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Asian Films in Festivals (in English)

 
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Sandy
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2016 3:45 am    Post subject: Asian Films in Festivals (in English) Reply with quote

The 1st Asian Film Awards: Art, Commerce, and Many Screaming Fans
Written by YumCha! Editorial Team

http://www.yesasia.com/us/yumcha/the-1st-asian-film-awards-art-commerce-and-many-screaming-fans/0-0-0-arid.121-en/featured-article.html



On March 20, 2007, the Asian Film Awards held its inaugural Awards Gala in Hong Kong. Organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) and held in conjunction with the territory's third Entertainment Expo - the umbrella event name for the HKIFF, the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART), and the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) - the Asian Film Awards (AFA) is certainly an unprecedented affair. While there are many homegrown awards honoring the best and brightest of Asia's individual film industries, the AFA is the first to throw every territory's products into one big free-for-all battle royale, each vying for recognition not as the best from their own territory, but the best in all of Asia. This is no small honor.

The Asian Film Awards came into being because, in the words of HKIFF Society chairman Wilfred Wong, "a celebration of Asian Cinema is long overdue." Once upon a time Asian Cinema was enjoyed mostly in small pockets in the West - a film festival here, a repertory theater there - but with modern media technologies easing access to cultural products around the world, interest in Asian Cinema has never been higher. International exposure of Asian Cinema has grown to unheard of proportions, with increased distribution, film festivals, and the power of the Internet fueling the charge. Nowadays, more people than ever before are watching Asian Cinema, and they hail from all corners of the globe.

The watershed moment may well be the recent Best Picture Academy Award bestowed upon The Departed, a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. While remakes of Asian films like The Ring, Ju-On, and Il Mare have met with moderate success in recent years, The Departed received more attention and acclaim than any of its predecessors, and its remake status was widely reported all over the web. More remakes are heading west, including ones of Korean romantic comedy My Sassy Girl, Thai thriller Shutter, and possibly even the controversial Japanese film Battle Royale. Japan's Casshern and Dororo have been snapped up for North American distribution, while Hong Kong's Confession of Pain has already been picked up for remake by the same team behind The Departed. With attention comes commerce, and the West is knocking on Asian Cinema's door.

The selection of films populating the first Asian Film Awards certainly seems to be striking a Western chord. The nominees for Best Picture include a sumptuous Chinese costume epic (Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower), a Hong Kong heroic bloodshed actioner (Johnnie To's Exiled), a contemplative Japanese samurai film (Yamada Yoji's Love and Honor), an Indonesian/Austrian musical adaptation of an epic classic (Garin Nugroho's Opera Jawa), a socially conscious tale about modernization's displacing effects (Jia Zhangke's Still Life), and a monster movie from Korea (Bong Joon Ho's The Host). These certainly sound like Asian movies to the Western ear, as each seems to echo either previously accepted Asian film genres or culturally specific subjects and settings.

A criticism that could be levied is that the AFA is too commercial, favoring more popular, internationally recognized films instead of deserving local works that may be unknown to international audiences. That thought is understandable, especially considering that some nominees and films selected by the AFA were conspicuously not honored in their home territories. Still, that judgment may be too presumptuous; the AFA's jury consists of 17 industry-recognized individuals, including filmmakers, industry professionals, film festival directors and programmers, and local and international critics. The jury represents both local (i.e., Asian) and international perspectives, showing that Pan-Asian and international perspectives may not be much different. The same directors, actors, and films that appeal across Asia also appeal across the globe. Film is more than a global medium, it's a universal language.

The Asian Film Awards ceremony itself, however, struggled to find a universal language. A glitzy, wannabe glamorous affair, the inaugural edition of the AFA was hampered by numerous glitches and gaffes. With nominees and guests from across Asia and the globe in attendance, English became the default language for a night celebrating Asian Cinema. The show's Hong Kong location was an appropriate choice, considering the region's ability to support the English-language needs of the international attendees, but English created issues for many individuals at the show itself. The ceremony was intended to be held completely in English, and English-proficient hosts - including Taiwanese-American emcee David Wu and Hong Kong singer-actress Fiona Sit - were booked to make the evening run smoothly. However, not every presenter or attendee was able or willing to speak English, and the translators frequently missed their marks.

