Hikaru Utada. Courtesy of www.zenlog.com
September 17th: News From Abroad
Asian films are all the rage at upcoming international film festivals, Hikara Utadu prepares her U.S. debut, controversy ensues over a new Buddhist comedy, Korean love stories explode in Japan, and much more in this edition of news from abroad.
Asian Films Shined: the 61st Venice Film Festival
Of course, a lot of Hollywood mega-stars appeared on the red carpet at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival this year, such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington--you name the rest. Various new films were invited to present their artistic perfection, and press and audiences from all over the world gathered and indulged in the highly acclaimed, and sometimes controversial, films of the year. Among them were quite a few Asian films showcased to the audience and to the very refined eyes of the judges--proving the recent growth of Asian movies in the international market. Though it did not win the Golden Lion, Howl's Moving Castle from Japan--the latest work by Hayao Miyazaki, the director of Princess Mononoke and the Oscar-winning Spirited Away--received the Golden Osella Award for its high quality techniques and artistic values. This was the first time in the last 30 years for an anime production to be shown as a competitive category for the Venice Film Festival. Moreover, a Korean filmmaker won the Silver Lion for the Best Director award for his film Bin Jip (Empty House). Director Kim also won an award at the Berlin International Film Festival for his other work Samaria. Without a doubt, he is one of the fastest-rising and most talented directors in the world. Vera Drake by director Mike Leigh won the competition among 21 other films and brought home the Golden Lion.
More Upcoming International Film Festivals
The one in Venice just ended, but there are a lot more to come: the Toronto International Film festival is currently being held, followed by Pusan and Tokyo. The 9th Pusan International Festival (PIFF) will be held from October 7 to 15. 266 films from 65 nations will be competing for the prize. PIFF has been known as the most dynamic film festival in Asia, and this year's is said to be the largest ever. The invited films vary from Korean, Japanese, German, to Greek. Also to be held at a later date is the 17th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from October 23 to 31. Though some say it is not as colorful as it has been in years past, the number of films that were strictly selected by the committee is over 200, ranging from Europe to Africa. The opening film is targeted as director Yoji Yamada's Hidden Blade. Yamada is also this year's first Japanese head judge. Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle is going to be screened on opening night. Moreover, the Steven Spielberg's The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks was chosen as the closing screening.
Hikaru Utada?s US Album Exodus Debuts #1 in Japan
She switched her name from Hikaru Utada to simply Utada, and she debuts in the US on October 5th. Prior to her US debut however, her album took over the foreign music album chart in Japan by storm. She sold approximately 524,000 copies during the first week, breaking the record of 487,000 copies set by Mariah Carey's 1995 album Daydream. "What is important is to remember that I am Japanese," Utada stated in her interview. "My dream is that one day Sting listens to my songs and thinks they are good." Born in the States, she went to an international school in Tokyo. She has even attended Columbia University in NYC. Yet, she admitted that she still has to work on certain pronunciations in order to reach a higher standard. Her album has been receiving favorable reviews from critics in the U.S. Now she gets the chance to be not only a Japanese mega-star, but an internationally known diva.
An Independent Film Stirs Up Controversy among Monks
A controversial film can be very interesting, attracting more audience members and leaving them with a lot of questions to think about over and over again. Yet, what if the film deals with something that is sacred and deeply cherished by a large number of people? Hollywood Buddha, a comedy, is scheduled to be released on September 24th in Los Angeles, but not everyone is happy about it, and many Buddhists actually took offense to the film and its poster, which shows the main character sitting on top of the Buddha statue. In Thailand, following the publication of a daily Thai newspaper article, "Buddhism Humiliated," the Thai Buddhist Council decided to file a complaint regarding the poster. More than 500 Buddhist monks marched in Sri Lanka on Monday, September 13th, protesting the release of the film.
Though the poster will be removed--director and producer Philippe Caland has apologized and promised to take it down--it has been stated by Caland that it would be impossible to stop the release of the film or to modify its controversial content now.
Zhang Yimou's New Film Coming to U.S. in December
His recent film Hero was very well-received by the American audience; it still remains very high at the box office. Now his ambition is also responsible for the creation of a new martial arts sensation, House with Flying Daggers--also known as Lovers--with highly acclaimed movie stars: Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero) and Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs). The film also introduces Takeshi Kaneshiro, a half-Japanese and half-Taiwanese actor from Japan. Already proficient in five different languages, he now must go beyond the boundary of nationality. The success of Crouching Tiger opened a door to this new genre. Though director Zhang Yimou cannot deny he was frustrated that Ang Lee preceded him, now the time seems perfectly set for this new martial arts, beauty-and-romantic triangle. House of Flying Daggers was screened at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival. It was a tremendous success in China, South Korea, and Japan. Now the film seems to be aiming at the Oscars for best foreign film. Critics say that characters are more in-depth than Hero and the film's most powerful attraction is supposed to be the action sequences. The martial arts may knock us out, and we could all be dazzled by these lovers.
Korean Love Story Boom continues in Japan
Everything started with one Korean TV drama series called Fuyu No Sonata (Winter Sonata) that was aired on the Japanese TV station NHK. The drama caught the heart of female viewers of various age groups, ranging from '20s to even '60s. The story is about love, pure emotions, and tears. Though the drama was aired relatively late in the evening, the ratings were high. This time frame--Saturday 11pm to 12am--has aired overseas dramas for a long time (Beverly Hills 90210), but nothing created such a boom like Winter Sonata. Fans were so dedicated that when the show was postponed for a special programming, about 37,000 viewers angrily called in to the TV station. Some said Winter Sonata spoke to many of those bittersweet memories of relationships, but others were touched by genuine love. Though the series is now over, the main character Bae Young Jun remains a Korean superstar, and another one of his drama series is about to begin in Japan. Thanks to Winter Sonata, various other TV dramas have caught the attention of Japanese media. Starting this month, NTV, one of the major TV networks in Japan, will air one-hour episodes of Korean dramas on a weekly basis for the next six months. Several different drama series will be covered. Certainly, Korean dramas have added spice to Japanese television programming.
Date Posted: 9/17/2004