Asian films have landed on the international radar via a complicated process that involves both taste and economics. Various corners of Asia’s film industry have been morphing into more arthouse-oriented shapes, with Korea being the latest to forge a new partnership of likeminded, risk-taking producers and distributors. While not the bread-and-butter of the film industry, arthouse cinema lends considerable weight to foreign sales. Even non-Asian directors are starting to take their productions eastward—half of Olivier Assayas’ recent Boarding Gate was shot in Hong Kong, as was an integral portion of Emmanuel Carrère’s La Moustache. Whether it’s action or horror or historical epic, there’s a wealth of modern film pouring in from the East. When director Hou Hsiao-Hsien was asked at Cannes what his thoughts were on the recent wave of Asian films, he took yet another puff of his cigarette and said, simply: “maybe it’s time for it?” Among the Asian countries where film is made, exhibited and exported, history and the attendant culture of guilt has an unfortunate tendency of meddling with art. On the other hand, a country like Japan is fascinating to outsiders because of its ability to combine and honor tradition while embracing modernity wholeheartedly. Few regions can boast of such a synthesis—the Middle East, for instance, has yet to reconcile its tangled history with the demands of the modern age, and with countries collapsing like so many sand castles, it’s a bit tricky to launch an art movement. The strength of Asian cinema is the strength of Asia itself. These films and filmmakers aren’t afraid to reference other schools and nations and, while toying with modern principles, they are still able to dig dip within a rich history to produce the vibrant panels of Asian life that are honored the world around the world.

© 2007 Ali Naderzad

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