(07/09/07) – Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru famous for his ‘Story Seminar’ which even got him a mention in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation(2002), once said that Asian cinema is "the only bright light on the international landscape" in comparison to an European art cinema that has lost its aura and intellectual lead. While Latin America offers the occasional flash in the pan, it is Asia that has been consistent in providing film lovers with something more substantial to chew on.
Inspired by the continuing success and artistic achievements by directors hailing from the Orient, Kamera Books has released a title dedicated to cinema from that part of the world. Written by David Carter, a teacher at the Yonsei University in Seoul, the book provides essential information on the national cinemas grouped as East Asia, with factual and critical analysis of some of the key films made there.
East Asian Cinema is formated as a compilation of films with detailed production and plot information, introductory essays and a region-free DVD called Cinema on the Road – A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea by Jang Sun-woo, a 1995 production that charts the development of Korean filmmaking both socially and politically. It is a fascinating journey into the country’s film trajectory against the backdrop of its general history.
Carter mentions two reasons for the recent rise in popularity of films made in East Asia, comprising Mainland China, Kong-Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. First, it’s the quality of the films, the acknowledgement and accolades they have been receiving at festivals from the 1990s to the present. Some directors, such as Ang Lee, Wong Kar Wai and Kim Ki-duk, have become international stars, and gone on to work with bigger resources from the Hollywood machine, eager to capitalise on fresh talent from parts of the world that can offer something new to novelty-hungry audiences, a situation that somewhat mirrors the braindrain from Europe in the good, old 1960s. Another factor that Carter mentions is the availability of films on DVD, which makes them accessible to anyone, anywhere.
The writer also argues that despite the view that the cultures loosely grouped here as East Asian may bear disparate features, they also have many features in common, such as Budhism, Confucianism and, in the case of China and Korea, Communism. Besides, Carter continues, these countries have interacted with each other politically in various ways during the course of their histories. His intention of course, is not to offer a complete compendium of the production of such a vast region, but a panoramic entry point to those interested in finding out more about non-Western cinema, surely where some of 21st century film’s most brilliant minds are to be found.
East Asian Cinema by David Carter is out now on Kamera Books. Please follow the links provided to buy a copy and support Kamera by doing so.