Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Veil of Tears

Afghanistan Unveiled (airing on Tuesday, November 16 on PBS) makes much of its powerful backstory, and with good reason: the documentary is the first film “about Afghan women, by Afghan women,” says one of its fourteen native filmmakers, a graduate of an international program that produced the country's first newly trained women journalists in years. The doc's conceit will win it politically obligatory kudos, which is a bit of a shame – the film is mostly slight and unchallenging, hitting the dual notes of women's empowerment and oppression with passionate, yet emotionally unmoving, obstinacy. But Unveiled 's filmmakers are also a courageous, compassionate, and keen-eyed group – their future work could be powerful indeed, if they are pushed to grapple with many sides of a story, and complement their desires to capture testimony with more complexity and analysis. Funded by the Asia Foundation through a grant from the U.S. State Department, the documentary takes viewers on a road trip,...

Geishas Go Gangsta

The image is familiar enough from Japanese woodblock prints: two women in casually erotic disarray, kimonos slightly askew. One tips her head back into the hands of the other, who is working through the thick hair, her plump fingers and sloe-eyed expression revealing a lazy intimacy. But instead of an elaborate geisha coiffure, the woman seems to be putting in … braids? And there's none of the stark-white makeup favored by the beauties depicted by Utamaro and other ukiyo-e masters; both women are in blackface. Dark foundation covers their bodies, save for the creamy border of their natural skin tone right around the hairline. Artist Iona Rozeal Brown's first solo Washington, D.C., show at the G Fine Art Gallery draws almost entirely on her hybrid fusion of 17th- and 18th-century Japanese prints with modern-day American hip-hop culture. In traditional, Edo-period ukiyo-e, the outsized personalities of Kabuki actors, geisha, and low-ranking samurai dominate the depictions of the...

Ritual and Rebellion

The village in Ousmane Sembene's masterful Moolaadé is dominated by two eerily beautiful structures: a spirit-possessed anthill and an ostrich-egg-crowned mosque, which echo each other in both their stalagmite contours and in the ways they symbolize the pull of differing traditions. Over the course of this vibrant protest film, a third hillock rises up in the central square -- a heap of radios the male village elders have confiscated from the women. These three mounds become Moolaadé 's thematic axes, each a dynamic symbol of the process of carving communal meanings out of a bewilderingly complex world. Often hailed as the father of New African cinema, the 81-year-old Senegalese director calls Moolaadé the second in a planned trilogy on “heroism in daily life.” Coming four years after Faat Kiné , an exploration of the struggles of a Senegalese single mother, Moolaadé is gloriously humanistic, a garrulous and uplifting treatment of a most harrowing subject: female genital mutilation...

Jacques and Me

Watching people write about Jacques Derrida -- his theories, his passing on October 8 -- has been a fantastic sight, much like watching a man shinny shimmy up a rope while simultaneously trying to unravel it with his legs. Because how does one write about the so-called father of deconstruction, who helped unmoor text from authorial intent and dismantle notions of black-and-white absolutes, and whose insistence on reading against the grain of a piece yielded unnerving contradictions and unseen possibilities for interpretation? Writing about Derrida can be a treacherous exercise: You are writing, but also reading against yourself, trying to pick out echoes of trace meaning; you are writing, but also aware that you are being erased from the very text you are creating. My head hurts. I spent much of my undergraduate career in a similar state. I majored in both comparative literature and religious studies, which meant that I far exceeded the daily recommended allowance of theory. At first...

Desperately Seething Susans

Perhaps there's a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum that I didn't know about, but what could possibly account for a show like Desperate Housewives (Sundays at 9 p.m., ABC), desperate to lampoon the evils of what scarcely exists anymore -- a plastic-perfect suburbia? As films ranging from Blue Velvet to the remade Stepford Wives attest, the mock apple-pie version of the American Dream spells instant social satire to scriptwriters. American Beauty -- a story of the festering rage, lust, and longing lurking underneath impeccable, upper-middle-class American neighborhoods -- is the prime example. American Beauty was the film of the moment, the perfect expression of Hollywood's yawn-worthy conviction that something's rotten in the state of suburbia. Don't the Desperate Housewives know they're behind the times? Suburban anomie -- that's so 1999. So what's behind the urge to find the decay behind this dream of picture-perfect life? This Technicolor world where lovely women are...

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