A big-data approach to studying China’s online media (JMSC China-Media Research Series)
3 October 2013
JMSC Professor to Screen New Documentary on Maryknoll Sisters
5 October 2013

NUNS ON SCREEN – screening and panel

Nuns on ScreenDate:  October 7, 2013 (Monday)
Time:  Screening:  5:30-6:45pm (Trailblazers in Habits) Panel: 7:00-8:00 pm
Venue: Rayson Huang Theatre, HKU

About the panel:

The  “veil,” not unlike the “screen,” conceals as much as it reveals.  While  the veil typically defines the “nun” for all to see, it also hides her  from view and can make her an object of mystery and inaccessibility—out  of reach, out of touch, an anachronistic relic from out of the past.   However, nuns are also hardworking modern women, who have made enormous  sacrifices to heal the sick, teach, and offer spiritual as well as  physical comfort to the afflicted.  Screen depictions of religious women  have included both extremes, but we seldom have the opportunity to  contemplate these contradictions or look critically at the way in which  nuns are depicted in the cinema (in commercial features as well as  documentaries and experimental films).  This panel addresses that by  providing a forum for the consideration of two important new works on  nuns—director Nancy Tong’s moving documentary film on the Maryknoll sisters, Trailblazers in Habits, and Maureen Sabine’s pioneering book on Hollywood’s fascination with nuns, Veiled Desires:  Intimate Portrayals of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film.

Participants: Prof. Maureen Sabine (author), Nancy Tong (director), Dr. Staci Ford  (respondent), Prof. Gina Marchetti (moderator)
Special guests: Sister Rose Bernadette Gallagher, Sister Jeanne Houlihan, Sister Betty Ann Maheu

About the film:

Trailblazers in Habits  is an intimate portrait of a group of American nuns, the Maryknoll  Sisters, who have accompanied the disenfranchised in their struggle for  social justice. By turns tragic and joyous, yet always inspirational,  this insightful documentary is a revealing portrait of these courageous  women. The film weaves together the nuns’ own affecting accounts of  imprisonment and personal struggle with rare archival footage and  poignant reminisces from the beneficiaries of their work. A moving and  absorbing chronicle that spans 100 years and several continents, this  film celebrates the intelligence and tenacity, the love, compassion and  generosity of these early feminists.

About the book:

Veiled Desires:  Intimate Portrayals of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film  (Fordham University Press, 2013) considers how the beautiful and  charismatic stars who play chaste nuns, from Ingrid Bergman and Audrey  Hepburn to Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep, call attention to desires  that the veil concealed and the habit was thought to stifle. In a  theologically and psychoanalytically informed argument, Sabine responds  to the critics who have pigeonholed the film nun as the obedient  daughter and religious handmaiden of a patriarchal church, and the  respectful audience who revered her as an icon of spiritual perfection.  She provides a framework for a more complex and holistic picture of nuns  on screen by showing how the films dramatize these women’s Christian  call to serve, sacrifice, and dedicate themselves to God, and their  erotic desire for intimacy, agency, achievement, and fulfillment.

About Nancy Tong (director):

The  producer and director, Nancy M. Tong, was born in Hong Kong and  educated by the Maryknoll Sisters. She currently splits her time between  New York City where she makes documentary films and Hong Kong as  Visiting Associate Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre  (JMSC).  She is renowned for making the seminal film on the Nanjing  Massacre, In the Name of the Emperor, which won the Special Jury Award  at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1995. She also  collaborated on films including Cancer: From Evolution to Revolution (as Line Producer), which won the George Foster Peabody Award in 2001, and Who Killed Vincent Chin  (as Associate Producer), which was nominated for the Best Documentary  Film Category of The Academy Awards in 1989. Since 2008, she donated her  time and service to produce and direct Trailblazers in Habits as a tribute to her former teachers and mentors.

About Maureen Sabine (author):

Maureen  Sabine is an Honorary Professor in History at The University of Hong  Kong. She has written widely on the seventeenth-century metaphysical  poets and taken the lead in a feminist and psychoanalytic study of their  erotic spirituality with her publication of Feminine Engendered Faith: John Donne and Richard Crashaw  by Macmillan. She examined life writing, gender relations and the  diasporic and dysfunctional Chinese American family in Maxine Hong  Kingston’s Broken Book of Life: An Intertextual Study of The Woman Warrior and China Men  published by University of Hawai’i Press. She extended her  interdisciplinary interests with her move to the History Department to  include not only the study of feminism and psychoanalysis but theology  and sexuality, cultural, religious, and women’s history, and the  representation of religion and spirituality in popular film. These  interests now converge in her most recent book, Veiled Desires: Intimate Portrayal of Nuns in Postwar Anglo-American Film, published by Fordham University Press in August 2013.


About the Sisters:

Sister Rose Bernadette Gallagher

Sister  Rose entered Maryknoll in 1943. For over 60 years, she served on the  Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Thailand, and for a short period in the  Sudan. Her ministries have been in education, community development and  women’s issues. She has retired to the Maryknoll Sisters Center and  works in their Global Concerns Office.  She keeps up-to-date with the  problem of the trafficking of women throughout the world, and is an  active participant at the Women’s Advocacy at the United Nations.

Sister Jeanne Houlihan

Sister  Jeanne joined the Maryknoll Sisters in September 1952. With an MA in  education administration, her first assignment sent her to Hong Kong  where she taught English, Scripture, and Home Economics at the Maryknoll  Convent School. She remained in Hong Kong for 46 years, serving as  principal of the school and as a member of the Management Committee for  Vietnamese refugee children; teaching at Hong Kong University, teaching  English at the Mar Tau Wei Home for paroled girls, and much more.   Sister Jeanne retired in 2011 and is now at Maryknoll, NY where she  works as the Sacristan and as the Planned Giving Officer.

Sister Betty Ann Maheu

Sister  Betty Ann Maheu entered Maryknoll in 1949 and her first assignment was  to teach high school in Maui, Hawaii. For eighteen years, she worked as  Supervisor of the Maryknoll Schools in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands.   She later stationed in Rome where she lived out her mission in diverse  ways, including coordinating publications for Major Superiors of the  world, and ministering to Ethiopian refugees.In 1990, after teaching in  Xiamen, China, Sister Betty Ann came to Hong Kong to be the editor of  the bilingual journal Tripod where she wrote about the situation of the  Catholic Church in China.  She lived in the China region for more than  sixteen years, working to aid the poor and marginalized.  She is  currently living at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, where she continues to  document the missionary story of the Maryknoll Sisters in Hong Kong,  Macau, and China.


Jointly sponsored by Journalism and Media Studies Centre and the Women’s Studies Research Centre.