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Blood Brothers makes Venice, Awarapan crosses borders, and Thailand feels the heat. All this and more in the latest edition of News from Abroad.
Indian film opens to big crowds in Pakistan
Awarapan, an Indian drama made jointly by Indian and Pakistani producers, was released July 6 to throngs of Pakistani audiences. In the city of Lahore, the film was screened at three cinema, all of which reported positive responses from moviegoers. Chairman of the Pakistan Film Exhibitors Association Jehanzeb Baig told Pakistani newspaper The Daily Times that Awarapan was making history because it was also screened in 22 other cities in Pakistan. Sohail Khan, a Pakistani investor in the film, produced the film with Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. Khan told the Times that the movie represents a push toward reviving the Pakistani film industry by opening films up to foreign investors and producers. Khan had applied to the Pakistani Film Censor Board to allow screenings of Awarapan in the country, and it was cleared for release on July 4. In 2006, the Pakistani Cultural Ministry began to waiver screenings of Bollywood films in the country. Pakistan banned screenings of Indian films in 1965 after war with India and has said the ban will remain despite the waivers. Directed by Mohit Suri, Awarapan explores the conflicting loyalties and dark past of the henchman Shivam (Emraam Hashmi). While under orders to keep an eye on the young mistress of his gangster boss, Reema (Mrinalini Sharma), Shivam discovers she is a victim of human trafficking and desires to lead a free life. Shreya Saran and Ashutosh Rana also star. --Juliana Kiyan
Seven Days With Takeshi
In his latest project, Takeshi Kaneshiro plays a grim-reaper type spirit named Chiba, who has seven days to spend with a potential victim before deciding whether or not the person's time is up. Some of the quirks of the character are: he always wears white gloves, he spends his days in CD shops transfixed by music, and rain follows him around wherever he goes. This horror/fantasy script is based on a novel by titled Kotaro Isaka Shinigami no seido (loosely translated as "The Accuracy of Death" or "Accuracy of the God of Death"). Isaka is a prolific writer of books-made-into-movies including Yoki na gyangu ga chikyu o mawasu (A Cheerful Gang Turns the Earth) and the recent Ahiru to kamo no koinrokkâ (The Coin Locker of the Duck and Drake) which just hit theaters in Japan on June 23rd. The film costars Manami Konishi (Retribution) and Sumiko Fuji (Hula Girls). Masaya Kakehi will direct, and the team will start shooting in August for release in 2008. --Ada Tseng
Blood Brothers to close Venice
The biggest Chinese film of the summer is set to be one of the main events at this year's Venice Film Festival, where it is the closing night film on September 8. Blood Brothers, directed by Taiwanese music video director Alexi Tan in his feature film debut, stars Mandarin-language heavyweights Shu Qi, Liu Ye, and Chang Chen, as well as Chinese American superstar Daniel Wu and Taiwanese up-and-comer Tony Yang. Shot completely in Shanghai, the atmospheric thriller is at $10 million, one of the biggest productions in Taiwan history. And if all that isn't enticing enough, Blood Brothers is produced by the power duo of Terence Chang and John Woo, the team that brought us The Replacement Killers, The Corrupter, and of course, Woo-helmed classics like Hard Boiled and Face/Off. --Brian Hu
Thai film industry wages protest against new Film Act
Thai filmmakers are railing against a new Film Act, which received approval from the Thai cabinet last week and is now up for consideration in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA). If passed, the bill, drafted under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture, would introduce a film rating system based on age restrictions (a G rating suitable for all ages, an over-15 rating, an over-18 rating, and a "Banned" rating, according to the Bangkok Post) and would allow the state to cut or ban films. The act would also institute a National Film and Video Committee comprising 16 government officials and seven government-appointed experts, which would assign the ratings and oversee other film policies. The Thai Film Directors Association and Thai Film Foundation issued protest against the bill, stating that the makeup of the committee discounts the voice of the film industry and public. In addition, to allow the state to cut and ban films undermines "the spirit of a good