Since its foundation in September 2009, the Coventry University East Asian Film Society (CUEAFS) has gone quite a long way. The small society started with the aim of raising awareness of Asian cinema through weekly film screenings, went on to cover national and international festivals and last month organised an Asian symposium and festival in the Midlands in collaboration with Third Window Films.
Founder Spencer Murphy, who has a Ph.D. in the area of Hong Kong films, describes the area of Asian cinema as ‘my passion in life’.
‘When I was at university, being in a society is something I would have liked to have the opportunity to do’, Murphy said. ‘Because of my research background, I thought it was better to try something for a broader audience and give an opportunity for professional experience as well’.
Last year, the society landed two official sponsors in the distribution companies Terracotta, run by Joey Leung, and Third Window Films with Managing Director Adam Torel. Along with Torel and Leung, other guest speakers who held lectures in Coventry University through the initiative of CUEAFS included film writers and journalists Colette Balmain, Jasper Sharp and John Berra.
‘I think that the society has been both an amazing idea and a real eye opener’, she commented. ‘I would not have seen some of the interesting films that have been screened if they had not been in the building – mainly because I had never thought of it. It is so nice to see things from another viewpoint, and the East Asian films have that’.
Outside the university, CUEAFS was involved in the London premiere of Momoko Ando‘s ‘Kakera – A Piece of Our Lives’, where the members took part in the official Q&A with the director for the DVD extras. The society was also part of the Terracotta Film Festival in London, the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, Zipangu Fest in London and the organisation of East Winds: A Third Window Film Festival in Coventry.
‘It is one of the best things I have done while at University”, said Elena Rapondzhieva, a member of the society since 2009. ‘I have had a great number of such wonderful and unforgettable experiences’.
‘I can only see CUEAFS achieving greater and greater things. The society has been afloat only for a year and a half and yet has done so much – I can only imagine what it will have in its portfolio in 5 years’.
CUEAFS has around 15 active members who are enthusiastic about their involvement in the society. Dr John Berra of Nanjing University said: ‘The members of the society have demonstrated a genuine commitment to achieving the aims of the society. They are also intelligent, open-minded and hard-working, with the necessary positive attitude, and this has obviously inspired the academics, film-makers and journalists that have visited the society since 2009 to become more involved in its various initiatives’.
‘CUEAFS has expanded the parameters for what a “student film society” can achieve, and has done so within a relatively short space of time’.
Spencer Murphy expressed his pride of the enthusiasm of everyone involved in the society and the time and passion they have dedicated to it.
‘Of course I am very proud of everyone involved and it is a privilege to see people develop over the course of their degrees and it is also nice to see this in an environment where students do not do it because they have to, but because they want to and that is what I enjoy about it. It only works when we work together and that is a key to being a society’.
Along with more film screenings and events such as the Chinese Spring Festival Gala and Japanese Halloween Party which CUEAFS organised last year, the society will also take part in ‘Raising and Giving’ fund-raising week for the victims of Japan’s earthquake at the end of this month and it will make an appearance at the Far East Film Festival in Italy once again in April. Future plans for the society also include the launch of a TV channel and the development of their website.
‘I would really like to launch next year a TV channel where we can do more substantial things’, said Murphy. ‘I would like to see the website become a platform for Asian cinema in the UK. We can hopefully secure more relationships externally and I think we can expand upon that’.
Written by Antoniya Petkova
Photography by Andreea Dascalu