Twenty-Two’s popularity

Source: Sup China (2/28/17)
Documentary on World War II ‘comfort women’ might become most profitable Chinese movie of all time
Pang-Chieh Ho gives you the latest news from one of China’s most dynamic industries.
By Pang-Chieh Ho

A promotional photo for Twenty-Two

When Twenty-Two (二十二 èr shí èr), a documentary that interviews 22 surviving World War II sex slaves, debuted in mainland Chinese theaters on August 14, nobody had expected that it would be such a big hit with Chinese moviegoers. Made from a paltry budget of 3 million yuan ($450,000), Twenty-Two managed to buck expectations. Not only is it the first documentary to make more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) at China’s box office, according to Mtime (in Chinese), but if it ends up grossing 300 million yuan ($45 million), a goal that analysts are confident the documentary will attain, it will also become the most profitable Chinese movie of all time (in Chinese). Continue reading

HK cinema mooc “rerun”

We are doing a “rerun” of our MOOC on Hong Kong cinema beginning on September 12.  This is a great opportunity for your students to participate for free in our online course.  If it fits, consider putting it on your syllabus.  The students do not need to complete the course or even start at the beginning, so feel free to ask them to drop in for one or two units.  They can do all the online activities as well as participate in the forum discussions.  If you would like us to do something specifically for your students, please let us know.  We can consider special activities or online forum questions to stimulate discussion.  Also, if you have any feedback on the MOOC, feel free to share your thoughts with us.  We are grateful for your support. Continue reading

Have a Nice Day review

Source: China Film Insider (8/17/13)
Film Review: ‘Have a Nice Day’
By Jonathan Landreth

Official still of ‘Have a Nice Day’.

(Grade: A)

A tousled-haired young man in a third-tier Chinese city is desperate to fix the botched plastic surgery done on his fiancée’s face. At knifepoint, he steals a satchel of one million yuan from a local gangster, setting off a chain-reaction of greed and brutal violence between strangers in “Have a Nice Day,” the first Chinese animated feature to screen in a major international film festival. Continue reading

Documentary about comfort women

List members might be interested to know that a documentary on Chinese comfort women opened in cinemas in China this week. This film is the project of a young director named Guo Ke 郭柯 who filmed his interviews with the survivors of comfort women for Japanese soldiers during WWII. Financial assistance was provided by a TV drama star who sought the support of TV and film celebrities in China, including director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚, her husband Yuan Hong 袁弘, also a hot TV drama personality and other friends to help promote the film. The documentary shows the now elderly women plainly and let them speak for themselves. When Guo began the project, thirty of them were still alive. By the time the film was completed, only twenty two were left. That is why the film is titled Twenty Two. By now, when the film is ready to be shown, only eight were still living.

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Wolf Warriors 2 (1)

Source: China Film Insider (8/13/17)
Film Review: ‘Wolf Warriors II’
By Jonathan Landreth

The hottest movie in China this summer tells the story of a fallen elite Chinese commando set on avenging the capture of his lover. Half way around the world in a resource-rich, disease-riddled, and war-torn nation somewhere along Africa’s coast, Leng Feng, is the gunslinging superhuman hero in writer, director and star Wu Jing’s super-violent shoot-em-up action film “Wolf Warriors 2.” Continue reading

Le Moulin

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Source: Japan Times (8/9/17)
‘Le Moulin’ gives a voice to Taiwanese poets who wrote under Japan’s colonial rule
by Kaori Shoji

Documenting a different time: Filmmaker Huang Ya-li uses archival footage and interviews in his film ‘Le Moulin’ to tell the story of a group of Taiwanese poets who lived under Japanese rule in the lead-up to World War II.

The word “nisshiki” (Japanese style) can often be seen on storefront signs in Taiwan to indicate chic, high-end products. It’s a little similar to what we in Japan associate with luxury items from France, though “nisshiki” is a holdover from the days when Taiwan was under Japanese rule (1895-1945).

