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University of Iowa News Release

June 7, 2004

Obermann Summer Seminar Examines Links Among Law, Film And Society

Mention film and law to many moviegoers and the images most likely to come to mind are the novel-turned-movie stories from John Grisham and Scott Turow, or Gregory Peck's iconic portrayal of small-town attorney Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

But to film studies scholars, legal scholars or specialists in other fields, there's more to it than that. The intersections of law, cinema and popular culture can both teach the public about legal systems and reflect that public understanding and public opinion. Those intersections can be quite different in diverse national and cultural contexts.

To examine those intersections, the University of Iowa's Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is convening "Images of Justice: Cinema, Law and the State in Comparative Perspective," a two-week seminar for scholars from Asia and the United States under way from June 1 to 15. The seminar includes scholars from India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, as well as several American institutions and the UI.

"Popular representations of the law in cinema and the real-life legal decisions and institutions that create those movie representations are crucial to how the public understands and experiences the legal system," said Corey Creekmur, UI associate professor of cinema and comparative literature and English and co-director of the seminar. "The law and the state are of course operating off-screen wherever movies are produced and screened, but audiences are also fascinated by the dramatization of legal issues on screen. This seminar is especially interested in that circulation, and specifically as it marks distinct Asian national cinemas."

UI associate professor of law Mark Sidel, who co-directs the seminar with Creekmur, notes that it will focus on Asia, where both cinema and law have changed dramatically in recent decades. He said the symposium will explore such themes as the fictional representation of legal systems and trials, and the dramatic characterization of lawyers, judges, and criminals in popular films; historical and ongoing state regulation and censorship of cinema, and the increased space for negotiation between filmmakers and their regulators; and film financing and distribution.

"These issues are all at work in Asia and in Asian communities around the world," Sidel said.

Jay Semel, director of the Obermann Center, noted the interdisciplinary nature of the seminar. "For many years the Center has successfully brought together committed scholars from different fields and disciplines in the university and beyond to consider important and cutting-edge topics," he said. "The intersections of cinema, law and the state are another example of such interdisciplinary inquiries and activities, and we are delighted to be hosting the seminar." The Obermann Center hosts a number of other interdisciplinary academic activities as well.

UI President David Skorton greeted the participants last week and praised their efforts in forging ahead with this new and complex field of research. Click photo for enlargement

Seminar participants include Do-Hyun Han (Academic of Korean Studies, Seoul), Hikari Hori (Japan Society, New York), Lawrence Liang (Alternative Law Forum, India), Rolando Tolentino (University of the Phillippines Institute of Film), Karen Turner (College of the Holy Cross and Harvard Law School), and UI professors Meenakshi Gigi Durham (Journalism and Mass Communication), Priya Kumar (English), Creekmur (Cinema and Comparative Literature and English), and Sidel (Law). The seminar is ably assisted by Obermann staff Carolyn Frisbie, Karla Tonella, and Dana Denning, and College of Law student Michael Schwartz.

Presentations in the seminar begin this week. The schedule of presentations is as follows:

--Monday, June 7
Corey Creekmur, "Bombay Bhai: The Gangster In and Behind Hindi Popular Cinema"

Mark Sidel, "Filming the State and Corruption: Luoi Troi (Heaven's Net) and the Rise of a New Realist Cinema in Vietnam"

--Tuesday, June 8
Hikari Hori, "Oshima's Bullfight of Love Reconsidered: Law, Sexually Explicit Film and Gender in Japanese Cinema"

Karen Turner, "Film as Resistance in Post-war Vietnam: The Life and Work of Duc Hoan"

--Wednesday, June 9

Priya Kuma, "Islamic 'Terrorism,' Secularism and Visions of Justice in Khalid Mohamed's Fiza"

Rolando Tolentino, "Judicial Lack and Excess: Postcolonial Condition, Transnational Desire and the Representations of Justice in Contemporary Philippine Cinema"

--Thursday, June 10

Gigi Durham, "Sex in the Transnational City: New Discourses of Sex and Body in Indian Popular Culture"

Do-Hyun Han, "Freedom of Thought and the National Security Law in South Korea, 1951-2000, With Reference to The Road Not Taken (Sontaek)

--Friday, June 11

Lawrence Liang, "Cinematic Citizenship and the Illegal City"

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,