News From Abroad
Pusan as the Forerunner Showcase Event of Asian Cinema
The 8th Annual Pusan International Film Festival (October 2-10, 2003) has again proven to be one of the strongest showcases for new Asian films with a sharp focus on lucrative promotion rather than stiff competition. This year, PIFF presented 250 films from 61 different countries; 47 from Korea, 98 from Asia and 99 from around the world.
The 8th Annual Pusan International Film Festival impresses yet again. Courtesy of Piff.org
The winners of the 8th Annual PIFF are as follows:
- The New Currents Award: Lee Kang Sheng's "The Missing" and Alireza Amini's "Tiny Snow Flakes"
- The FIPRESCI Award (the international critic's prize): Parviz Shahbazi's "Deep Breath"
- The NETPAC Award for best Korean feature film: E J-Yong's "Untold Scandal"
- The audience award: Hong Ki-seon's "The Road Taken" by Hong Ki-seon and Sedigh Barmak's "Osama"
- First time award for Asian Filmmaker of the Year: Mohsen Makhmalbaf ("Kandahar," "The Cyclist")
- Also receiving awards were short films "The Spring and the Delight" by Park Jung-seon, "The Third Tongue" by Son Kwang-ju, and the documentary "And Thereafter" by Lee Ho-sup
- Special mention went to the six-director omnibus about human rights, "If You Were Me" and Sedigh Barmak's "Osama"
For more info, please visit: www.piff.org
Tokyo International Film Festival On A Decline?
The 16th Annual Tokyo International Film Festival takes place November 1-9, 2003 but it seems that the public has lost interest in this event. TIFF has been declining in status and importance but is relying heavily on the strength of its Winds of Asia showings Ð its selection of the most intriguing films from Asia. This year, Winds of Asia will feature films, most of them by young talent, which have not been shown at other events.
Winds of Asia programmer Sozo Teruoka, scanned a list of contenders during his stay in China and has compiled a 13-feature program including five films from China (one being Zhang Yuan's "I Love You") as well as two from Taiwan, including Tsai Ming-liang. TIFF is staggering behind the paramount growth of the Pusan International Film Festival, which has certainly eclipsed all other Asian festivals and is even rivaled with up-and-coming four year-old Tokyo Filmex (Nov. 22-30).
For more info, please visit: www.tiff-jp.net
Thailand's Martial Arts Warrior, Tony Ja
Tony Ja, hailed as Thailand's Jackie Chan, made quite an impression at the press conference Monday, October 20, 2003, performing acrobatic stunt demonstrations including back-flips, somersaults, and easily leaping over six stuntmen in front of an incredibly awed audience. He had much to be excited about as the martial arts rising talent is starring in his first movie, Thai's "Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior," which was released in Hong Kong on October 30th.
Tony Ja as Ting in Thai's second biggest film of 2003, "Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior." Courtesy of Movies-online.com.sg
"Ong Bak" has brought in about 300 million baht ($1.35 million) at the Thai box office since its local release in February, qualifying as the second most popular film in Thailand this year next to "The Matrix Reloaded." The action adventure will be released in other parts of Asia and Europe next year. French director Luc Besson ("The Professional," "Taxi") has already claimed the movie's distribution rights in North America and Europe.
Ja, 27, whose real name is Panom Yeerum, was accompanied by director Prachya Pinkaew and female co-star Muay Lek. In the movie, Ja plays Ting, a temple boy mastering in the ancient art of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) who is fated to recover the stolen head of a village Buddha statue called Ong Bak.
Ja grew up as a kung fu fan and was inspired by Jackie Chan action movies. He became an apprentice of Thai action director/producer/star Phanna Ritthikrai at 15, learning kung fu and doing stunt work on the side. He later graduated from the Maha Sarakham Physical Education College where he honed his martial arts skills. He was eventually picked up by director Pinkaew and began to practice Muay Thai for his role as Ting in "Ong Bak" four years ago. The movie became a smash hit and catapulted Ja's status as Thailand's top action star. Currently, Ja is working on his next film, "Tom Yum Goong."