Language was not the only issue. The line-up of guests seemed to fluctuate from minute to minute, and many of Wu's ad-libbed jokes did not fly with a hard-to-please audience already hampered by varying proficiency in English. Seats were visibly empty, many celebrity presenters were no-shows, and some aspects of the show - Fiona Sit's scatterbrained hosting, rambunctious fans of superstars Andy Lau and Rain - were ill-fitting to an award show aimed at an international audience. Rain's fans, in particular, incessantly cheered at every mention or sight of their idol, at times muffling those on stage, and noticeably left en masse after Rain lost the Best Actor Award. For an awards show with international aspirations, the AFA has some work to do.

However, many of the inaugural show's problems can be chalked up to first-time jitters. What the AFA is attempting - breaking down national and political barriers to reward all of Asia's films and filmmakers - is admirable, and the show had its undeniable high points. Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam performed an inspiring medley of Asian Cinema theme songs - from Gwak Jae Yong's My Sassy Girl, Hayao Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and Peter Chan's He's a Woman, She's a Man - in their original languages, no less. Three special awards were given out, one to film theorist David Bordwell, for "Excellence in Scholarship in Asian Cinema". One of Asian Cinema's longest-standing and most avid international supporters, Bordwell was presented the award by director Johnnie To.

Fifth Element director Luc Besson, a longtime fan and appropriator of Asian Cinema, presented the other special award to legendary Hong Kong actress Josephine Siao Fong Fong for "Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema". Revealing that the event marked her 60th birthday, a clearly moved Siao drew the evening's only standing ovation. Andy Lau also received a special award, the Nielsen Box Office Star of Asia Award, for his impressive run of box office hits and contributions to the industry as a producer, singer, and actor.

With only ten awards and thirty-three nominated films, spreading the wealth would seem to be difficult, but the AFA managed nonetheless. Only six films received more than two nominations: The Host (South Korea), Curse of the Golden Flower (China/Hong Kong), Still Life (China), Syndromes and a Century (Thailand/France/Austria), Memories of Matsuko (Japan), and The Go Master (China). The ten awards were split among seven films and seven countries, with only one film gaining multiple awards. Hong Kong's Tim Yip, Oscar winner for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, took home the Best Production Designer award for the Feng Xiaogang costume drama The Banquet. Thailand's Lee Chatametikool received the Best Editor award for director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century, while Indonesia's Rahayu Supanggah received the Best Composer award for the visionary musical Opera Jawa. The Best Screenwriter award went to Iranian filmmaker Mani Haghighi for Men at Work, an original comedy about three men trying to move a boulder for no apparent reason.

Sixth Generation Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke received the Best Director Award for his acclaimed drama Still Life, besting Hong Kong's Johnnie To (Exiled), Taiwan's Tsai Ming Liang (I Don't Want to Sleep Alone), Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes and a Century), Iran's Jafar Panahi (Offside), and South Korea's Hong Sang Soo (Woman on the Beach). The Best Actress Award went to Japan's Miki Nakatani for her brave and brilliant work in the colorful and tragic melodrama Memories of Matsuko. Her competitors included Japan's Rie Miyazawa (Hana), Korea's Kim Hye Su (Tazza: The High Rollers) and Lim Soo Jung (I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK), and China's Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower) and Zhang Ziyi (The Banquet).

Best Actor was probably the tensest competition as it was the category with the highest number of nominees present. Hong Kong's Andy Lau (Battle of Wits), Taiwan's Chang Chen (The Go Master), and Korea's Rain (I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK) and Song Kang Ho (The Host) managed to attend the festivities, while Japan's Ken Watanabe (Memories of Tomorrow) and Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan (Don) were no-shows. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Hana) and Hong Kong actress Michelle Yeoh presented the award amidst the clamor of Rain's and Andy Lau's vocal fanbases who clearly wanted their idols to win.

The award, however, went to Song Kang Ho, for his entertaining turn as the sloppy, sometimes pathetic hero of The Host. The award was one of four for director Bong Joon Ho's monster movie, which also won Best Visual Effects (given to U.S.-based effects house The Orphanage), Best Cinematographer (for Kim Hyung Goo), and finally Best Picture, marking it as arguably the most representative Asian film of 2006. Based on sheer global impact, the choice is hard to dispute. Not only did The Host break all box-office records in Korea, but it was a bonafide word-of-mouth hit, scoring with critics and audiences worldwide. Although the film possesses a sly wit and intelligence that satirically skewers many local topics, not to mention the U.S. itself, at its heart, The Host is a human story about family, courage, and survival. These themes are universal, and can strike a chord with anyone, anywhere. The film has already been picked up for a U.S. remake, and how Universal Pictures will handle the Hollywoodization of The Host is a story worth following.

