KOREA + CHINA = POP

China’s presence at the 2014 Busan International Film Festival

China’s presence at the 2014 Busan International Film Festival

The 19th annual Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) kicked off last week! Held from October 2nd to 11th, the Korean film festival is arguably the biggest film festival in Asia.

When it comes to China’s presence at this year’s festival, there are two headline events worth noting: 1) Hong Kong director Ann Hui awarded as Asian Filmmaker of the Year; and 2) Both their opening and closing films are in the Chinese language. If the former isn’t of much significance to Korean pop fans, then perhaps the latter may suggest 2014 is the year when Korean entertainment companies truly start off their ventures in China.

If anybody were to follow Asian cinema the past couple of years, there has been a noticeable increase of Korea-China collaborations in the past few years. Whether it’s Jun Jihyun working a part of China’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Choi Siwon being cast in the upcoming Jackie Chan movie Dragon Blade, or the Youku Tudou backed film Bad Sister starring Ivy Chen and Ji Jinhee, there have been a great number of projects that have consisted of both Korean and Chinese contributions. It’s even been reported that the sequel to Korea’s My Sassy Girl is officially a Chinese government supported film. With China’s growing appetite for Korean-flavoured Chinese movies, the market potential is huge for Asian film investors.

To learn more about Korean-China collaborations in the Asian film industry, there are two fantastic reads written by Patrick Frater at Variety that cover this topic. The articles are linked at the bottom of this blog. I highly recommend everyone to read them!

I have also gone through BIFF’s entire selection and have listed all Chinese-language films at the film festival this year. Hope this will help you in selecting Asian movies to add to your watchlist!


Paradise in Service

Director: Doze Niu
Cast: Ethan Juan, Chen Jianbin, Qian Wan, Ivy Chen
Synopsis: Set in the island Kinmen, often seen as the most dangerous military base because it’s geographically close to China, Paradise in Service follows the adventure of a boy who serves his military service in Unit 831 from 1969 to 1972, in preparation for a war that could erupt anytime. Through an unlucky lottery draw result, Pao, a twenty-something young man from Southern Taiwan has to serve the military in the remote and perilous Kinmen. Moreover, he is assigned to the Sea Dragon (ARB), a unit noted for the toughest physical training. It never occurs to Pao, however, that the greatest challenge in his military service lies not in the Sea Dragon but in Unit 831, a special task he is later appointed to… In this peculiar assignment, Pao vows to keep his virginity against all odds.


Gangster Pay Day

Director: Lee Pocheung
Cast: Anthony Wong, Charlene Choi, Wong Yaunam
Synopsis: Wong Kam-Kwei, a gang boss on the decline, overseeing bathhouses and karaoke bars, falls for a small restaurant owner, Mei. He begins to help her business, and learns that Mei is already in love with Leung, a member of his gang. He’s also like a brother to Kam-Kwei. When a rival gang hoping to steal his territory kills Leung, the only thing left for Kam-Kwei to do now is to protect Mei and avenge Leung.


Coming Home

Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Gong Li, Chen Daoming, Zhang Huiwen
Synopsis: During the Cultural Revolution, professor Lu Yanshi is branded a liberal thinker and sent to a labor camp. He escapes from the camp and returns to his way home, only to be captured again when his daughter, Dandan, blinded by her ambition, gives him away. After a long imprisonment and at end of the revolution, Lu Yanshi comes back home. But his dear wife, Feng Wanyu, doesn’t recognize him. He does everything to help her regain her memory, but fails. Instead, he decides to remain silently by her side because Feng Wanyu’s loss of memory might due to the trauma of helplessly watching her husband dragged away to camp and her inability to forgive her daughter.


The Golden Era

Director: Ann Hui
Cast: Tang Wei, Feng Shaofeng
Synopsis: Hong Kong master Ann Hui recreates the life of the pioneering and prodigiously talented 20th-century female novelist Xiao Hong.


Dearest

Director: Peter Chan
Cast: Zhao Wei, Huang Bo, Tong Dawei, Hao Lei, Zhang Yi, Zhang Yuqi
Synopsis: Drawing on remarkable true stories, Peter Chan delivers a moving drama about child abduction in China. Huang Bo stars as a father whose young son disappears in the streets of a big city. He sets out on a search across China, stopping at nothing to find him. In this star-studded cast, Zhao Wei plays the role of a mother from a poor rural area.


