movies are hosted by the History Department and Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honors society. Showings began last Tuesday with a Japanese film, “The Family Affair,” and the global experience continues with a Turkish comedy, “Recep İvedik,” on March 26 and “Brother,” a Russian gangster movie, playing April 2.


The festival was organized by history professor James Meyer, using community-building funding from the Office of the Provost. “I think it’s important to augment the role of international studies at MSU,” Meyer said. “In this small way I am hoping to raise the profile of international, particularly non-western, studies.” To provide insight and context and encourage discussion, history professors will introduce each film.


Last Tuesday’s movie was presented by Regents Professor Brett Walker, a specialist in Japanese history. “A Family Affair” is a Japanese movie made in 1983, and is strange, dark and hilarious. “It’s an absolutely brilliant film,” Walker said. “It may seem weird to you, but in its weirdness is its brilliance.”


Walker is right. The camera plays intimately with the satisfying click of a mechanical pencil, uncomfortably invades our personal bubbles and masterfully frames shots, turning sports fields and roller-coasters into beautiful abstractions. Through the artistic camerawork and awkward humor which made the whole theater giggle, “A Family Affair” offers a valuable look at industrializing Japan, conflicts between modernity and tradition and one family’s struggle to adapt.


Next Tuesday promises to be hilarious and weird as well, but instead of awkward artful humor, expect slapstick bathroom humor with a unibrow. “Recep İvedik” is a popular Turkish comedy from 2008. The titular hero is a well-loved character in Turkish pop culture: think Mr. Bean meets the Three Stooges, and he swears like a sailor. Recep bumbles hilariously through his quest for love, peeing in vases, spitting in faces and challenging social norms.


Playing April 2, “Brother” is a Russian crime drama from 1997. It’s gritty and filled with low-budget gunshots and beautiful cinematography, backed by a fantastic ‘90s rock soundtrack. It follows a handsome and moral young hit-man through St. Petersburg as he parties, seduces and murders. It’s bleak in a way that only post-Soviet Russia can be, but “Brother” has the familiar flavor of violent B-grade cult films we know and love. Its sequel, “Brother II,” may be shown April 9, depending on attendance and enthusiasm.


This film festival offers a chance to see movies that are popular and well-loved in other parts of the world on the big screen. All excellent films in any language, the movies shown during The Night of a Thousand Subtitles provide cultural enrichment and global historical insight in comfy seats with tasty popcorn. All showings are free and open to students and the community. Films begin at 6 p.m. at the Procrastinator Theater on March 26 and April 2.