Darfur United


This is pretty stinkin’ cool. Here is a soccer team called Darfur United, who hopes to play in the 2012 Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is a tournament for nationless people held at the end of May.

The team is coached by i-ACT, a California-based nonprofit who has been working in the refugee camps of eastern Chad since 2005. If you’re interested in helping with support, go here.


Cascade Festival of African Films

Like my quest to read more books by non-western writers, I think it is important to watch more films by non-western filmmakers. It is helpful to all of us to have multiple perspectives and voices that we can use as tools to understand the world. That said, these films are surely different from western films not only in the types of stories that are told but also in presentation. Yet I feel it is important to not always expect the same formulaic entertainment that Hollywood often delivers, but instead to look at films as art, which has many forms and iterations.

Here are my picks from this year’s Cascade Festival of African Films in Portland. Oh, and did I mention that it is free?

1. State of Violence (South Africa) – A township boy turned business elite seeks his wife’s killer when the police investigation is moving too slowly for his liking. When he discovers the killer, he must face a secret from his past as an anti-apartheid revolutionary. Thursday, Feb. 23, at 12 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.

2. Restless City (Nigeria/USA) – Director Andrew Dosunmu, who was born and raised in Nigeria, sets out to tell the story of the West African immigrant community in New York City. This feature film follows a Senegalese who dreams of being a musician but instead sells CDs on the street. When he falls in love with a prostitute, things become complicated. (This one already screened, but I thought it was worth mentioning as one to look for).

3. Seasons of a Life (Malawi) – The plot of this film looks pretty moving. When a man impregnates his housekeeper, he agrees to give her financial support if she will keep it a secret that he is the father. She uses the money to gain an education and puts the child into an orphanage, where he is soon adopted back to her former employer and his wife. Saturday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.

4. Tinga Tinga Tales (Kenya/UK) – Since I have a little one, I couldn’t help but notice what is playing on Family Film Day. Tinga Tinga Tales, which air on both the BBC and the Disney Channel, are traditional African folklore that explain oddities about animals that every curious 5 year old wants to know. Why do frogs croak? Why crocodiles have bumps? The series is named for the late artist Tanzanian Edward Saidi Tingatinga’s work. Saturday, Feb. 25at McMenamin’s Kennedy School Theatre, 5736 NE 33rd Ave., Portland.

5. Hopeville (South Africa) – A father, who has been estranged from his son, moves with him from the big city to a small town. Wanting to build their relationship, the father sets out on a mission to restore the public pool so his son can pursue a swimming career. He is met with resistance from the townspeople, who unlike their town’s name are not so hopeful. Thursday, Feb. 16, at 1:45 and Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Portland Community College Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St., Portland, in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building, Room 104.

Portland International Film Festival

February has two great film festivals in Portland – the Portland International Film Festival (Feb. 9 – 25) and the Cascade African Film Festival (Feb. 3 – March 3). Each year, I eagerly await the announcement of the films that will be screening. I read through the program, pick films that I would like to see and check my schedule to see which I can attend.

I never make it to more than two during the month, but despite my horrible theater-going track record, I always have a list of films that I come away with that I hope to stream from the Internet or watch on DVD from the comfort of my own home.

Here are a few of my picks for the PIFF from this year (Tomorrow I will write about the African Film Festival):

Portland International Film Festival

1Breathing (Austria) – The Austrian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, “Breathing” tells the story of a young man with a mistakenly troubled past whose parole officer finds him a job collecting cadavers. Through events at his job, he begins the search for his birth mother. Sunday, Feb. 12, at Cinemagic, 2021 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, and Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Lake Twin Cinema, 106 North State Street, Lake Oswego.

2. The Life of Fish (Chile) – This one doesn’t play on Valentine’s Day, but it is one of the films that looks most like it will have some romantic undertones. A travel writer is back home in Santiago where he attends a party. The whole night he avoids an old female friend, whose connection to him becomes more clear as the film unfolds. This also is up for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Saturday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m. at Lloyd Mall 6, 2320 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland, and Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6:15 p.m. at Pioneer Place 6, 340 SW Morrison St, Portland

3. Free Men (France) – This sounds like a breath of fresh air amidst current Middle Eastern tensions. This film tells the story of Muslims at a Paris mosque who sheltered Jews during World War II. Sunday, Feb. 12, at 5 p.m. at Lake Twin Cinema, 106 North State Street, Lake Oswego, Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m. at Cinemagic, 2021 Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland, and Monday, Feb. 20, at 2:30 p.m. at Lloyd Mall 6, 2320 Lloyd Center Mall, Portland.

4. The Front Line (South Korea) – As I am currently working on a project involving the Korean War, this film looks like a good one. Set on a fictitious hill that has passed between the north and south sides during the war, “The Front Line” gives some surprising vignettes of encounters between the two sides. This is South Korea’s Best Foreign Language Film submission for an Oscar this year. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum, 1219 Southwest Park Avenue, Portland.

5. Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Turkey) – I’ve always wanted to visit Turkey, and this film looks like it promises some haunting landscapes as well as the intensity of a cops movie. A caravan travels through Turkey with a confessed killer searching for the place he buried his victim. Yet each time he points out the grave, the searchers come up empty. This is Turkey’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Sunday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at Cinema 21, 616 Northwest 21st Avenue, Portland, and Friday, Feb. 24, at 3 p.m. at Cinema 21. 

On my shelf: Upcoming lectures

“The Thing Around Your Neck” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I’m really looking forward to diving into this book. I actually got two of them for Christmas. “The Thing Around Your Neck” is a collection of short stories by Adichie, who is from Nigeria.

I was first introduced to Adichie when I read the book “Gods and Soldiers,” an anthology of contemporary African writing, which showcases the myriad styles from across the continent, including both fiction and nonfiction.

She is speaking in Portland as a part of the Portland Arts & Lectures series on May 3, 2012. For tickets go to: http://pcpa.com/events/chimamanda-adichie.

“Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese.

Speaking of the Portland Arts & Lectures series, I should give a shout out to “Cutting for Stone,” which was one of the more gripping novels I read last year. “Cutting for Stone” tells the life story of two twins, who were born to a nun at a mission hospital in Ethiopia. The boys grow up through political upheaval in the country to both become doctors – one in the U.S. and one in Ethiopia.

Along the way, Verghese, who is a doctor, skillfully provides details that only a medical expert could. Let’s just say the end has the type of serendipitously brilliant conclusion that happens so very rarely in novels.

I saw him speak last year in Lake Oswego, and one of my colleagues wrote about the lecture here. For tickets to the April 12, 2012, lecture in Portland go to: http://pcpa.com/events/abraham-verghese.

On my shelf: Two journalists

It’s been a month or so, but I scored a couple of good finds at Border’s going-out-of-business sale. The last weekend the store was open I stumbled into a half empty store with blazing yellow 80 and 90 percent off banners. Here are two books that I got:

“The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe” by Peter Godwin

I just started reading this, and it’s really good. I love me a good journalistic book on an African leader. Godwin writes with some authority having grown up in Zimbabwe. To report for this book, he goes where other journalists couldn’t have gone as he interviews people (some off the record) and recalls the events after Mugabe lost the 2008 election.

“Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” by Roxana Saberi

The main reason that I picked this book up is because it is written by Saberi, a childhood role model of mine. As a teen growing up in North Dakota, I was a fan of hers when she became Miss North Dakota in 1997. As an Asian American in a primarily white state, I was excited to see another Asian American (Saberi is Japanese and Iranian) win. When I found out that she became a international journalist, I had even more to admire about her. So, I’m excited to see what her memoir reveals about the woman and her experiences being imprisoned in Iran as much as it does about her country of origin.

A Cooking Education

As I continue my informal education in the culinary arts, I thought I should turn to my original inspiration for learning to cook – culture. Food can say so much about a place. In addition to flavor, a food’s climate, accessibility to markets and political situation all contribute to how people eat. That said, I was thrilled when I found this great list of 55 Great Global Food Blogs at Saveur.com. What an ideal place to start!

A Cooking Philosophy

I originally began to learn to cook because I realized that I didn’t really know how to cook from scratch. After watching African women begin their day with a trip to the market and continue with cooking over an outdoor stove, I questioned whether throwing a store-bought spice mix into ground meat and rolling it in a tortilla was real cooking. What is in the spice mix? How does one make a tortilla? And as I later began to ask: Where did the meat come from? How was it farmed? Were the workers who helped to bring the meat to my table treated fairly?

I also began to project qualities onto the African women who cooked daily. Industrious. Resourceful. Caring. Intelligent. I wanted to be like them.

Thus, began my cooking education. I started with tacos once I returned from Africa focusing on the tortillas. Realizing how simple they are to make and how much more tasty they are when made from scratch, I was hooked. I began to aim to make as much from scratch as possible, preferring to dissect each of my favorite foods down to its basic elements. I soon realized that knowing exactly what is in my food is quite also empowering. I have much more control over my health when I don’t have to read through a codified list of ingredients containing mysterious scientific sounding words.

Because of my own background as a North Dakota farmer’s daughter, I felt particularly drawn to the art of preserving the produce from a year’s harvest. Though I now live in Oregon, I began visiting U-pick fields with my friends to pick berries to make jam, and we even harvested fruit from the overgrown, neglected pear tree in our backyard and canned our day’s work. It just seemed a shame to let the fruit go to waste when there are people who are starving around the world.