Sun, Apr 01, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Asia's star rising over Hollywood

Filmmakers see 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' as signifying the ascendant power of Asian films on the global market.

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee (李安), who was born in Taiwan but lives in the US, is widely hailed for having bridged cultural divides with his movie. "Elementary school kids, including my son's classmates went to see this film two, three times. It is a beginning for them to appreciate different cultures through the common language of films," Lee said.

The windfall of the Crouching Tiger juggernaut for Lee, the actors and the collaborators from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong is likely to include more rewarding opportunities to appear in major Hollywood productions and greater access to funding for future projects.

Philip Lee, a Hong Kong-based film producer and a co-producer of Crouching Tiger said the film's success has greased the wheels of Hollywood's financing machine for Asian movies. "If you want to make a film with a story related to Chinese culture, or with scenes mostly shot in China, the process is much smoother nowadays," he said.

For Crouching Tiger, Lee was responsible for financing and insurance. He has also set up production companies in Los Angeles. "We went through so much hardship making Tiger," he said. "And there is such a big difference now." Philip Lee is currently working on projects with Paramount and Universal Studios.

Barbara Robinson, managing director of Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, has played another key role in bringing the production force of Hollywood studios to Asia. Columbia Asia is the first major studio production house to set up in Asia, and Crouching Tiger was among its first four investments. The other three were Zhang Yi-mou's (張藝謀) The Road Home (我的父親母親), Not One Less (一個都不能少) and Tsui Hark's Time and Tide (順流逆流). Zhang's films won a Silver Bear at the International Berlin Film Festival and a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

Robinson said this year Columbia Asia would release four new films, including Taiwan director Chen Kuo-fu's (陳國富) sci-fi Double Vision (雙瞳) and Chinese director He Ping's (何平) Hero's Heaven and Earth (天地英雄). "You'll have sci-fi, a big action film and a thriller. So there is a variety that breaks down stereotypes that Asian films are all shoot 'em up action thrillers," she said.

Sony Pictures Classics has been set up to provide the promotion and distribution muscle to give new Asian films needed exposure to guarantee box office success.

Michael Barker, running through the list of films picked up by Sony Pictures Classics last year, noted that the company had incorporated almost every major director in East Asia. "Every 10 years, the global film world sees a new cycle. The talent and creativity are entering a new cycle now," he said. "In the 1970s it was in Germany. But right now, Asia is where the energy is."

With Asian movie stars and filmmakers looking for funds and opportunities in Hollywood and major studios coming to Asia looking for new creativity, the gap between tinseltown and Asia is likely to become narrower.

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