Asian cinema

Asian cinema

Views, news, and reviews of films from the continent's biggest movie production centres.

Patriotic movies may have unlocked China’s blockbuster machine
In the climactic scene of a recent hit Chinese blockbuster, a handsome military leader gives his troops an inspirational speech, urging them to fight for the nation against Japanese imperialists.  As the music crescendos, the inspired soldiers chant, “The Chinese nation will not perish! The Chinese nation will not perish!” But as the camera zooms out, we see a surprising sight that viewers in China might have expected to be censored: the blue and red flag of the Republic of China, now known as Taiwan, waving from a rooftop.  Considered a symbol of Taiwan “separatism,” the flag was spotted a few times in the war epic The Eight Hundred, a movie set during the second Sino-Japanese war, when Chi
How John Woo reinvented action movies
Director John Woo, who turned 74 on May 1, should be considered the godfather of the modern action movie. Mixing spectacular set pieces with sentiment, he started tropes now synonymous with the genre. These include slow-motion fight scenes, Mexican stand-offs and characters firing multiple guns at the same time. The repeated use of doves, however, is a style all his own. Born in Guangzhou in 1946, the director of films such as A Better Tomorrow (1986), The Killer (1989) and Hard Boiled (1992) grew up in Hong Kong after his family fled persecution under Mao Zedong.  “As a kid, I always felt like I lived in hell – the slums of Hong Kong were horrible,” he told Venice Magazine. “I always had t
She was brutally murdered in the US. Now her life is remembered in film
Zhang Yingying was 26 years old when she left China for the US as a visiting scholar to study climate change on crop yields in mid-2017. Just six weeks after she arrived in a new country, with its unfamiliar culture and language, Zhang disappeared, never to be seen again. In June that year, police arrested a former physics PhD candidate, Brendt Christensen, after surveillance footage showed that Zhang had entered a car driven by him. A jury later found him guilty of murder and he was sentenced to life in a federal prison. Prosecutors said he raped her and murdered her using a baseball bat and a knife. Zhang’s disappearance sent shockwaves through Chinese students in the US. Before Christense
Will ‘Parasite’ make it past China’s film censors?
Chinese film fans still don’t know if, or when, they will get to see Parasite, the South Korean film that made history by winning the 92nd Academy Award for best picture, along with three other Oscars. Some expressed doubts the film would be shown in China given its unflinching criticism of social inequality and extreme poverty, and its amoral storyline. It wouldn’t be the first Korean film to fall foul of Chinese censors. Korean directors have not been shy about depicting their country under dictatorship, and are likened to French filmmakers in their stylistic portrayal of sex and gore. Chinese censorship rules ban the explicit portrayal of sex, violence, sensitive political issues, practic
Chinese animation is having something of a renaissance
The world is in the throes of an animation boom. Audiences can’t seem to get enough of animated TV shows and films. In 2019, they raked in an astounding $250 billion. Today, three countries dominate animated film and television production and consumption: the US, Japan and – a distant third – South Korea. But a fourth player is making itself heard. China has developed an appetite for cartoons. According to the Global and China Animation Industry Report, the value of China’s animation industry grew from $12.8 billion in 2013 to $25.2 billion in 2018. It is expected to reach $50 billion by 2025. Until very recently, Chinese consumers and producers viewed cartoons as exclusively for children.
Film festivals continue to tell the story of Hong Kong unrest
It is difficult for Hongkongers to find a nearby cinema to watch locally made films about the ongoing anti-government protests. But interest in the demonstrations has led foreign cinemas and film festivals to program documentaries and feature films relating to Hong Kong’s political movements. This month, the Netherlands’ International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the world’s top-10 film festivals, is screening a film series called “Ordinary Heroes: Made in Hong Kong.” It comprises of more than 20 documentaries, features and short films that focus on the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the current protests. The festival opens on January 22. In New York City, the popular Metrograph Cinema on
Simu Liu is ‘changing the world’ as Marvel's first Asian superhero
This hotel room in West Hollywood, dimly lit with the curtains drawn, shows no signs of film-star excess. No half-full bottles of flat champagne, no overflowing ashtrays. No powder-flecked mirrors on the countertops. No cracks in the plasma television.  Just some fresh clothes folded neatly over a chair and, on the table in front of us, a Nintendo Switch and a big bag of sour candies. And anyway, its occupant isn’t exactly a film star. At least not yet. Thirty-year-old Simu Liu clears off a spot on the couch and apologizes for the mess.  This room – what a TripAdvisor review might deem “perfectly adequate” – has been his home for the past few months. The only clues Liu has spent that time in
Apology for Godfrey Gao death met with criticism
A Chinese television network has pulled a reality show and apologized after the sudden death on-set of Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model Godfrey Gao. Zhejiang Television offered an apology in an interview with the show’s director, Lin Yong. It was posted online on Thursday, about a week after the performer, known as Gao Yixiang in Chinese, collapsed while shooting an episode of Chase Me. In the post titled “Sorry, we didn’t protect Yixiang in his prime,” Lin said the network had been “immersed in grief and remorse since the accident happened.” “We feel we owe an apology to Godfrey Gao, to his parents and to all who loved him,” he said. Gao, 35, was a contestant on the show and collapsed aft
Michelle Yeoh hopes Crazy Rich Asians isn’t a one-hit wonder
Things are changing fast in Hollywood for Asian actors, and it’s about time, says Michelle Yeoh. The Malaysian-born actress, who made her name as a Hong Kong action heroine in the mid-1980s, stepped back into the international spotlight with her performance in Crazy Rich Asians, the hit romantic movie she credits for Asian performers’ increased opportunities in American film and television. “It’s been a long time coming, so let’s not make it a one-hit wonder,” Yeoh says in New York ahead of the release of her latest film, Last Christmas, a light romance inspired by the Wham! hit of the same name. “There have been changes in Hollywood, and you can definitely see more Asian faces on the screen
Why Indian films bring in big bucks in China
When Indian director R. Balki first came to Beijing in 2002, it was to shoot an ad for an LG television at the Great Wall. But when he was back in the Chinese capital last month, it was to promote his latest movie, Pad Man. With Chinese audiences increasingly waking up to – and spending money on – Indian cinema, a stop in Beijing is increasingly important for Bollywood’s filmmakers. Balki says that Indian movies, which often pack a powerful emotional punch, appeal to Chinese audiences – the world’s largest. “The culture of India and China is similar in a lot of ways,” he tells the South China Morning Post. “The emotions of Indians and Chinese are similar. They connect with the Indian charact