Documentary filmmaker Huang Ya-li tells me that Taiwan is currently in the throes of a “Japan nostalgia boom” that recalls the colonial days with a degree of fondness he doesn’t quite understand. Continue reading

Plastic China review

Source: China Film Insider (7/28/17)
Film Review: Plastic China
By Jonathan Landreth

Grade A+

There’s a strong temptation to suggest a matinee screening of director Wang Jiuliang’s stunning documentary Plastic China [塑料王国]. Its implications are so dark that viewers would do well to exit the theater into the daylight and thank their lucky stars that life is better for them than it appears to be for the family of migrant workers at the center of this brave film.

The film revolves around the lives of seven humans just scraping by at a stinking mom-and-pop factory sorting waste imported from the West for recycling. All the heaviness of hardscrabble poverty is there in stark, uncomfortable relief, and yet this un-narrated, stripped-down non-fiction testament to our environmental challenge is a must-see. Continue reading

Free and Easy review

Source: China Film Insider (8/2/17)
Film Review: Free and Easy

‘Free and Easy.’ Photo: Official film still.

Grade: A-

Set in a nearly deserted factory town in China’s frigid northeast, veteran director Geng Jun’s film Free and Easy [轻松+愉快] is a slow and hauntingly surreal police procedural with spiritual overtones that takes a darkly comic look at the role fear plays in shaping human behavior.

The main cast of misfits include a wall-eyed petty thief posing as a soap salesman, a con man in monk’s robes, and a pair of two-bit bully-policemen. These fellows are, by turns, all trying to scam the townspeople, or get over on one another—or they are trying to catch one another in the act, not out of any sense of morality or duty but rather to get ahead, selfishly. Continue reading

Wolf Warrior 2

Source: BBC News (8/4/17)
Wolf Warrior 2: The nationalist action film storming China
By Beijing bureau, BBC News

Official promotional image for Chinese film Wolf Warrior 2

WOLF WARRIOR 2: The movie, directed by and starring action film star Wu Jing, has a decidedly patriotic tone

“Anyone who offends China will be killed no matter how far the target is.”

That is the tagline for Wolf Warriors 2, the Chinese box office hit that is equal parts testosterone-fuelled machismo – think blazing guns, explosions, and tanks – and chest-thumping Chinese patriotism.

It sees a soldier venturing into an African warzone and saving hundreds of lives from Western baddies. It’s basically the plot of your typical Hollywood action movie, but this time it’s a Chinese man upholding justice and keeping the world safe. Continue reading

20 years of HK cinema

Source: China Film Insider (7/26-28/17)
20 Years of Hong Kong Cinema: Parts I,II,III
By Daryl Chin

In the first part of a three-part series, we take a look at Hong Kong cinema from the time of the 1997 changeover up to today.

Infernal Affairs

By the end of the 1960s, Hong Kong’s film industry was booming. It had become world renowned for the brashness of its action pictures, created with such exuberance and crafted precision. The stunts in those movies have become legendary. In addition, there was a true proliferation of films of all sorts, including comedies and romances and dramas.

Starting in the 1980s, the Hong Kong cinema helped to reestablish many genres, such as gangster films, crime dramas, and kung fu comedies, which would have an impact worldwide. Yet the freedom which Hong Kong cinema experienced was constrained by the contours of unrestricted commercialism. Continue reading

Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Fest 2017

The 9th Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival 2017
October 6 – 10, 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan
TIEFF 2017 Lineup Announced!
2017 Lineup

TIEFFWe are pleased to announce the official selections for the 2017 Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (TIEFF). TIEFF is Asia’s oldest and longest running international ethnographic film festival. Competition was especially tight this year, with over one thousand five hundred films (from one hundred and eleven countries) submitted to the festival.

The final list consists of just forty two films, the maximum number we could comfortably schedule with sufficient time left over for discussion. The selected films are incredibly diverse. Not only do they come from twenty different countries, but they deal with a wide range of issues, and represent a wide range of cinematic styles.

The main topic this year was “Beyond the Human” which explores the interconnections between humans, animals, technology, the environment, and the spirit-world. In addition to films on these topics, we also have films that explore death and dying, mental illness, social justice, travel, refugees, and indigenous cultures. Many of these films have never before been screened in Taiwan.

