A Note from the Programmer

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the U.S. release of the martial arts movies Five Fingers of Death and Enter the Dragon, whose box office successes ignited the worldwide "kung fu craze," we have organized a “Martial Arts Movie Classics” special program consisting of three of the greatest kung fu films: Enter the Dragon, Iron Monkey (1993) helmed by celebrated action director Woo-ping Yuen and Jet Li’s star vehicle Once Upon a Time in China (1993) directed by Tsui Hark.

Photo of Nam Lee, Ph.D

Nam Lee, Busan West Programmer

All three masterpieces emphasize great action sequences that focus on the actual physical capabilities of the body more than traditional sword fighting wuxia films. Emerging Chinese martial arts director Xu Haofeng’s debut film Sword Identity (2011) presents an interesting variation on the traditional wuxia film. It revises and critiques the traditional martial arts genre by focusing more on the inner psychology of the characters than the kinetic representation of martial arts.

While these martial arts films demonstrate the transnational appeal of the Asian action movies, other films chosen for this year also highlight the global flow of Asian films and filmmakers. Films bookending the festival suggest the reach of Asian cinema: opening film The Last Stand (2013) is a Hollywood action film directed by Korean helmer Kim Jee-woon, and closing film Dangerous Liaisons (2012) is a co-production between China, Korea and Singapore. Directed by Korean filmmaker Hur Jin-ho, it is also a Chinese adaptation of the French novel of the same title.

Including the “Martial Arts Movie Classics” special program and the mini-retrospective honoring Icon Award recipient Kim Jee-woon (The Last Stand, The Good, The Bad, The Weird and A Tale of Two Sisters), this year’s Busan West Film Festival features twelve films from five countries: Korea, China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the U.S. Within this diverse group of films are three independent films that offer the everyday drama of love, friendship, and heartbreaks of youth in contemporary Asia: Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yuan’s Beijing Flickers (2012), Taiwanese director Yang Ya-che’s GF*BF (2012), and Korean director Yoon Sung-hyun’s Bleak Night (2011). And although a different genre, the Korean fantasy melodrama A Werewolf Boy (2012) is also a moving story of young love between an ailing teenage girl and a “wolf boy” who risks his own life to be by her side.

Finally, this year’s Busan West is expanding its horizon to include American filmmaking by inaugurating the Asian-American Short Film Competition. Just as the Busan International Film Festival supports Asian regional filmmaking, it is one of the Busan West Film Festival’s goals to promote our region’s filmmaking to the attention of Busan. The winning films will be screened at BIFF in October, to further emphasize the connections between Asia and Asian-American filmmaking.

I am extremely pleased with the way this year’s programming and festivities are coming together and I am confident our audience will be too.

I look forward to welcoming you on March 8.

Nam Lee (signature)

Assistant Professor of Film Studies, Ph.D