Lodestone Theatre's first musical production revamps 1885's controversial opera, The Mikado, and celebrates Asian American theatre with dose of politics and sweet harmony.
Spring is festival season here in Los Angeles, especially for fans of Asian and Asian American cinema. But rare is the new festival that combines innovative programming with a love for contemporary world cinema.
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YouTube banned in Thailand, first gay series in China, and the dragon returns. All this and more on the latest edition of News from Abroad.
Thai YouTube Troubles
YouTube, now the world's streaming video service, is now becoming an issue in other countries. Thai authorities, after viewing some of YouTube's anti-monarchist clips, decided to block YouTube from being accessed in Thailand. A user had posted a video scorning the monarch ruler King Bhumibol by spraying graffiti across the King's face and putting a pair of feet -- which are considered highly offensive -- above his head. However, Google (which owns YouTube) has suggested a different approach to the matter. A YouTube spokesman has offered to educate the Thai ministry on how the site works so that Thailand can block certain individual sites rather than ban the whole site together. However, the method to ensure this policy is somewhat obscure. Ultimately, YouTube may have to be more careful, for Thailand is not the first to criticize the company. It has sparked controversy in China and Turkey as well. --Jane Yu
Love Conquers All in HKIFF
Hong Kong's International Film Festival award season ended last Tuesday, April 3rd. The Malaysian drama Love Conquers All carried home the top prize in the Asian Digital Competition in the Festival as well as the RTHK award for "the 10th Anniversary of the Establishment of HKSAR Election." This drama was also a past winner of the New Currents Award in Pusan and the FIPRESCI award at the Rotterdam Festival. Bill Gutentag and Dan Sturman's Nanking won the Humanitarian Award for documentary. The RTHK continues to give out a series of awards to Hong Kong's finest filmmakers for their work spanning a decade. The top prize for best film and best screenplay went to Infernal Affairs, the Andrew Lau and Alan Mak film that has garnered critical acclaim and was adapted into the Academy Award-winning The Departed with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson. --Jane Yu
Lee's Life, in 40 Episodes
CCTV has begun production on a biography series chronicling the life of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. The state television broadcaster has budgeted an estimated $6.4 million for the project and is currently filming in Lee's ancestral home of Guangdong province. Production is scheduled in both the United States and Hong Kong, as Lee spent many formative years in San Francisco and the former British colony. Kung Fu Hustler Chen Guokun has the title role for the series, which has a planned 2008 release to coincide with the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. -- Larry Kao
Jackie Chan in Search of a Disciple
Reality television has brought forth top chefs, American idols, runway designers, and now... the next action movie star? Actor and stuntman Jackie Chan is creating his own Chinese television competition The Disciple in search for a new martial arts film star. The program, which is produced by Chan and the Beijing TV station, already has 100,000 people signed up and in the running. Chan claims that people can be good at fighting, but he is looking for people with style who have the ability to incorporate dance into martial arts. The show is scheduled to run from March to October this year, and the ten winners will be featured in a martial arts film. The movie is planned to debut before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Chan has been in more than 100 films and performs all of his own stunts. --Julie Hong
Coming Out in China
Gang Gang's Connecting Homosexuals will be China's first series concentrating on gay issues. The twelve episodes will be broadcast online, delving into controversial topics such as the disclosure of one's gay identity and gay marriage. This is a radical attempt to change the stigmatized perception of homosexuality, which was considered an illness until 2001. Gang Gang, the producer, hopes the series will help many, such as middle-aged or elderly Chinese people, to better understand the misconception of homosexuals in China. The show may have a difficult time escaping the censors since the topic is still a very touchy issue for many traditional Chinese people who see it as yet another Western trend. This intolerance only fosters more problems, since the 30 million homosexuals in China are pressured to keep their gayness a secret. --Jane Yu
