Asian Invasion

Edward Fowler ebfowler at
Sun Jan 21 16:14:38 EST 2001

I have learned a lot from the ongoing debate about the influx of Asian
films into the US, but sense that it has gravitated toward two poles:
China (incl. Hong Kong & Taiwan) vs. Japan, fueled seemingly by a sense
of rivalry among KineJapan'ers toward the former area.  China's gain is
perceived as Japan's loss, and vice versa--a kind of zero-sum game that
has unfortunately excluded discussion of other cinemas.  Kehr's article
does bring up Korean cinema, for example, but you wouldn't know it from
the debate.  'Chunhyang,' Im Kwon Taek's latest film, has been received
enthusiastically here in Southern California.  It is sad to think that
each of us feels compelled to rally around a particular film and/or
national cinema and champion it, as if there were no other, for fear of
being drowned out by lobbyists other agendas.

My interest in Japanese cinema goes without saying, and the recent
achievements in Chinese cinemas are indeed noteworthy (I went to see
'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' with a chip on my shoulder, but was won
over in the viewing), but Korean cinema clearly has carved its own
significant niche.  Im's latest film, though perhaps not his best, is
trying to say something very important about the meaning of fiction and
about the centrality of the TELLING of a story.  KineJapan'ers should be
taken to task for leaving out Korea in the current debate as much as Kehr
has been for leaving out Japan in his article in the NY Times.  As
difficult as the task is, I admit, of challenging mainstream media critics
who aim to represent Asian culture and annoint certain films/books/art
works, I'm wondering how we might be advocates of inclusiveness in our
discussion without becoming diffuse.  As you see, I have no answers....

Ted Fowler

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