Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Desperately Seeking Helen

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Filmmaker Eisha Marjara was born in India and emigrated to Quebec as a child; in this engrossing 1998 autobiographical film she ponders her ethnic identity, the power of pop culture, the nature of femininity, and her mother's failure to balance East against West, all the while embarking on a wild (and perhaps imaginary) search for Helen, an Indian film star who played the vamp in hundreds of Bollywood musicals. Marjara mixes photos, home movies, film clips, and footage of her journey through the teeming Bombay of the mid-90s, digressing from one topic to the next in a sequence that becomes increasingly resonant and finally supplying an epiphany of sorts when the pivotal events of her life are revealed. The film's mix of confessional, travelogue, and postmodern cultural critique is truly ingenious, and if Marjara's deadpan voice-over doesn't win you over, the archival footage of Helen's brazen dance routines may do the trick. On the same program, Tammy Tolle's short video Searching for Go-Hyang, in which Korean twins given up for adoption in the U.S. are reunited with their family in Seoul. Tolle uses the recitation of sad songs and poems to set off verite footage of the family making up for lost time, yet these poignant moments are undercut by superimposed captions that criticize the adoption agencies. Presented as part of the sixth annual Asian American Film Festival. Loyola Univ. Crown Center, 6525 N. Sheridan, Saturday, May 1, 7:00, 773-508-2935. --Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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