The full list of films is below. We hope you can join us this October 6th-10th in Taipei. Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitter, or via our mailing list to get the latest updates about the festival.

Continue reading

Wanda retreats from Hollywood

Source: LA Times (7/27/17)
Wanda sell-off of massive Chinese movie studio is latest retreat from Hollywood
By Ryan Faughnder and Davide Pierson

Wanda Film Production Center Ground Breaking Ceremony & Red Carpet Show

Nicole Kidman arrives on the red carpet during the opening night of the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis in 2013. (VCG via Getty Images)

In 2013, Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin unveiled plans for a moviemaking metropolis in the coastal city of Qingdao, with state-of-the-art film and TV soundstages and a massive water tank to draw big Hollywood productions.

Celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman flew out to witness the unveiling of what was supposed to be the centerpiece of Wang’s efforts to make China a film business destination.

Less than four years later, Wang, the chairman of real estate conglomerate-turned-media-giant Dalian Wanda Groupis in retreat.

The brash business tycoon is reportedly unloading the studio business, part of his planned $7.3-billion Qingdao Movie Metropolis complex, in one of the most striking setbacks to date in his quest to become a global media mogul. Continue reading

Why Chinese sci-fi fans love homegrown heroes

Source: Sixth Tone (7/24/17)
Why Chinese Sci-Fi Fans Love Homegrown Heroes
Film and literary protagonists wield ancient philosophy to ward off alien invasions.
By Wu Shuang, a screenwriter and science fiction author

Two adjacent manhole covers are painted with the symbol of yin and yang (left) and the shield design of Captain America (right) at Beijing Normal University in Beijing, June 16, 2017. VCG.

The growth of the Chinese film market in recent years has brought an increasing number of foreign sci-fi films to the country’s cinema screens. People might assume that domestic films can’t hold a candle to the polished products put out by Hollywood’s slick sci-fi screenwriters, yet actual box office figures beg to differ.

In 2016, “The Mermaid” became China’s highest-grossing sci-fi fantasy movie of all time, raking in 2.2 billion yuan ($333 million). “Monster Hunt,” meanwhile, led the charge for fantasy films at a whopping 2.43 billion yuan ($360 million). Both are domestic movies. The former posits the existence of an isolated population of mermaids in a future war with humans, who wish to destroy the mermaids’ habitat as part of a sea reclamation project. The latter tells the story of two hunters in a world populated with people-eating monsters. Continue reading

Absurd Accident review

Source: China Film Insider (7/23/17)
Film Review: Absurd Accident
By Jonathan Landreth

Absurd Accident. Photo: AAIFF website.

Don’t miss the New York premiere of young Chinese writer and director Li Yuhe’s directorial debut, Absurd Accident [提着心吊着胆] (2017), at the Asian American International Film Festival at Asia Society on August 3. It’s a great, dark comedy (perfect for date-nights) and a refreshing cinematic surprise that laughs at the real-life challenges faced by modern-day rural Chinese trying to cope with the encroachment of big city values.

Were it not for the odd funk soundtrack and turns to what might be best described as “Keystone Cops” interludes—complete with madcap silent movie-era ragtime piano and subtitles—Li’s six-act feature debut could claim a rightful connection to the Coen Brothers’ modern noir, Blood Simple. Continue reading

On Monster Hunt as an Ecological Fable

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (ACAS) (June 28, 2017)
Monsters to Die For: On Monster Hunt as a Ecological Fable
By Haiyan Lee

The 2015 animated feature film Monster Hunt (Zhuoyao ji) is a popcorn caper served up by a mainland-Hong Kong coproduction team led by director Raman Hui who cleverly meld the nonsensical (moleitau) conventions of Hong Kong cinema with state-of-the-art CGI technologies. It also rehashes the well-worn Hollywood motif of a bumbling everyman turned reluctant superhero. The film seems to have touched a chord with Chinese audiences: it broke numerous box office records and became the highest-grossing domestic film (though this reputation was disputed). Here, I propose to read the film as an allegory that packs a none-so-subtle ecological message: that we can learn to live with others, human as well as non-human, so long as we are imaginative enough to imagine the impossible. Continue reading