“Formosa Betrayed” begins with a huge flurry of action. The film is set in 1983 at Taiwan’s Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, and soldiers surround a trio of running men. Shots go off and one Chinese man falls to the ground. Armed officers pull a second Chinese man, Ming (played by Will Tiao), out of sight. The third man, American FBI agent Jake Kelly (played by James Van Der Beek), ends up in an office with Susan Kane (Wendy Crewson), the American Liaison to Taiwan. Before the soldiers rush in, he must explain his actions to her.
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Each year, South Korea’s Jeonju Film Festival supports three filmmakers to shoot a half-hour film using digital cameras. Each filmmaker receives a budget of 50 million Korean won (about $44,000). The results from last year’s show featured three up-and-coming Asian directors using their electronic tools in distinctive manners.
Chung-ryoul Lee’s documentary “Old Partner” begins with pain. An old man climbs a long set of steps to a temple. He carries a cane. He pauses after each step. He inhales sharply after each step, wondering if he will ever get to the top. The notion of enduring pain and suffering continues throughout the film.
Alexander Sokurov’s “The Sun” opens in an awkward fashion. On the surface, life seems ordinary enough at the Imperial Palace of Japan. A servant brings in breakfast for the emperor on a tray. A second servant reads off the itinerary for the day. The emperor must attend a meeting with his war ministers. Then he will study marine biology, his favorite subject.
2009 brought a wealth of Asian and Asian-related films to American theaters. Here’s a quick look back at 10 films you should have seen — and if you haven’t, you should hunt these down at your local video store:
“Ninja Assassin,” the new film from director James McTeigue, begins with a Japanese tattoo artist working on a yakuza’s back. Blood flows down from the tattoo needle. With only short respites, blood also flows throughout the rest of the film. Blood isn’t enough, however, to compensate for the film’s anemia in other areas.
“Red Cliff” is John Woo’s first Chinese movie since 1991’s “Once a Thief.” His new film triumphs over the cutting of the footage which is almost as cruel as the cuttings of so many characters over the film’s running time. Conceived as a four-hour epic in two parts, it reaches the United States as a single film that runs two and a half hours.
Before leaving his home in Texas for Mongolia with his wife and autistic son, author and horse trainer Rupert Isaacson seems eager for the trip as he calls it a “gateway to adventure, a gateway to healing.”
Norbert Caoili admits, with a smile, that his last name is pronounced “cow-wheelie.” In fact, he does almost everything with a smile. Sitting in a Seattle coffee shop, dressed smartly with a sweater and crisp jeans, he radiates confidence and warmth. He hardly seems like one of the masterminds behind a grim horror picture which opens with a woman who is slowly and savagely beaten to death.
At age 33, Thailand’s Tony Jaa seems poised to replace Jackie Chan in the world of Asian martial arts film. Like Jackie Chan, Jaa’s movies emphasize all-natural fights and stunts. They avoid the use of computer graphics and stuntman substitutions for the leading man.