While America has its idol, China has its hero, courtesy of Shanghai. The Shanghai Dragon Television produced series, which just had its debut this past week, has toppled Hunan's Super Girl series as the show with the highest ratings in China. My Hero borrows heavily from the Super Girl formula, except with the major twist of exhibiting Chinese men instead of women. In addition to singing talents, the men of Hero have to look good, dress well, have other talents, and also exude morality, as determined by the judges and the audience. Contestants are vying for a new Mazda car, 300,000 RMB, and the title of top hero, though there are several categories that have winners. --Larry Kao
Love and Honor Makes Bank at the Box Office
Yoji Yamada's Love and Honor (Bushi no Ichibun) about a blind samurai's struggles to overcome his debilitation has exceeded the four billion yen ($33.9 million) mark at the Japanese box office. It was initially released on December 1st in Japan, but by April earned a total of 4,000,085,200 yen ($33,899,027) on 3,395,426 admissions. It is now the biggest hit of Yamada's successful four-year career, which also includes his famous Tora-san comedy series. The film's crew and stars won many awards in the 2006 Japanese Academy Awards for Rookie of the Year, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Lighting Director. --Jane Yu
Happy Boy Voice with Happy Content
China's version of American Idol called Happy Boy Voice will make its televised debut on May 1. But unlike American Idol, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television is banning any form of "weirdness," vulgarity, or unhealthy language from the program. According to the state administration, even judges are not allowed to make brutal or blunt statements, and there will be no room for tears or drama. Contestants may only sing happy and inspiring songs and have to dress in the "mainstream" fashion. Happy Boy Voice is a sequel to 2005's Super Girls Voice, where the winner of the competition became a successful pop singer. As popular as the show was, Super Girls Voice still received backlash from the public audiences and the state officials for some of their "unhealthy" and vulgar content. --Julie Hong
Nicolas Cage as The Holy Man
Nicolas Cage will star in The Sadhu, or The Holy Man, as a soldier transformed into a mystic seeking revenge for his family during the colonial period in India. The movie is directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by self-improvement guru Deepak Chopra. This comic book adaptation of an Indian legend, is produced by Virgin Comics along with millionaire Richard Branson. Cage became interested in the project after reading the comic book last year, and he personally chose Shekhar to direct the film. According to Virgin Comics creative chief officer Gotham Chopra, the movie will start filming in 2008. Cage is known for his Oscar-winning role in Leaving Las Vegas and his roles in Adaptation and World Trade Center. --Julie Hong
China Enforces Anti-Piracy Laws
China is known to be the world leader in bootleg movies, music, and designer clothing. However, they now taking more aggressive means in order to curb this piracy problem. Because of criticism on their "lax" anti-piracy laws, the Supreme People's court is now issuing harsher criminal penalties for movie and music piracy for CDs and DVDs.
There was much outcry from foreign countries who claim that China's booming piracy industry is not beneficial for their industries. According to the Xinhua News Agency, people used to have to face criminal prosecution if they had 1000 or more pirated discs, but the Court lowered the amount to 500 or more discs. Those who possess 2,500 pirated discs will have to face seven years in prison. The lower courts are now also dealing with piracy cases with individuals and companies as well. People who are caught pirating will have to pay up to 15 times what they would have gained by selling these items. These fines were raised by an excruciating amount in order to dissuade people from trying to create and sell counterfeit DVDs and CDs. Just this week, police confiscated the largest amount of pirated material, approximately 1.8 million discs, in the southern city of Guangzhou. They arrested 13 people and confiscated 30 illegal pirating devices. --Julie Hong
Mike Tyson's Dancing in Bollywood
The former heavyweight boxing champion has signed a deal to appear in a promotional video for Ahmed Khan's film Fool and Final, a boxing comedy flick starring action star Sunny Deol (Gadar-Ek Prem Katha, Damini - Lighting, and Ghayal). Loosely based on Guy Ritchie's film Snatch, Fool and Final is about a group of men who try and foil a diamont heist. Because it is a broad comedy, the filmmakers thought it would be great to have Tyson involved, dancing to a song composed by popular Indian singer Himesh Reshammiya. Tyson will be flying out to India to shoot the music promo with the entire cast. The film also stars Shahid Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, and Ayesha Takia and is expected to be released in May 2007. --Ada Tseng
Date Posted: 4/13/2007