ⓘ Cinema of Asia


ⓘ Cinema of Asia

Asian cinema refers to the film industries and films produced in the continent of Asia, and is also sometimes known as Eastern cinema. More commonly, however, it is most often used to refer to the cinema of Eastern, Southeastern and Southern Asia. West Asian cinema is sometimes classified as part of Middle Eastern cinema, along with the cinema of Egypt. The cinema of Central Asia is often grouped with the Middle East or, in the past, the cinema of the Soviet Union during the Soviet Central Asia era. North Asia is dominated by Siberian Russian cinema, and is thus considered part of European cinema.

East Asian cinema is typified by the cinema of Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, including the Japanese anime industry and action films of Hong Kong. South Asian cinema is typified by the cinema of India, the cinema of Pakistan including Punjabi and Urdu cinema, the cinema of Bangladesh Bengali cinema, and the cinema of Nepal. Southeast Asian cinema is typified by the cinema of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries. The cinema of Central Asia and the southern Caucasus is typified by Iranian cinema and the cinema of Tajikistan. West Asian cinema is typified by Arab cinema, Iranian cinema, Israeli cinema, Jewish cinema, and Turkish cinema.


1.1. History Precursors of film

A 5.200-year-old earthen bowl found in Shahr-i Sokhta, Iran, has five images of a goat painted along the sides. This is believed to be an example of early animation.

Mo-Ti, a Chinese philosopher circa 500 BC, pondered the phenomenon of inverted light from the outside world beaming through a small hole in the opposite wall in a darkened room. Shadow plays first appeared during the Han Dynasty and later gain popularity across Asia. Around 180 AD, Ting Huan 丁緩 created an elementary zoetrope in China.

In 1021, Alhazen, an Iraqi scientist, experimented with the same optical principle described by Mo-Ti, and wrote of the results in his Book of Optics, which provided the first clear description and correct analysis of the camera obscura. His lamp experiment, where several different light sources are arranged across a large area, was the first to successfully project an entire image from outdoors onto a screen indoors with the camera obscura.


1.2. History Silent film era

The first short films from Asia were produced during the 1890s. The first short films produced in Japan were Bake Jizo the Spook and Shinin no Sosei Resurrection of a Corpse, both from 1898. The first Indian short film was also produced in 1898, The Flower of Persia, directed by Hiralal Sen.

In the early 1900s, Israeli silent movies were screened in sheds, cafes and other temporary structures. In 1905, Cafe Lorenz opened on Jaffa Road in the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Tzedek. From 1909, the Lorenz family began screening movies at the cafe. In 1925, the Kessem Cinema was housed there for a short time. The first East Asian feature film was Japans The Life Story of Tasuke Shiobara 1912. It was followed by Indias first feature-length silent film, the period piece drama Raja Harishchandra 1913, by Dadasaheb Phalke, considered the father of Indian cinema. By the next decade, the output of Indian cinema was an average of 27 films per year. On the other hand, in the Philippines, the first film produced and made in the Philippines was La Vida de Jose Rizal in 1912 by Edward Meyer Gross. Jose Nepomuceno, bought his first film equipment from Albert Yearsley and Edward Meyer Gross on May 15, 1917 and for the next two years, Nepomuceno practiced using the equipment in preparation for making the first locally produced feature film of the Philippines. The first locally produced film in the Philippines is Dalagang Bukid. The film was released with English, Spanish, and Tagalog subtitles. During its theatrical run, leading actress Atang de la Rama had to sing Nabasag ang Banga a song which is a part of the film for every screening of the film in Manila, along with three others playing a violin, a cornet, and a piano

In the 1920s, the newborn Soviet cinema was the most radically innovative. There, the craft of editing, especially, surged forward, going beyond its previous role in advancing a story. Sergei Eisenstein perfected the technique of so-called dialectical or intellectual montage, which strove to make non-linear, often violently clashing, images express ideas and provoke emotional and intellectual reactions in the viewer.

Jewish cinema, particularly the Yiddish theater of Ashkenazi Jews, made its mark from the 1930s onward. Over 100 films were made in Yiddish, although many are now lost. Prominent films included Shulamith 1931, the first Yiddish musical on film His Wifes Lover 1931, A Daughter of Her People 1932, the anti-Nazi film The Wandering Jew 1933, The Yiddish King Lear 1934, Shir Hashirim 1935, the biggest Yiddish film hit of all time Yidl Mitn Fidl 1936, Where Is My Child? 1937, Green Fields 1937, Dybuk 1937, The Singing Blacksmith 1938, Tevya 1939, Mirele Efros 1939, Lang ist der Weg 1948, and God, Man and Devil 1950. Additionally, the films of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen have left a lasting mark on cinema.


1.3. History Early sound era

Sound films began being produced in Asia from the 1930s. Notable early talkies from the cinema of Japan included Kenji Mizoguchis Sisters of the Gion no shimai, 1936, Osaka Elegy 1936 and The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums 1939, along with Sadao Yamanakas Humanity and Paper Balloons 1937 and Mikio Naruses Wife, Be Like A Rose! Tsuma Yo Bara No Yoni, 1935, which was one of the first Japanese films to gain a theatrical release in the U.S. However, with increasing censorship, the left-leaning tendency films of directors such as Daisuke Ito also began to come under attack. A few Japanese sound shorts were made in the 1920s and 1930s, but Japans first feature-length talkie was Fujiwara Yoshie no furusato 1930, which used the Mina Talkie System. In 1935, Yasujirō Ozu also directed An Inn in Tokyo, considered a precursor to the neorealism genre.

