Program Brings Eminent Filmmakers to UC Berkeley

Photo: Ang Lee
Ang Lee

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Oscar-winning director Ang Lee and screenwriter and producer James Schamus, who have collaborated together on many movies, will share their creative process in making "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The Ice Storm" with students today in Zellerbach Hall.

The filmmakers are coming to campus as part of the On the Same Page Program, which was launched in 2007 to introduce freshmen and transfer students to campus by promoting works that stimulate conversation.

Seven thousand DVDs of the two films were sent out to this year's College of Letters and Science freshmen. The program's cost is around $186,000 in donor funds this year, said Chuck Stoup, assistant dean for the college's finance and administration, in an e-mail.

"This is a program for our students. That's where we are putting the investment," said Alix Schwartz, the college's director of undergraduate academic planning.

Lee said he usually doesn't speak at universities, but agreed to come to Berkeley because he thought the program and campus were unique.

"With young students, you have the obligation to tell them the truth, which is very hard to tell," he said. "Berkeley, of course, is the birthplace of liberties."

Eight students who attended faculty-led discussions on the films won drawings to meet the two filmmakers at a reception with the chancellor.

"I'm excited to meet and ask him questions about his work," said freshman Dylan Baker, one of the drawing winners.

Lee, who has made an eclectic mix of critically acclaimed movies, says he will develop his ideas for a movie for up to half a year in order to visualize each scene extensively.

"Each scene has a target, whether emotional or intellectual or just to keep scenes flowing," he said.

Lee has made movies in a variety of genres and said he seeks challenges in the topics he selects for his films.

"I tend to choose things I haven't done ... and I figure the elements will keep me curious for at least a year," he said. "Curiosity and uncertainty bring (a) certain insecurity that's fear, that tends to make you go fresh."

As a director, Lee said he draws from both eastern and western perspectives in crafting his movies.

"Chinese calligraphy, literature, art has a lot of figure. It has the movie elements." Lee said. "When I took Western culture, it feels like both parts of my brain

developed. So from east to west, I really have the benefit from the culture (and) my education. Chinese art deals basically with space while western deals with matters. I think that's a good perspective."

As part of the program, professors are teaching seminars this semester to examine the works of Lee and Schamus. One of these seminars is a genre revisionism class which looks at how the filmmakers transform traditional genres, taught by Abigail De Kosnik, an assistant professor of theater, dance and performance studies.

"I think the films aren't the easiest films in the world," Kosnik said. "So it takes prompting to get (students) to discuss deeper meanings of big themes that Ang Lee's films raise, but they're articulate and engaged so it's always enjoyable for me to discuss films with people who clearly love them."


Contact Christine Chen at [email protected]

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