By Sarah Fallon
Martial Arts is a popular genre in both Asian and other, particularly American, film industries. Jackie Chan and Jet Li are internationally recognised for their work in local and global films as martial artists. Huaiting Wu and Joseph Man Chan say that since the 1970’s there’s been an increasing influence of Eastern themes in Western films (2). However, not only are Asian themes becoming more popular overseas, Asian films are as well. In 2001 the Chinese film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) was extremely successful around the world (Wu & Chan, 3). In recent years many Korean films have also reached a global audience.
However, representations of Asian themes and people in Western films directed and Wester audiences can be problematic. The question of legitimacy and accuracy is raised, as the viewer must wonder at the extent of the filmmakers understanding and knowledge of that culture. Salman Rushdie says about 2008s Slumdog Millionaire (a film about India’s underbelly and directed by a white American) “that were its setting somewhere more familiar to western audiences, it would be recognised as the banal fluff it is.” And “people want, instead, enough grit and violence to convince themselves that what they are seeing is authentic;” I don’t necessarily agree with his opinions about the film, but the pint I am trying to make with Rushdie’s comments is that When a western audience is presented with ideas and events they are unfamiliar with, they are likely to take it as reality which may not be the case. This can happen when western audiences watch Asian films as well, as they may not understand the culture and therefore not recognize, satire, exaggeration, stereotyping or purposeful misrepresentation.
The recent globalization of Asian cinema or Asian culture represented in Western film is problematic but it is also very beneficial both to the Asian film industries and the audiences that can now explore a different form of cinema.
Chan, Joseph Man & Huaiting Wu. “Globalizing Chinese martial arts cinema: the global-local alliance and the production of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Media, Culture & Society. http://mcs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/29/2/195. 2007.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Dir. Ang Lee. Asia Union Film & Entertainment Ltd. 2000.
Rusdie, Salman. “Lost in Translation.” The Weekend Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25235702-16947,00.html. March 28-29, 2009.
Slumdog Millionaire. Dir. Danny Boyle. Celador Films. 2008.