Song of the Phoenix

Director: Wu Tiangming
Cast: Tao Ceru, Li Mincheng, Chi Peng
Synopsis: Suona player You Tianming survives harsh training to master suona skills passed down to him, but when the time comes for him to lead his own troupe, China no longer has need of this traditional music. As China’s modernization and urbanization progress, he realizes he might not be able to keep the promise he made to his mentor to continue playing.


The Continent

Director: Han Han
Cast: Feng Shaofeng, Bolin Chen, Wallace Chung
Synopsis: Three friends live in eastern part of China, take journey towards the western beach. On the road they meet an extra girl, a call girl, a pen pal, a hitchhiker, a stray dog. They reminiscent their own past, they fall in love, they open their eyes to the truth and realize the destiny of life. The journey is not entirely beautiful, there are betrayal and hatred. But the youth that grows through journey is shining.


Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2

Director: Johnnie To
Cast: Louis Koo, Miriam Yeung, Gao Yuanyuan, Vic Chou
Synopsis: Hong Kong action auteur Johnnie To indulges his silly side with this hilariously inventive sequel to his hit romantic comedy, about two former lovers who find themselves irresistibly drawn back together — despite the fact that each of them is engaged to someone else.


A Corner of Heaven

Director: Zhang Miaoyang
Cast: Guo Xinjiang, Huo Xuehui, Bai Haonan
Synopsis: When his mother suddenly vanishes, a young boy wanders the valley wasteland along the YellowRiver with only a letter from his mother in his possession. He ends up at a coal mining village where he finds a job. But when the backbreaking work and the surrounding violent adults takes their toll on him, the boy runs away and joins a band of similarly aged, boy thieves. He descends into a world of drug addiction, pushing his way through grown-ups living in an opium cave, sometimes tumbling down cliffs. The film follows the destitute labyrinth the poor boy’s life becomes, presenting an intimate account of everything he experiences and feels.


Black Coal, Thin Ice

Director: Diao Yinan
Cast: Lian Fan, Gwei Lunmei, Wang Xuebing, Wang Jingchun, Yu Ailei, Ni Jingyang
Synopsis: A coal-mining town is shaken up by the grotesque mutilation and murder of the husband of beautiful and strangely mystical laundry employee, Wu Zhizhen. The detective on the case, Zhang Zili(Liao), is shot while investigating and retires. Five years later, former colleague Captain Wong finds Zhang, now working as a factory security guard and drowning himself in liquor, and tells him that another mutilation murder resembling the one five years earlier has occurred. Zhang senses that the case is connected to the enigmatic Wu and pays her visit. During his quest for redemption and closure, he finally discovers the true, shocking identity of the serial killer.


Red Amnesia

Director: Wang Xiaoshuai
Cast: Zhong Lu, Liu Shi, Feng Yuanzheng, Qin Hao, Amanda Qin
Synopsis: Zhong Lu plays Deng, a stubborn widow in her 70s who works hard to take care of her aging mother, her two sons and grandson. Her eldest son, daughter-in-law and her youngest son – who is gay – find her overbearing. The family’s peace starts to crumble when they receive a strange call with no one on the other line. The call forces Deng to look back at her life and recall a 40-year-old mistake made during the Cultural Revolution at a Guizhou factory, and when a young boy comes to see Deng, her dark past finally surfaces.


Fantasia

Director: Wang Chao
Cast: Hu Ruijie, Zhang Xu, Su Su, Jian Renzi
Synopsis: Lin’s family is financially devastated when his father undergoes a pricey medical treatment for leukemia. Despite her overbearing workload, his mother makes rounds asking for loans, Lin’s older sister becomes a call girl and Lin plays hooky from school on the riverbank. Fantasia is an ironically titled stark drama about a disintegrating family, relentlessly revealing the contemporary Chinese meaning of value.


