Asian Cinema Craze Sailing into the Mainstream? This Year Has Been Marked by the Consolidation and Intensified Presence of Asian Films in Australian Cinemas. the Regional Programs at Australian Film Festivals Have Steadily Grown over the Past Decade and Asian Cinema Studies Have Also Become Increasingly Popular

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THE INTENSE INTEREST OF AUSTRALIAN AUDIENCES and distributors over the past twelve months has been complemented by the newspapers, radio and television programs, regularly presenting their readership with new Asian releases, and more frequently than ever, with interviews with prominent filmmakers and movie stars and reports from the burgeoning festival scene in the region. No longer is the viewing of an Indian melodrama, a Hong Kong or Chinese wuxia plan film, a Japanese anime or a Korean thriller the sole privilege of movie buffs attending Cinematheque programs, screenings in Chinatown or ordering specialized DVD editions over the Internet.

After the success of Ang Lee's Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger (2000), Zhang Yimou's Hero (2002) has become one of the most prominent Chinese features to be shown in local cinemas. The film was welcomed with a media hype that surpassed the most significant East Asian films screened in Australia during the past decade, notably Takeshi Kitano's Hana-Bi (1997) and Wong-kar-wai's Happy Together (1999) and In the Mood for Love (2000). This is all the more interesting because Yimou's masterful appropriation of the wuxia pian genre features a fourth century tale with a strong historical and political subtext. The continued interest in Korean features and the newly discovered potential of Thai film at major film festivals in Australia has also contributed to this climate. As House of the Flying Daggers (2004) is eagerly anticipated the Bollywood film festival is in full swing across Australia, and distributors maintain the focus on Hong Kong and Korean blockbusters. The DVD stores stack their already prominently placed sections on Asian film for those who have just discovered directors as diverse as Ozu and Oshima, Kurosawa and Chang. Film and Media educators are cueing in excerpts from Chunking Express (1994) and In the Mood for Love for the beginning of the school year, eager to show their students what a cinematographer can do with intriguing camera positioning and limited sources of lighting. The number of Asian film clubs in Australia is on the rise and the interest in regional cinema has reached levels that were hard to imagine a decade ago.

Some distributors have recognized this intense interest in East Asian film. Madman Cinema launched a new Asian Cinema label, Eastern Eye: Asian Cinema, with a strong regional focus. …