Trinh T. Minh-ha descends on PSU

Filmmaker, composer, social theorist and author Trinh T. Minh-ha will be in Portland on Nov. 6 to present a lecture titled “The Tear of Debt,” which will conclude a four-night showcase of her films.

Minh-ha was born in Vietnam, obtained her master’s degree at Paris’ Sorbonne, and currently teaches courses in women’s studies and film studies at the University of California Berkeley. She has made six films and is the author of nine books.

Her visually complex films use non-linear structure to tell stories of marginalization; exclusionary politics; and personal themes, such as dislocation and exile, a woman’s role in post-colonial society, and shifting interpretations of culture.

“Her style of filmmaking is innovative, eclectic, very experimental,” says Patti Duncan, assistant professor of women’s studies. “She mixes image with text and sound. … She’s incredibly brilliant.”

The last two nights of the program, Nov. 5-6, will feature two films, 1991’s “Shoot for the Contents” and 2001’s “The Fourth Dimension.”

“Shoot for the Contents,” shown Nov. 5, is a film about Chinese culture and politics. It focuses on questions of power and change, and addresses the creative process of filmmaking. The story of China’s cultural struggle is interspersed with the philosophies of Mao and Confucius, stories, song, and images of everyday life. The film’s non-linear, unconventional style lends to its dream-like quality. “Shoot for the Contents” won the 1992 Jury’s Best Cinematography Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

In “The Fourth Dimension,” shown Nov. 6, Minh-ha uses lush imagery to explore Japan through its art, culture and social rituals. Shot on digital video, the film looks in on festivals, religious rites and theatrical performances. Reviewer Steve Seid, of the Pacific Film Archives, writes: “Her tack finds great visual pleasure in the everyday, composing and decomposing the social landscape, while constructing a poetic grid of temporalities, symbolic meaning and ritual.” Minh-ha will present her lecture before this film.

Duncan says Minh-ha’s work is constantly challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in very subtle ways.

“She really forces viewers to have to engage,” Duncan says. “You have to work to understand her films.”

The films and lecture are presented by Cinema Project, an organization that supports independent and experimental film, and the Portland State University women’s studies program.

Nov. 5

“Shoot for the Contents”

7:30 p.m.

Cinema Project

120 N.E. Russell St.


$6 suggested donation

Nov. 6

Lecture “The Tear of Debt”

4 p.m.

“The Fourth Dimension”

8 p.m.

PSU School of Business Administration,

Room 190


$6 suggested donation, lecture free