The ultimate goal or identity of the AFA is still unclear. Is it meant to be international or local? The selection of films indicates a meeting of the two, and the diversity in winners seems to be a deliberate attempt to spread the wealth. The awards ceremony itself could use some work as it still feels painfully local, but these are just growing pains. In many ways the inaugural Asian Film Awards was successful because it rewarded the deserving without ignoring commercial or popular appeal. The awards presents an opportunity to bring Asian Cinema to a broader audience, be it across Asia or the world, and even if the goal is quality, commerce is undeniably a factor. Given the shrinking markets in some Asian territories, the AFA is in a strong position to bring new attention and funding to Asia's vibrant and innovative film industries. That can only be a good thing. Western filmmaking eyes are now looking east, and the Asian Film Awards is an acquisition eyeful.

Published April 2, 2007


Last edited by Sandy on Tue Jan 19, 2016 4:19 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2016 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Asian Cinema at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival
Written by Kevin Ma

http://www.yesasia.com/us/yumcha/asian-cinema-at-the-2013-cannes-film-festival/0-0-0-arid.498-en/featured-article.html



One of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, the Cannes Film Festival showcases some of the world's best films over the course of just ten days. The film festival's main venue also hosts The Marché du Film, one of the largest film markets in the world. Every May, tens of thousands of film fans, industry professionals and stars flock to this little town in the south of France to celebrate the finest in world cinema.

Asian cinema has always had a strong presence in Cannes and 2013 was certainly no exception, with more than 12 Asian films being screened in the main festival and other sidebar programs. The Marché du Film also featured some of the most anticipated Asian films of the coming year. As an Asian film fan, it's hard to imagine a better time to visit the Cannes Film Festival for the first time than this year.
Violence in China, Hong Kong Cinema Returns and the Modern-day Ozu

Despite the rise of China's commercial film industry, Chinese films have been missing in the major film festivals. In 2012, no Mainland Chinese film was chosen for the main competition of Cannes, Berlin or Venice, the world's three largest film festivals.



Cannes 2013 finally broke that streak with the selection of Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin. Dubbed as Jia's tribute to wuxia genre director Chang Cheh, A Touch of Sin is an anthology of four stories featuring mentions of controversial real-life incidents such as the murder of a government official, the Wenzhou high-speed rail collision and employee suicides in factories. All four tales explore the various roots of violent incidents in China, from the willful ignorance of corrupt officials to desperate acts driven by poverty or despair over employment. The film is an incendiary and provocative drama that marks the long-awaited return and a stylistic breakthrough for China's premier auteur. After its Best Screenplay win at the festival, A Touch of Sin will certainly be one of the most anticipated Chinese films of 2013.

Also making a big return to the Croisette this year is Hong Kong, which had two highly anticipated films in the festival. Given an out-of-competition screening slot, Blind Detective is Johnnie To's sixth film to play Cannes and also the first big-screen reunion of superstars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng since 2004. There was an air of excitement at the film's midnight screening at the Grand Lumiere – attended by To, the two stars and writer Wai Ka Fai – as the audience enthusiastically cheered for each company logo on the screen (the Milkyway Image logo got the biggest cheers). The audience was then pleasantly surprised by a boisterous and wickedly dark romantic comedy featuring cold cases, cannibalism and perhaps the best Andy-Sammi pairing since Needing You. Even though the screening didn't end until 2:45 a.m., the Cannes audience gave To and co. an enthusiastic standing ovation after the film.

On the other end of the Palais, there was also excitement over Un Certain Regard selection Bends. The low-key drama, about a driver who needs to smuggle his pregnant Mainland Chinese wife to give birth in Hong Kong and a socialite whose husband suddenly disappears, marks the feature film debut of young filmmaker Flora Lau. Bends had already attracted attention for having the backing of Nansun Shi (also Tsui Hark's producer), cinematographer Christopher Doyle, as well as stars Carina Lau and Aloys Chen. Expectations then skyrocketed when Cannes selected it for the Un Certain Regard section, a rare feat for a directorial debut. Despite the heavy rain, audiences flocked to the Debussy Theater for the gala premiere – attended by the film's stars, Jia Zhangke, Un Certain Regard jury member Zhang Ziyi and Carina Lau's husband, Tony Leung Chiu Wai – and saw a sensitive, elegant drama that signals an emerging new talent for the Hong Kong film industry.

