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crouching tiger

Childhood memories & global success story: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Recently Andrew Heskins of Eastern Kicks asked a number of critics, film bloggers and friends about “the film that started it all” – i.e. their passion for Asian cinema:

It might not have been the first Asian film you saw, or even the best, but was there one that stood out? That light bulb moment when you realised how much you loved Asian movies and had to write/talk/blog/podcast about it?

I was one of those people he asked, and I have copied in my response below. Also check out the answers of other film buffs, who include several other founding members of the London Asian Film Society, university lecturers on the subject and bloggers from well known Asian film websites like LoveHKfilm.com and Beyond Hollywood.

My favourite response, I think, is currently from Eastern Kicks’s contributor Fausto, whose family ignored the advice of friends to avoid “Hero, a totally boring Chinese movie they had seen”. You can find the full answer from Fausto and others here: The Film that Started It All – Part 1 and Part 2. (And post your own films in comments below if you like!)

My own response:

I don’t really have a clear answer to this question: there isn’t one film that drew me into the world of Asian cinema, or one moment that made all the difference. I think, rather, it was meant to happen. I grew up as a TCK (Third Culture Kid) and lived in different countries, including southeast Asia (Thailand and Taiwan). I went to international schools. I had (and have) friends from the world around. As a result, I was always interested in different cultures and always watching world cinema. I remember seeing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan) and realising that it was a high-quality version of some of those terrible wuxia dramas I had glimpsed on TV as a child.

kikujiro

Match made in heaven: Kikujiro.

king of masks

Unsuspecting heroine: The King of Masks.

“There were four years in Costa Rica, when every Friday night I would rent several films. I watched pretty much any world cinema title I could get my hands on – the store clerk even started putting them aside for me. Kikujiro (Japan) was one of them, The King of Masks (China) was another. When I came to London, I joined my university’s film society and although I barely attended their events, the very first screening introduced me (surprisingly late) to Studio Ghibli with Kiki’s Delivery Service (Japan). I also watched 3-Iron (South Korea), which a society member had stumbled upon, already mid-film, when flipping TV channels but could not stop watching. I instantly understood her fascination and 3-Iron remains one of my favourite films.

kiki

Forever charmed by the magic of Studio Ghibli: Kiki’s Delivery Service.

3-iron 14

Quieter reflections of Kim Ki-duk: 3-Iron.

“Finally, there is also the fact that London is quite generous when it comes to Asian films. It’s not just that there are many film festivals that are either entirely dedicated to them or showing at least several productions each year, but there are many free opportunities. The KCCUK and the Japanese Embassy both deserve a special mention here for pulling me deeper into the world Asian cinema, the former with their fantastic thematic film nights – ‘The Year of the Director‘ in particular – the latter with showing often hard-to-come-by gems like Matasaburo of the Wind.”

matasaburo 3

Myth and imagination: Matasaburo of the Wind.

Addendum:

…had to write/talk/blog/podcast about it

I need to add a film to my original response, because I missed this part of the Andrew’s question. I’m never good with giving straightforward answers, but I can actually pinpoint the one film that led me to blogging: Hosoda Mamoru’s The Girl Who Leapt through Time.

After discovering Studio Ghibli thanks to Kiki’s Delivery Service I sought out more Japanese animations, one of which was The Girl Who Leapt through Time. I watched it and loved it. And watched it again. And again. And again. (Dozens of times.) I wanted to talk about it, share it with others, except I didn’t know anyone who had seen it. Then I remembered that my university’s film society had a request for reviews on their website and went for it. I spent a gazillion hours on that article, because I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to make sure people would read it and want to watch the film. After endless tweaking and polishing, I sent it off and then… nothing. They didn’t publish my review, didn’t even so much as acknowledge receiving my message, because as with many university societies it turned out the members running it were a disorganised bunch who probably checked the email account once a semester, leaving me with only one solution: to post my thoughts about film in my own little corner on the web whenever I wanted.

The film that started this blog: The Girl Who Leapt through Time.

The film that started this blog: The Girl Who Leapt through Time.

Films mentioned:

  •  卧虎藏龙 (Wòhǔ Cánglóng/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Taiwan, 2000)
  • 「菊次郎の夏」(Kikujirō no Natsu /Kikujiro, Japan, 1999)
  • 變臉 (Biàn Liǎn/The King of Masks, China, 1996)
  • 「魔女の宅急便」 (Majo no Takkyūbin/Kiki’s Delivery Service, Japan, 1989)
  • 빈집 (Bin-jib/3-Iron, South Korea, 2004) – REVIEW.
  • 「風の又三郎 ガラスのマソト」 (Kaze no Matasaburō: Garasu no masoto/The Glass Cape, Japan, 1989) – REVIEW.
  • 「時をかける少女」 (Toki o Kakeru Shoujo/The Girl Who Leapt through Time, Japan, 2006) – REVIEW.