Camera on culture: Film series explores ethnic diversity

During a special month-long series at the Historic Artcraft Theatre, people are encouraged to explore the film cultures of Mexico, Japan, China and India.

Revel in the powerful dynamic of Chinese-American families in “The Joy Luck Club” and a forbidden love in Mexico portrayed in “Like Water for Chocolate.” Experience the magic of director Hayao Miyazaki in “Ponyo,” and the frenetic energy of Bollywood in “Bride and Prejudice.”

The free film series is presented by the Johnson County Public Library on each of the first four Tuesdays in October. As part of the library’s At Home in Johnson County campaign, the hope is to help residents understand the cultures of all people living in the county, said Lisa Lintner, director of the Johnson County Public Library.

Story continues below gallery

“We hope it really sparks conversations with people,” she said. “There are folks living in Johnson County who grew up, or maybe their parents grew up, in either China, Japan, India or Mexico. We want people to talk to each other about something in the film that’s interesting to them, or maybe have a new conversation with their neighbors.”

At Home in Johnson County grew out of a discussion about multiculturalism with Aspire Johnson County, a program of the Johnson County Development Corp. focused on economic development in the county. Local leaders wanted to figure out a way to include inclusion of all people and help residents who come from different countries to feel welcome, Lintner said.

Library officials took ownership of the idea, and planned a variety of activities and programs throughout the summer dealing with other cultures.

A program on Syria examined the ongoing refugee crisis that country is facing, and helped people understand more about the food, music and history of the country.

Attendees worked on origami or kirie paper craft during a session on Japan, and danced to the beat of Bollywood during an afternoon of Indian culture.

At the same time, the idea of a film series came up. While the library system has shown movies in their branches before, organizers wanted something on a larger scale, Lintner said.

“We really wanted to make sure we’re reaching outside just our regular library patrons,” Lintner said. “We wanted to invite people who maybe aren’t library users to take part too. Maybe if we did a film series, and connected it with books somehow, that would be a good way to do that.”

Three of the four films being shown — “The Joy Luck Club,” “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Bride and Prejudice” — are all based on books. “Ponyo,” the fourth film, is a whimsical offering from Miyazaki, the acclaimed director of breathtaking animated movies such as “Spirited Away.”

“Japan is one of the countries we’re spotlighting, and everyone just loves Miyazaki films,” Lintner said. “Plus, the Artcraft really wanted a Miyazaki film, because they had never shown one before.”

The library also is planning cultural activities and crafts to correspond to the film being shown each night.

Funds were raised through the Johnson County Library Foundation in order to pay for the movie licensing and to host the films at the Artcraft. That way, people could see the selections for free in a theater setting, Lintner.

“You don’t need a ticket. You can just show up that night,” she said.

At Home in Johnson County will continue even after the film series ends. Cameron Mettern, a student at Franklin College, is creating a series of video vignettes highlighting people from different cultures living locally, which will be shared online.

In 2018, the library will host a genealogy-themed night, where a few local celebrities will have their DNA tested to get a sense genetically where they come from, Lintner said.

“That will encourage people to also look into their own pasts and wonder where they came from,” she said.

The goal is to expand and continue the cultural program each year.

“We’re excited to keep helping with the education of the community,” Lintner said.

If you go

At Home in Johnson County Film Series

What: A selection of films focusing on the cultures of China, India, Mexico and Japan, offered through a partnership between the Johnson County Public Library, Aspire Johnson County and the Historic Artcraft Theatre.

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3, 10, 17 and 24; pre-film activities start at 6:30.

Where: Historic Artcraft Theatre, 57 N. Main St., Franklin

Cost: Free


  • Oct. 3: “The Joy Luck Club” — Through a series of flashbacks, four young Chinese women born in America and their respective mothers born in feudal China explore their past. For ages 18 and over.
  • Oct. 10: “Like Water for Chocolate” — In a forgotten Mexican village, Tita and Pedro fall in love, but their marriage is forbidden. For ages 18 and over.
  • Oct. 17: “Ponyo” — A 5 year-old boy develops a relationship with Ponyo, a goldfish princess who longs to become a human after falling in love with him in this Japanese tale. Family-friendly.
  • Oct. 24: “Bride & Prejudice” — A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel featuring the lives of four unmarried daughters in an Indian family. For ages 13 and up.


Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.