The Asian film that got the biggest reception, however, was Kore-eda Hirokazu's Like Father Like Son. Starring Fukuyama Masaharu, the family drama follows two families who are told that their sons were switched as babies. Reminiscent of Ozu Yasujiro's low-key family melodramas, Like Father Like Son is a touching film that explores the idea of nature versus nurture and how important blood relation is in a family. Tickets to the two premiere screenings were quickly taken (I waited in line for over an hour for the day-after screening instead), and the film reportedly received a ten-minute standing ovation at the gala premiere. Kore-eda ended up going back to Japan with the third-place Jury Prize.

Future Blockbusters: Inside and Outside the Marché du Film

The Cannes Film Festival isn't open to the general public, which means all attendees are involved in the film industry in some way. One way to get in is to be a participant in the Marché du Film. One of the busiest film markets in the world, the Marché du Film is filled with distributors from all over the world looking to bring the next blockbuster to their home country and film companies trying to convince buyers that they have that film. Asian countries – especially Hong Kong, Japan and Korea – are all over the market, taking large booth spaces on the market floor and turning nearby apartments into offices for wheeling and dealing.

Despite a weak presence in the festival itself, South Korea had a very strong lineup of films for sale. CJ Entertainment, who had the biggest booth by a Korean company, was heavily promoting Snowpiercer, the English-language debut of Bong Joon Ho (The Host), and big-budget plague film The Flu, starring Jang Hyuk (Iris 2) and Soo Ae (Sunny). Other major Korean films being promoted include the big-budget family comedy Mr. Go, hit gangster film The New World, Kim Ki Duk's controversial Moebius, Hong Sang Soo's Our Sunhi, actor Ha Jung Woo's directorial debut Fasten Your Seatbelt and new Jeon Do Yeon starrer Way Back Home.

Some of the biggest box office hits in Japan are based on television series, and Japanese companies had quite a few in the market. Fuji Television was promoting Midsummer's Equation, the second Galileo film starring Fukuyama Masaharu, and The After-Dinner Mysteries, based on the drama starring Arashi's Sakurai Sho and Kitagawa Keiko. Also on offer are Mitani Kokis star-studded period comedy Kiyosu Kaigi, Miike Takashi's Cannes Competition film Shield of Straw, the live-action adaptations of Library Wars and Gatchaman, Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Real, Sono Sion's Why Don't You Play in Hell and the horror sequel Sadako 3D 2.

With the close ties between Hong Kong and China's film industries, many future Chinese blockbusters were represented by Hong Kong companies in Cannes. Some of the biggest China-Hong Kong co-productions in the Marché du Film were Benny Chan's action thriller The White Storm (starring Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo and Nick Cheung), period action film White Haired Witch (starring Fan Bingbing and Huang Xiaoming), Tsui Hark's Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (starring Mark Chao and Angelababy) and John Woo's upcoming epic The Crossing.

Another major emerging Asian film industry, Thailand had several large displays throughout the market. The biggest one of all was for Tom Yum Goong 2 3D, Muay Thai superstar Tony Jaa's long-awaited sequel to the 2005 smash hit. Sahamongkol Film also heavily promoted Vengeance of an Assassin, the latest film from Bangkok Knockout and Born to Fight director Panna Rittikrai. Pee Mak, now the highest-grossing Thai film of all time, also got prominent placement with a front-page ad on one trade magazine.

In addition to events inside the Palais, the Croisette is blanketed by movie billboards and press events during the festival. While Hollywood films like Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire and Pixar's Monsters University got the most attention, several Chinese films also made huge splashes with their press events. Already in Cannes for A Touch of Sin, Wang Bao Qiang took some time to appear with Donnie Yen and Eva Huang at a special press event for Iceman 3D. Fan Bingbing, who captured press attention during an appearance on the red carpet for the festival Opening Film The Great Gatsby, was actually in town with Jackie Chan to promote their upcoming film Skiptrace.

A Movie Lover's Paradise (If You Can Afford It)

For most of the year, Cannes seems to be a quiet seaside town ideal for a summer vacation. During the film festival, however, it is literally enveloped by the film industry. Festival attendees are easily recognized by the festival bag they carry, every single cinema in the city is used by the festival for market screenings or sidebar programs and thumping bass from the parties can be heard throughout the city center well into the night. Ironically, Cannes residents likely have to leave the city to catch a commercial film in a theater, while restaurants and hotels in the city mark up their prices considerably during the festival.

If you are fortunate enough to gain a badge into the film festival, you will be treated to ten days of the world's best films in exchange for the willingness to spend a few hours in a queue (sometimes in the rain). The Cannes Film Festival may not be the ideal place for a vacation, but I can't imagine a better place in the world for a film lover to be.

Published June 13, 2013
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