Programme Snapshots | Figuring Commonality: Hamlet and World Cinema

Programme Snapshots | Figuring Commonality: Hamlet and World Cinema

1) Can you describe your Being Human events in 140 characters?

Shakespeare, adaptation, local culture, Tibet, China, snowy wastes, epic landscapes, continuing relevance, holy lakes, extraordinary aesthetics.

 2) Tell us a bit about your research interests

The event springs from my ongoing research into Shakespeare in his global manifestations, particularly in the medium of film. Having published Shakespeare and World Cinema, the first study of its kind devoted to Shakespeare on the non-Anglophone screen, I realized that, in making visible this fascinating and neglected area of representation, only half the job had been done. I now needed to bring films that had never been seen outside their countries of origin to audiences around the world so as to demonstrate Shakespeare’s significance as a corpus of meaning shared between nations, regions and cultures.

 3) What will people learn or experience that they can’t experience elsewhere?

This Being Human event represents the premiere of Prince of the Himalayas in the UK, so audiences will be introduced to a Shakespearean film that they will not have seen before. Via the film and the accompanying discussions there will be a unique opportunity to reflect on vital themes, such as political action, the role of the individual vis-à-vis the state, familial injustice and metaphysical enquiry. In particular, we will learn about how a text usually assumed to be familiar can be made to fit alternative concerns and agendas, not least through the representation of local customs, images and cultural practices.

Thanks to the presence of the director in the Q+A, we will find out about the highs and lows of putting a film together, the process of translation and the mutual benefits of collaboration (Prince of the Himalayas is the work of a Chinese director and Tibetan screenwriters). The event will bring to our attention the ways in which Hamlet speaks to a variety of constituencies, and it will highlight the perils and possibilities of producing Shakespeare in fresh cultural contexts. What we learn on the day and subsequently will be made available in a package of reflection and a podcast of the post-screening discussion.

4) How is this relevant to everyday life?

Prince of the Himalayas is a Chinese adaptation of Hamlet set in ancient Tibet. It is distinctive among Shakespeare adaptations in using a Tibetan cast, Tibetan locations and the Tibetan language. Crucially, the film rewrites Hamlet, transforming it from a tragedy of revenge to a parable about forgiveness. This is a work that identifies the need to accept past mistakes, espouse mutual toleration and embrace Buddhist ideas of renewal. As such, Prince of the Himalayas, if only incidentally, shows how periods of conflict, transition and reconciliation express themselves in the world cinema imaginary. The screening allows us to bring together different social and ethnic constituencies in Belfast and to debate, via a Q+A with the director, highly charged relevant themes that resonate with Northern Irish contexts and beyond.

5) And finally, tell us your five favourite things about your location/venue.

Queen’s Film Theatre is one the last independent arts cinemas in Northern Ireland. It regularly shows a rich array of leading mainstream and non-mainstream cinema with a particular emphasis on world cinema. The QFT is located in University Square, a beautiful nineteenth-century street that accommodates the university’s humanities departments.

  1. The QFT is located in University Square, a beautiful nineteenth-century street that accommodates the university’s humanities departments.
  2. The cinema has two screens and is ideally placed to attract the local student population as well as city public audiences.
  3. The QFT is part of a complex that also hosts the university’s drama studio; as such, it is at the centre of many of the university’s student performance events.
  4. The QFT features a bar and social area which we will be using for the event’s reception, continuing the discussion that the screening will generate.
  5. As one of the last independent arts cinemas in the country, the QFT has a reputation for screening less well known films from around the world and for playing a vital role in the city’s artistic and festive calendar. The screening of Prince of the Himalayas is no exception to this rule.

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Finding Commonality:  Hamlet and World Cinema is just one of many activities during Being Human which connects cutting edge research in the humanities to issues shaping our everyday lives. For updates on the latest Being Human news follow us on Twitter @BeingHumanFest, on Facebook, and on Pinterest. Don’t forget to sign up to our e-newsletter too!