photo credit: Benjamin Wong, still from The Old Samurai
As mentioned in my previous article, the strength of South Korean film has Hollywood scrambling to keep pace. Three South Korean directors have Hollywood films in 2013: Kim Jee-Won (The Last Stand), Park Chan-wook (Oldboy; Stoker with Nicole Kidman), and Bong Joon-ho (Mother; Snowpiercer with Chris Evans). They follow a number of Asian directors who have found success in Hollywood. The upcoming Chapman U’s Busan West Film Festival March 8-10 in Orange, California will bring Kim Jee-woon as well as Chung Chang-hwa to the festival for special Q & A sessions.
In big budget films, Ang Lee is nominated for an Academy Award for Life of Pi, his film of an Indian boy adrift at sea with a Bengal tiger. John Woo, Mira Nair, Tarsem Singh, and Shekhar Kapoor are just some of the elite Asian imports while Asian Americans Justin Lin, Cary Fukunaga, Wayne Wang, Jon M Chu, Kevin Tancharoen, and James Wan are top-tier directors. John Cho returns in the much anticipated Star Trek Into Darkness. Twilight’s Justin Chon stars in the Hangover-esque 21 and Over which comes out March 1. Dwayne Johnson stars in Chu’s long-awaited G.I. Joe: Retailiation.
Justin Chon stars in 21 and Over courtesy of Relativity Media
Here are more current releases to watch for, each with a different distribution platform:
Making the film festival circuit from husband and wife team Steve Myung and Lina So is their first full length feature, Anita Ho. Inspired by personal life experiences, the film is Meet the Parents—Chinese Style. In the film, in which the couple play their fictional counterparts, Harry Ho, an unemployed writer readies to propose to his actress girlfriend, Anita Lee. But her parents have something to say about that when they find it he’s a Korean “Oh” not a Chinese “Ho.” Anita Ho recently received several awards from the Asian on Film Festival and will screen February 17th.
Screening online is Benjamin Wong’s short film, The Old Samurai. A moody black and white film, the film follows “an old samurai challenged to an epic showdown by a young ambitious samurai, his worthiest adversary yet.” A talented photographer and winner of Webby and Addy awards, the now New York-based filmmaker was inspired by the lighting-fast duels-to-the-death in Samurai classics such as Sanjuro. Wong used the 1000 frame-per-second IDT N5 camera for his ultra slow-motion capture of rain.
Keiko Agena in Lil Tokyo Reporter
The narrative short film Lil Tokyo Reporter is based on the true life accomplishments of Sei Fujii. While his name and story have been mostly forgotten, the impact of his staunch defense of the Japanese American community is immeasurable. Fujii immigrated to America and graduated from USC Law School, but because of his citizenship, was unable to practice law. Working with his classmate J. Mario Wright, Fujii was victorious in a US Supreme court decision that allowed Japanese doctors in Los Angeles to build the first Japanese hospital in the country. After being released from the incarceration camps, Fujii challenged the California Alien Land Law, which was found unconstitutional in 1952. Starring Academy Award winner Chris Tashima and Gilmore Girls’ Keiko Agena, and directed by Jeffrey Gee Chin, Lil Tokyo Reporter premieres in Los Angeles in February.
Arab Canadian director Ruba Nadda earned awards and accolades for her 2009 film, Cairo Time starring Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig, Deep Space Nine’s Doctor Bashir. She reunites with Siddig for her latest film, Inescapable which stars Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei and Fringe’s Joshua Jackson. The film follows Siddig’s Adib Abdel Kareem whose life in Toronto with his family is far away from the wave of political unrest of Arab Spring. But his past as a major player in the Syrian resistance may not be completely buried as his daughter disappears on a detoured trip to Damascus. After playing at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Inescapable will be released in select theaters beginning February 22nd and VOD February 25th.
Repping South Korean film, director Im Sang-soo’s Taste of Money follows one of the richest families in Seoul. When the wife Madame Baek catches her husband having an affair with their Filipino maid, she seeks revenge by seducing their young male secretary who has his own secrets, including his attraction to their daughter.
Korea’s action auteur, Ryoo Seung-wan returns with The Berlin File, a spy thriller wrought with political intrigue as a South Korean intelligence chief has to investigate loyalties of a ghost agent with the CIA, North Korean, and German governments hot on the trail as well.