Director Kenneth Bi Serves Hainan Chicken Rice
Director Kenneth Bi's screenplay "Hainan Chicken Rice (Hoi Nam Gai Fan)" will be shot as a movie in Singapore starting next month starring Chef Martin Yan from the United States and Hong Kong's Sylvia Chang (Cheung Ngai Ga). Bi's script won Taiwan's Outstanding Screenplay in 1999 (Ang Lee was presented the same award for his internationally acclaimed "The Wedding Banquet" in 1993 and "Pushing Hands (Tui Shau)" in 1992) and the idea to film the movie was shelved until now. Funded largely by Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan's film company, JCE Movies, and the Singapore Film Commission of approximately $2 million, the family comedy "Hainan Chicken Rice" is set to give Singapore's movie industry a well-needed boost.
Care for some Hainan chicken rice? (Director Kenneth Bi). Courtesy of asia1.com.sg
The story is about two chicken rice sellers, one named Kim Chui played by Yan and the other, a single mother named Jade played by Chang. The woman is a mother of three sons and takes in a female French exchange student in panic that her youngest son is not showing any interest in the opposite sex. This will be Yan's first time acting and will have to learn to speak like a Hainan chicken rice seller but is overjoyed at the opportunity. Hong Kong acress Maggie Q will also be making a cameo appearance. Producers hope the film will be completed by March 2004.
Bollywood Composer A.R. Rahman Scores a Chinese Epic
Director He Ping invited renown Bollywood music director, A.R. Rahman, to score his film, "Warriors of Heaven and Earth," an epic which has entered the 2004 Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film category. Rahman has been a long standing fan of Chinese movies and jumped on the opportunity to compose the music score for "Warriors." Most of the recording has been done in London, Czechoslovakia and in Rahman's own studio in Chennai, India. He has expressed that his biggest challenge was overcoming the language barrier and relied on a translator throughout production to better understand Ping's requests.
Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman takes on a popular Chinese epic. Courtesy of Hindu.com
The film focuses on two warriors in the Tand Dynasty (618-907 AD) who have to protect a relic of a Buddha together. "Warriors" stars Chinese actors Jiang Wen, Vicki Zhao Wei and Wang Xuegi, and is distributed by Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"). It has been released in China last October and is set to premier in India early next year.
Rahman has been accredited with composing hit scores for films, including "Lagaan (Tax)," which was nominated at last year's Oscars. He has also provided music for a hit musical on London's West-End called "Bombay Dreams."
Contribution by Chau Nguyen
Faye Wong's Opium Song Banned by Chinese Government
People in China looking to buy Faye Wong's new album will find that one of its songs, "In the Name of Love," will not be on the track list. The government banned the song for its controversial line: "opium is warm and sweet." The government felt that the reference to this narcotic would harmfully influence young people.
"Relevant departments banned this because they thought the lyrics were too decadent and will influence the health of young people" said the state-run news agency Xinhua on its website.
Another reason is that communist leaders are sensitive to the pop culture references of opium because it is a reminder of the country's colonial era; opium is a word that evokes western domination for some Chinese.
The censors made this decision after Wong's record company submitted the album for review on October 24th. The album, entitled "To Love" is expected to be released throughout Asia in November. Supposedly the Chinese version will only include the other 12 songs on the original album.
Faye Wong is one of Hong Kong's top female pop stars. She has won numerous awards throughout Asia, first emerging on the Canto-pop music scene in 1989 with the release of "The Day with No Patience." Since then, she has released over a dozen albums. She is also an actress, most notable for her role in Wong Kar-Wai's "Chungking Express" (1994), in which she won a best actress award in Sweden.
Brande Roderick to be the First Playboy Bunny in Hindi Movie
The Bollywood film industry is known for its strict censorship, particularly concerning sexuality, but the tides may be changing. For the first time, Bollywood will be featuring a Playboy bunny in its film.
Brande Roderick is expected to star in Vashu Bhagnani's "Out of Control." The film, which has been filmed in two versions, English and Hindi, will be released on November 21. The English version will have two songs fewer than the Hindi one.
The film is a romantic comedy about a young Indian man (played by Ritesh Deshmukh) who gets pressured by his parents to have an arranged marriage with a girl in India. To escape the pressures, he flies to New York where he meets a bar girl (played by Roderick) whom he eventually marries.
"The film is a comical take on a man caught between two women of different cultures," said Bhagnani.
Roderick even dubbed for the Hindi version of the film by learning the language. So far, the film's music single, which had Brande and Deshmukh dancing and singing, is a chart topper in India.