The scar of the Argentine man comes from the early death of his parents, and the trauma from his failure in the Battle of Malvinas. The one who cures this trauma is a young man who comes from a completely irrelevant country. The film was made in For the Argentines, the China represented in the film was still a distant exotic country on the other side of the globe. It was even extremely difficult to find a Chinese speaker as a translator.
One barely saw Chinese except in Chinatown. That said, I am really looking forward to a romance between the Chinese and the Argentines. In a film depicting intimate relationships, will China and Chinese young people still be portrayed as savior and saved? What kind of story would that be? Will the Chinese be a man? Or a woman? Is the story a homosexual love or a heterosexual one? Is it a realist story?
Or a story that happened in ancient times or in the future? What kind of imaginations, expectations, anxieties, and reflections on China will be reflected in a story by Argentine producers? Influenced by Chinese productions such as Family on the move Wenzhouyijiaren , I imagined A Chinese tale to play into masculine hero tales about a single, male migrant encountering and overcoming difficulties in a foreign country. Unlike other unluckily migrants, Jun is picked up by Roberto who takes pity on Jun and helps him.
Yet, this is where similarities between A Chinese tale and masculine hero tales end. What follows is a detailed portrait of Roberto and his complicated relationship with Mari, with his customers, the police, as well as with Jun. Roberto is a grumpy man with odd hobbies and a strict daily routine.
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He generally avoids social contact and strongly believes that life does not have any deeper meaning. Mari is an optimistic woman who is interested in Roberto and would like to be his girlfriend. She becomes the mediator between Roberto and Jun and brings them closer together. Throughout three-quarters of the film, Jun takes on the role of the dutiful migrant who fulfills every task set before him. Due to the language barrier, Jun is relatively silent and unable to communicate with his host and Mari.
The film provides a refreshing perspective on Argentinean-Chinese encounters because it focuses on emotions.
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This focus allows the film to complicate existing gendered narratives on Chinese migrants and the Chinese state in the Global South. Very interestingly, the Chinese state, represented through the embassy, is not the all-powerful and all-knowing, masculine protector of Chinese citizens as it is in Wolf Warrior II. The Chinese state might like to portray itself as the protector of Chinese citizen. In reality the state is, as the film but also as my own field research in Lesotho demonstrates, often of no use to Chinese migrants who feel left alone.
In the absence of state help, Chinese migrants like Jun rely on the help of locals such as Mari and Roberto. The voluntary help of Mari and Roberto underline that Chinese migrants are not always perceived as unwelcomed intruders destroying local economies. From my perspective as a China anthropologist, the film is imbalanced in its portrayal of the settings.
The film provides a nuanced perspective on everyday life in Argentina, but the scenes playing in China show little effort in de-exotizing China. In doing so, the film reproduces feminized portrayals of China as the exotic and backward other. Yet, if Jun is, as I suppose he might be, from Fuqing in Fujian Province, then his hometown looks nothing like the scene in the film. Having studied Fuqing in detail, I know that almost every inch of land was used for agricultural ventures such as rice plantation and fisheries never heard of cattle herding, let alone stealing , industrial parks or real estate developments in the s and s.
But no longer. But this film is about love, specifically the kind of love that allows us to go beyond the inward-looking, narcissistic love of oneself, to the love of the stranger that has the potential to transform. Roberto is the Argentinian Oedipus — trapped in his love for his dead mother, and then indirectly killing his father, a refugee from war, by participating in the Falklands War.
Roberto rejects the advances of the beautiful Mari, and shields himself in his pernickety routine of running his hardware store. He personifies the conservative Argentina that refuses external engagement and change, possessed with pride and righteousness, worshipping the past his dead mother and nursing old wounds his dead father. His only engagement beyond his immediate vicinity is through his daily ritual of poring through newspapers in search of ludicrous tragic tales around the world, and keeping a sketchbook of these newspaper cuttings.
Roberto picks up the desperate Jun on the road — he has just arrived in Buenos Aires, left penniless by robbers, and not speaking a word of Spanish. They are no longer strangers to each other. The cow also reminds Roberto of Mari, who wants to be with Roberto but whom he keeps at a distance after a short affair with her. Roberto rushes to join Mari — and her cow — in her village farm to which she had returned. This film can be taken as a commentary on both the absurd reality of increasing Chinese presence in Argentina — epitomized by the Chinese space station in Patagonia with a storey tower jutting out of the desert, installed just a couple of years after the release of the film — and the potential of embracing these unexpected arrivals with courage and grace.
The end, however, offers no idyllic imagination of intimate ethnic integration. Jun bids farewell and takes a flight to reunite with his uncle while Roberto dashes off to the countryside. The lesson for the Chinese and Argentinians may lie in the fact that Jun and Roberto find what they want through , but not with , each other, and therein lies the potential of love of the stranger. How does the accidental encounter between Roberto, an Argentinian man from Buenos Aires and Jun, a migrant from China, connect us?
This unintelligibility goes far beyond language: it goes hand-in-hand with how the difference is interpreted, labeled, and marked. The character of Roberto, even with his self-absorption that turns into hostility, catches the attention of Mari who, with much romanticism, travels from her place in the rural zone of Buenos Aires with the hope of gaining his love. The divisions between the countryside and the city appear as antagonistic in both the stories of Jun and Roberto, highlighting the city as a place of arrival, although its configuration alienates residents and migrants alike.