Partners In Crime

Director: Chang Jungchi
Cast: Wu Chienho, Deng Yukai, Cheng Kaiyuan, Yao Aining, Sunny Hung, Wen Chen-ling
Synopsis: Three high school boys discover that there may be more than meets the eye in the apparent suicide of a pretty classmate, in this engrossing mystery thriller from Taiwanese director Chang Jung-chi.


The Coffin in the Mountain

Director: Xin Yukun
Cast: Huo Weimin, Wang Xiaotian, Luo Yun, Yang Yuzen, Sun Li
Synopsis: The film is set in a countryside village where a son struggles to step out from under the control of his strict father, who is the village head. The son learns his girlfriend is pregnant and ends up killing a young villager, Bai Hu, by accident when he discovers the man eavesdropping. The son, who was thinking of leaving the village, decides to give himself up, but Bai Hu’s funeral is already taking place. Someone has cremated Bai Hu’s body, which eventually exposes the village secret.


Exit

Director: Chienn Hsiang
Cast: Chen Shiangchyi, Easton Dong, Wen Chenling
Synopsis: Ling works as a seamstress in a factory. Her husband works in China and her daughter has left home. She also takes care of her hospitalized mother-in-law. One day, an intensive care patient is admitted next to her mother-in-law after losing his vision. Out of sympathy, Ling tends to him and slowly begins falling for him.


One Summer

Director: Yang Yishu
Cast: Zhang Xianmin, Feng Yadong
Synopsis: One summer night, Zhen Liu’s husband, Xiao Ping, is arrested out of the blue and cannot be reached after being dragged away by the police 30 days earlier. Liu goes to the police in search of information about her husband, but to no avail. Her husband’s sudden disappearance slowly destroys her while her relationship with her kindergarten-age daughter becomes rocky as well. She visits her husband’s friends to ask for their help, but gets only various assumptions about his arrest in return. Liu manages to bring her former boyfriend and attorney Lv Xin on board and together they search for her husband. Thanks to Lv Xin’s connections, they locate where her husband is, but the police’s unreasonably demanding requests eventually discourage her husband’s release. An unassuming examination, shown in documentary style, of a Chinese society helpless under state power.


Nezha

Director: Li Xiaofeng
Cast: Li Jiaqi, Li Haofei, Chen Jin, Xin Peng, Li Huan, Zhang Zheng
Synopsis: A new transfer student, Li Xiaolu, and class president Wang Xiaobing instantly become close friends. They feel a connection right from the start, especially in their rebellious natures. But when they enter different high schools, they start to drift apart. After her parents’ divorce and increased discord in the family, Xiaobing becomes even more rebellious and distant, and Xiaolu is no longer a comfort to her. After graduation they go their separate ways, but Xaiolu returns to visit Xaiobing’s house, only to find that even her mother doesn’t know her whereabouts.


(Sex) Appeal

Director: Wang Weiming
Cast: Vivian Hsu, Amber Kuo, Leon Dai, Alyssa Chia, Jade Chou, Sean Huang
Synopsis: Huihua, a music school freshman, is raped by Professor Lee. She files a suit against him with the help of another professor, who involves his attorney friend, Fang Anyu. As the film focuses on the secondary abuse inflicted on Huihua, it narrows in on the characters’ inner lives. Why does Fang Anyu defend Huihua while his marriage crumbles? Why does attorney Lin so actively defend her husband? Above all, Huihua’s complex psyche is evident in the words, “I may have loved Professor Lee.” The film transcends into something beyond a simple courtroom drama.


Brotherhood of Blades

Director: Lu Yang
Cast: Chang Chen, Liu Shishi, Wang Qianyuan, Li Dongxue, Chin Shihchieh
Synopsis: Set in the late Ming Dynasty, “Brotherhood of Blades” tells of three close friends who serve as Jinyiwei guards. They are dispatched by a palace eunuch (Nie Yuan) to hunt down Wei Zhongxian, a eunuch politician who had been forced to resign from his influential post and exiled from Beijing. The Jinyiwei brothers return successfully from their quest, only to find that their task was but the beginning of a strange conspiracy.


Quote from Korean film producer Jonathan Kim:

Chinese film these days resembles the Korean industry 10 or 15 years ago. That may be an unfashionable thing to say, but the opportunities are huge for anyone who has watched and learned.


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