rating system," according to Pimpaka Towira, spokesman for the Free Thai Cinema Movement. The Movement submitted a petition to the NLA, which stated in part: "We demand the National Legislative Assembly decree the movies a form of mass media, and that it be liberated from the shackles of state intervention and restriction, the same as other mass media such as radio, television and newspapers have long been set free." Variety Asia Online reported that some feel the new act could be more detrimental to filmmakers' artistic freedom than the current film act, which dates back to 1930. To sign the Free Thai Cinema Movement petition, please visit http://www.petitiononline.com/nocut/petition.html. --Juliana Kiyan
Super Junior's First Movie
Korean pop phenomenon, Super Juniors, have their first movie titled Attack on the Pin-up Boys releasing in theaters July 26. Twelve of the thirteen boys are co-starring in this high school comedy-mystery about sudden attacks targeted at pretty boys. The central pretty boys will be played by Choi Si-Won, Kim Hee-chul, and Kim Young-woon, while Kim Ki-beom will be the investigator that receives additional help from Lee Don-hae. The film has been in planning for almost three years and will be the first production by S.M. Pictures, a subsidiary of S.M. Entertainment. Speculation over the film as merely an "idol movie" has led the head of S.M. Entertainment, Lee Soo-man, to defend, "Despite the title, this is a heartwarming movie." Director Lee Kwon adds that the members of Super Junior were not acting per se, but simply "bringing out their natural personalities." However, the group's leader, Park Jung-su, seems to have commented at a press conference that the boys wanted to be seen as actors, not singers. All of this will fuel what will prove to be a pretty interesting opening that may or may not be pretty after all. --My Thanh Mac
Hollywood studios eye exhibition in India
Entertainment giants Warner Bros and Sony Pictures are in talks to build a network of multiplexes in major cities in India. The Indian Express reported July 11 that the real estate company DLF Ltd., which operates its expanding multiplex business under the name DT Cinemas, is working with the film companies. Though India boasts a highly successful film industry, there is a shortfall of an estimated 40,000 screens in the nation. The multiplex business is considered "extremely lucrative," according to the Express. India's Central Board of Film Certification states, "Every three months an audience as large as India's entire population" heads to the over 13,000 cinema halls in the country. The newspaper said it "could not be ascertained what the nature of the tie-up between DLF and the global majors would be." Both Warner Bros and Sony have distributed Hollywood movies in India. --Juliana Kiyan
Korean wins Placido Domingo's competition
Placido Domingo, famous for being one of the "Three Tenors" alongside Jose Carrera and Luciano Pavarotti, held his annual opera contest this year at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. With more than 1000 entries and only 42 making it to the Paris finale, the winner that stretched his lungs to first place was 30-year-old Yang Tae-jung. Yang graduated from Seoul National University's School of Music and currently resides in Germany, where he is a student at Rockstock Conservatory. his is the Korean singer's second recognition after winning third place in the "Maria Callas" Grand Prix in Athens, Greece earlier this year. --My Thanh Mac
Beijing's Take on the MLK Story
The China National Theater and the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute has recently co-produced the play Passages of Martin Luther King in Beijing. The production, written by Clayborne Carson (a King scholar and the institute's founding director), focuses on King's family life and stars Chinese actor Cao Li in the lead role of Martin Luther King. The notion to bring King's story to China came from Caitrin McKiernan, who studied under Carson at Stanford Unversity. During an interview with the New York Times, McKiernan explained: "I realized that King was this great bridge between the United States and China.... King is someone that both sides believe in, and can be the starting point for a dialogue about how we wish the world to be." Surprising and notable is the fact that the topics of religion and civil rights in the play didn't set off any of the government censors. They production had a five-night run in Beijing, and McKiernan hopes to take the show abroad. --Ada Tseng
Date Posted: 7/13/2007