The mobility of Chinese communities to Latin America has been segmented, as other diasporas, by particular historical contexts. Jun seeks to escape from his tragedy in the lake by migrating to Argentina, and his tale is only seen as sensational by the Buenos Aires newspaper and its readers like Roberto. The questions from Chinese Take-Out are oriented towards naming categories. For example, what does it imply to be a country of transit and exporter of people at the social, political and economic level? Chinese Take-Out exposes with some humor and a static approach to gender two women in two continents held literally and figuratively locked in traditional love expectations , a country that thinks of itself as more European than Latin American, and that historically has constructed its idea of a nation on the back of its indigenous communities.
How is Asian difference thought of in relation to gender and other ethnicities, if we take as a starting point how Afro-descendants are thought of in Buenos Aires, Argentina? Revising its historicity, this has been thought about through assimilation and homogenization, from which the traits of national difference vis-a-vis pigmentation and ethnicity are converted into paths for xenophobia, highlighting in its way, the most conventional expectations of love and with it, of heteronormativity.
Through the movie one might learn less about Chinese government and big business going abroad than about people-to-people interactions happening among those societies for more than 50 years. The take on Chinese migration in Argentina depicted in this film is not one of a big and powerful China strategically going global, but one of Chinese migrants and their personal journeys. Such a take, I tend to believe, also goes beyond the Argentinian case and could be illustrative of a set of social interactions between China and Latin America, or between Chinese migrants in other Latin American nations, throughout the 20th century and early decades of the current one.
In numbers, according to the official Argentinian census, the country hosts Most of them, came to the country from the s on, yet the very first records on Chinese migrants are from the 19th century. Buenos Aires, the capital, has been the main destination and both politics and economic drivers are seen as explanatory factors for this South-South migration flow between the two countries. Brazil is the first destination in Latin America for Chinese migration, followed by Argentina, according to the International Organization for Migration.
More recent waves, both in Argentina and Brazil but also elsewhere in Latin America such as Peru, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica to name a few , are less connected to the early plantations than to the contemporary forms of urban business mobility.
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Chinese migrants and their descents are still very visible as shop and restaurant owners in many Latin American cities, as depicted in the film, and increasingly so as investors and highly-mobile business people. What are, then, the imaginaries portraited in this Chinese-Argentinian tale? How are Chinese and Latin American gender and sexuality issues represented? Chinese migration in Un Cuento Chino is, somehow, about fragile people escaping their own individual or collective miseries.
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Exotic, numerous, millenaries. The Chinese Other is at the same time way too different to understand and be understood and way too interesting to be ignored. Chinese migrants, newly arrived or generations old, are a group of people who never cease to be seen as foreigners or at best as hybrids even in countries constituted by migration, as Argentina or Brazil. Chinese millenary culture, Chinese philosophy, Chinese food. Interestingly, the English title for this movie is Chinese Take-Away and not Chinese Tale, as one could translate from the original title in Spanish. Without being overly judgmental, one can also wonder what this particular translation, from Spanish to English, reveals of the English-speaking countries reading of the story or the History and the economic lenses China and Chinese food occupies Western imaginaries.
The main Chinese character, the accidental heart-broken migrant. Shy, artistic, sensitive. Nonetheless, most of the remaining Chinese characters, except for the young delivery boy, are men exerting their masculine-authorities a grandfather that speaks for the entire family, unhelpful diplomats. Gender and sexuality stereotypes for the Argentinian characters are a bit more complex. Roberto, a typically self-destructive Bonarense someone from Buenos Aires , resistant to all sorts of affection and human interactions.
The initiative has to come then from the Argentinian female character, Mari, who never hides her feelings for him and is the one pro-actively making the moves. A not so typical Latin American stereotype, one might say. China is that interesting far-away land where everyone speaks one language: Chinese. In popular imaginaries there is only one Chinese language, not several, including Mandarin or Cantonese. The noun Chinos Chinese people in Spanish was and maybe still is used as a general adjective for Asians in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America.
As Turkish has been for a series of Middle-Eastern peoples and objects. Un Cuento Chino is an interesting cultural turn in our obsessively high-politics gaze on China and the South. It offers a people-to-people take on South-South relations from below. One cannot take too seriously a film called Un cuento chino.
The film is about how Roberto, an Argentinian local, opens his door to Jun, a Chinese immigrant who does not speak a word of Spanish, and helps Jun look for his uncle. The themes touched upon in the film, namely refugee, immigrant, and the global south, would easily elicit terminologies such as hospitality, sympathy, and certainly solidarity, as well as their accompanying grand narratives. Un cuento chino , however, seems to decisively evade these grandiosities. The film is of course not without problems. It is borderline racist, therefore offensive. Despite and also because of these problems, the film manages to convey an almost mythical message, not that of solidarity but of entanglement.
None of them is a role model, neither model immigrant nor model citizen.
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He simply offers Jun a hand who is in need of help. Similarly, Jun helps Roberto to get out of trouble with a murderous policeman. The cow and its image that has brought tragedy to Jun but reconciliation to Roberto give the film a rare mythical aura, uncommon in a light comedy. The message seems to be this, simple but easy to forget: we need each other. Hora musical de cuentos para todas las edades 4 p. Viernes hora de cuentos para todas las edades a. El espacio en la biblioteca es limitado. Por favor, llegue temprano para recibir su ficha para participar.
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