This is a year in which Asia has become inexorably embedded in worldwide culture. As the Olympics continue in China's capital, Beijing, and films such as Lust, Caution achieve huge critical acclaim, Asia House has launched its inaugural Festival of Asian Film to promote Eastern cinema to Western audiences.
This year's festival is due to feature a number of films that have enjoyed immense success in their home nations or internationally. 881, a Singaporean musical, is due to be shown as the first movie in the programme. "It was the highest grossing film in Singapore in 2007 but is not likely to go on general release in the UK as it's a subtitled musical," says the festival's programmer, Heng Khoo. "Nevertheless we believe this film will attract audiences with its coverage of the unique Singaporean Getai art form."
Khoo is hoping that the festival shows Asian cinema can be as successful as anything Hollywood has to offer. He adds that the festival will also show the kind of environment in which crossover stars such as Ang Lee and Chow Yun-Fat started their careers. "Asian directors such as Mira Nair are acclaimed way beyond their home countries, and we regularly see Asian actors appearing in Hollywood box office successes and becoming household names," he says. "Hollywood has been remaking Asian Films for years, such as Infernal Affairs [remade as The Departed by Martin Scorsese], The Ring and Dark Water."
In fact, Khoo is optimistic that the influence of Asian cinema on world culture can only increase in the coming years, as further Asian films are remade for Hollywood audiences. "Sony and Walt Disney are buying the rights to Asian titles such as Kung Fu Hustle and Hero and releasing them in the multiplexes, not just in art-house cinemas. Not a week goes by when there aren't at least one if not two foreign films released in the UK. This is the century of Asia."
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