By Jonathan Wroot
The East Winds East Asian Film Festival and Symposium ran for a third time on 2nd to 4th March 2012. In short, all the organisers, sponsors and guests involved seem to make it a much bigger event than before. At least, that’s the impression I got, despite only being able to attend for one day. Well done to the Coventry University East Asian Film Society (CUEAFS)!
Regretfully, I was late for the start of the symposium on the Friday, and missed Jinhee Choi’s talk on transnational imagery in recent Hong Kong Films. I apologised in person, and at least she then stayed for my talk!
I was first on the next panel. My paper was drawn from a chapter draft in my PhD thesis that analyses reviews of the DVD releases I am studying. In particular, these releases are from 4Digital Asia and Third Window. Both Adam Torel (Managing Director of Third Window), and CUEAFS, did not seem to mind the name-dropping – and promptly posted my shameless plug to their Twitter feed.
Following me were Pierce Conran and Marlies Gabriele Prinzl. These and the following papers demonstrated one of the aims fulfilled by the symposium and festival. It brought together academics and figures from the film industry and commercial media (in the UK and abroad) to discuss interests in Asian film.
Pierce is the editor of the online journal Modern Korean Cinema. He discussed the many conventions that are evident within the meta-genre of Korean melodrama. Even though Pierce did not mention the term “meta-genre”, this seemed to be what he was alluding to, as he stated that patterns he noticed existed alongside hybrid characteristics from several genres.
Marlies’ paper, on illegal downloads of Japanese films and media, and their subtitling by fans, was completely unrelated to her PhD thesis on European cinema, and both entertaining and illuminating. Unnecessarily lengthy exposition of Japanese colloquialisms could often take over the whole screen; and in-jokes are communicated from one translator to another alongside the actual text for the film’s dialogue. This is now the third talk I have seen on this topic within as many years – so I see it as a sign that this is a strongly-emerging interest in Asian film and media studies.
After lunch, I had the responsibility of chairing the next three papers. David West, a writer for NEO magazine, among other publications, gave his view on recent trends in Japanese chanbara (sword action) films. In his opinion, contemporary examples from this samurai sub-genre appear to lack a scathing social commentary, which was directed at the Japanese government of the 1960s and ’70s in earlier films. Even the presence of remakes of older samurai films seemed to affirm David’s contrasts with earlier examples from the genre.
Next was one of the conference organisers and members of CUEAFS, Antoniya Petkovaa. She explored the social commentary that is present in more and more Korean films. Though this is mainly evident in the crime/thriller genre, tangential examples were also mentioned, like the monster movie The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea 2006), and Park Chan-wook’s I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (South Korea 2006).
Paul Quinn provided another intersection with views from the more commercial side of Asian cinema reception in the UK. He is editor of the website, Hangul Celluloid, which also specialises in news and reviews of Korean Cinema. His informative talk contextualised representations of sex in South Korean cinema, from conservative depictions through to those that caused major controversy.
After one final break, the first day of the symposium was brought to a close with Colette Balmain’s lecture on parallel trends in Korean and Japanese horror films. She is now planning her lecture topic to take shape as a full-length monograph. Colette had lots of material and examples to demonstrate her thoughts, and also made suggestions as to cultural similarities and differences for patterns between the two styles of horror film. The book will most definitely be a thought-provoking, and meaty, read!
Not long after the papers were finished at the symposium, the festival began. Guests were treated to a sushi buffet dinner! This gave a chance for academics to mingle with guests from the UK and Asian film industries. However, directors Herman Yau and Miki Satoshi are respectively from China and Japan, and were accompanied by translators. This meant it was not easy for discussions to be held with them, so that was mostly left until the Q&A sessions in the following days (reported on in the CUEAFS newsletter and Twitter feed).
Guests were then led through to a cinema-style venue constructed specifically for the East Winds Festival. This was within the Coventry University building also holding the symposium – the Ellen Terry building. A lengthy introduction came first from Adam Torel and Spencer Murphy (Coventry University tutor and member of CUEAFS), and then Andy Palmer. He represented Toyota, who had sponsored the Festival through their new luxury car brand, Infiniti. This had allowed the special cinema venue to be constructed, and the guests to be brought over from Asia. The film Adrift in Tokyo (Miki Satoshi, Japan 2007) shortly followed as the first film to be screened.
Though I was thoroughly enjoying the film, I had to leave halfway through, so that I did not miss my train home. But the symposium would continue the following day, as would the festival over the next two. The Festival and Symposium left an impression of being nothing if not glamorous as I left the building, as three Infiniti cars were parked right outside. Fingers crossed the event is just as glamorous and jam-packed with papers and films next year, and that I can attend the whole three days!
Jonathan Wroot is a PhD student at the University of East Anglia. His thesis examines the distribution and marketing of Japanese films on DVD in the UK, through two distributors in particular: 4Digital Asia and Third Window. He has presented at Cine Excess and the Chinese Film Forum UK symposium on distribution and exhibition of Asian cinema in the UK. He will also be helping to organise the MECCSA PGN conference at UEA in 2013.