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San Diego Asian Film Festival 2012


Posted November 4th, 2012 by Dr. Craig D. Reid in Uncategorized

Being a graduate student at Taiwan’s most prestigious university, National Taiwan University (aka Tai Da) back in 1979, there is no way that I could miss out on attending one of this year’s SDAFF new initiatives…partnering with the UCSD (University of California, San Diego) in bringing a special series of eight Taiwanese films to be shown at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall.

Fearless leader Lee Ann Kim laughingly shares, “I’ll blame that on Brian (Brian Hu; Pac-Arts Movement’s artistic director). He’s a scholar of Taiwanese cinema. At UCSD, they have a Taiwan studies program and every year they do a very small Taiwan Film Festival. They came to us and Brian, and asked if we could help promote their festival.

“We thought, ‘Why promote it? It’s around the same time as our festival and they have out dated films.’ So we had the idea to roll their festival into ours, so they’ll have a larger audience and Brian, a scholar of Taiwan films, can help curate eight films from Taiwan, they’re all hosted at UCSD and they’re free. It made sense to do this rather than be in competition. So it’s our inaugural Taiwan Film Showcase at UCSD…we thought this would be our gift to the community and make it free.”

To my wife Silvia and I, not only did it turn out to be an awesome gift, but during the films screened on Saturday afternoon it also became a major surprise.

As some of you may be familiar with my blogs over the past five years, I was a stuntman in Chinese kung fu films and kung fu TV soap operas in Taiwan from 1979 – 1981. During those years, especially with working at CTV (China Television aka Zhong Hua Dian Shi Tai) I met a lot of up and coming Taiwanese actors and directors.

Brian told me about the film In Our Time, which featured a series of four short that garnished commercial and critical success in 1982, which essentially launched a New Cinema movement in Taiwan. Silvia had heard of one of the directors Edward Yang and really wanted to watch the film.

Watching the first three shorts really bought back memories of my years there, the landscape, the cities the attitudes of the time. But when the fourth short started, it was heartfeltly touching…why?…the star of the short was one of my best friends in Taiwan back then…Lee Li-chun.

A multi-Golden Horse Award winner, he was one of the big stars of Taiwanese cinema and TV back then, and he wasn’t a kung fu star. In fact, he was so well respected in Taiwan that he was the only entertainer that could do an impersonation of President Chiang Ching-guo during his night club stand up comedy routine back in the 1970’s without getting arrested and put in the slammer.

He lives in Canada now, and we’re still in contact. But it was such a Betamax flash back seeing him on screen. I knew he was a great actor, but I didn’t know that he had become an important mover in Taiwan cinema…he’s a friend that never bragged about his accomplishments.

Next up, another intriguing film, 10 + 10, a collection of 20, 5-minute shorts, a multi-slice and spice of Taiwan; a celebration of Taiwan’s uniqueness. A couple of the shorts went over my head, perhaps due to my lack of familiarity of today’s Taiwanese cultural and language nuances.

But then again, and this may sound like a politically incorrect statement to many…but of all the China’s that are out there today….China, Hong Kong and Taiwan…Taiwan still upholds many of the traditions and views that pre-1949 China used to hold. So in that sense, many of the themes, humor and cultural nuances I experienced back in the 1970s were still apparent.

Our mini Taiwanese film festival over for the day, time to speed over (BTW, 65 mph) to the Ultrastar to see one of the festival’s highly anticipated Fant-Asia martial arts films, Painted Skin: Resurrection, a highly sensually-charged action/adventure saga that has broken all previous box office records in China.

For 131 minutes, which is amazing for a Chinese film, Resurrection doesn’t drag, it’s evenly paced and special visual effects are engrossing as they are affective in making this story’s demonic sexual situations and nether worldly ram tough rambunctious action thoroughly engaging.

The wild and wooly fights were directed by Stephen Tung Wei. In case you didn’t know Tung Wei was the kid that say’s, “Let me think” to Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon (1973) as Lee is teaching him to kick. He got his break in Hollywood being the fight choreographer in Sarah Michelle Gellar’s live action version of Scooby Doo (2002) but was disappointed by Hollywood not wanting creative fights but having him rehash stuff he’d been doing in Hong Kong for decades.

It’s  pity Hollywood didn’t unearth his reel talent.