Ardeshir Irani released Alam Ara, the first Indian talking film, on March 14, 1931. Following the inception of talkies in India some film stars were highly sought after and earned comfortable incomes through acting. As sound technology advanced the 1930s saw the rise of music in Indian cinema with musicals such as Indra Sabha and Devi Devyani marking the beginning of song-and-dance in Indias films. Studios emerged across major cities such as Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai as filmmaking became an established craft by 1935, exemplified by the success of Devdas, which had managed to enthrall audiences nationwide.


1.4. History Golden Age

Following the end of World War II by the mid-1940s, the period from the late 1940s to the 1960s is considered the Golden Age of Asian cinema. Many of the most critically acclaimed Asian films of all time were produced during this period, including Yasujirō Ozus Late Spring 1949 and Tokyo Story 1953; Akira Kurosawas Rashomon 1950, Ikiru 1952, Seven Samurai 1954 and Throne of Blood 1957; Kenji Mizoguchis The Life of Oharu 1952, Sansho the Bailiff 1954 and Ugetsu 1954; Satyajit Rays The Apu Trilogy 1955–1959, The Music Room 1958 and Charulata 1964; Guru Dutts Pyaasa 1957 and Kaagaz Ke Phool 1959; and Fei Mus Spring in a Small Town 1948, Raj Kapoors Awaara 1951, Mikio Naruses Floating Clouds 1955, Mehboob Khans Mother India 1957, and Ritwik Ghataks Subarnarekha 1962.

During Japanese cinemas Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s, successful films included Rashomon 1950, Seven Samurai 1954 and The Hidden Fortress 1958 by Akira Kurosawa, as well as Yasujirō Ozus Tokyo Story 1953 and Ishirō Hondas Godzilla 1954. These films have had a profound influence on world cinema. In particular, Kurosawas Seven Samurai has been remade several times as Western films, such as The Magnificent Seven 1960 and Battle Beyond the Stars 1980, and has also inspired several Bollywood films, such as Sholay 1975 and China Gate 1998. Rashomon was also remade as The Outrage 1964, and inspired films with "Rashomon effect" storytelling methods, such as Andha Naal 1954, The Usual Suspects 1995 and Hero 2002. The Hidden Fortress was also the inspiration behind George Lucas Star Wars 1977. The Japanese New Wave began in the late 1950s and continued into the 1960s. Other famous Japanese filmmakers from this period include Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Hiroshi Inagaki and Nagisa Oshima. Japanese cinema later became one of the main inspirations behind the New Hollywood movement of the 1960s to 1980s.

During Indian cinemas Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s, it was producing 200 films annually, while Indian independent films gained greater recognition through international film festivals. One of the most famous was The Apu Trilogy 1955–1959 from critically acclaimed Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, whose films had a profound influence on world cinema, with directors such as Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, James Ivory, Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, François Truffaut, Steven Spielberg, Carlos Saura, Jean-Luc Godard, Isao Takahata, Gregory Nava, Ira Sachs, Wes Anderson and Danny Boyle being influenced by his cinematic style. According to Michael Sragow of The Atlantic Monthly, the "youthful coming-of-age dramas that have flooded art houses since the mid-fifties owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy". Subrata Mitras cinematographic technique of bounce lighting also originates from The Apu Trilogy. Satyajit Rays success led to the establishment of the Parallel Cinema movement, which was at its peak during the 1950s and 1960s. Other famous Indian filmmakers from this period include Guru Dutt, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Bimal Roy, K. Asif and Mehboob Khan.

The cinema of China experienced a Golden Age in the late 1940s. In 1946, Cai Chusheng returned to Shanghai to revive the Lianhua name as the "Lianhua Film Society." This in turn became Kunlun Studios which would go on to become one of the most important Chinese studios of the era, putting out the classics, Myriads of Lights 1948, The Spring River Flows East 1947, and Crows and Sparrows 1949. Wenhuas romantic drama Spring in a Small Town 1948, a film by director Fei Mu shortly prior to the revolution, is often regarded by Chinese film critics as one of the most important films in the history of Chinese cinema, with it being named by the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2004 as the greatest Chinese-language film ever made.

The cinema of Malaysia also had its Golden Age in the post-war period of the 1950s and 1960s. The period saw the introduction of the studio system of filmmaking in Malaysia and influx of influences from Hollywood, the emerging cinema of Hong Kong, and particularly the Indian and Japanese film industries which were themselves experiencing a Golden Age.

The cinema of South Korea also experienced a Golden Age in the late 1950s and 1960s, beginning with director Lee Kyu-hwans tremendously successful remake of Chunhyang-jon 1955. That year also saw the release of Yangsan Province by the renowned director, Kim Ki-young, marking the beginning of his productive career. Both the quality and quantity of filmmaking had increased rapidly by the end of the 1950s. South Korean films, such as Lee Byeong-ils 1956 comedy Sijibganeun nal The Wedding Day, had begun winning international awards. In contrast to the beginning of the 1950s, when only 5 movies were made per year, 111 films were produced in South Korea in 1959. The year 1960 saw the production of Kim Ki-youngs The Housemaid and Yu Hyun-moks Aimless Bullet, both of which have been listed among the best Korean films ever made.

The late 1950s and 1960s was also a Golden Age for Philippine cinema, with the emergence of more artistic and mature films, and significant improvement in cinematic techniques among filmmakers. The studio system produced frenetic activity in the local film industry as many films were made annually and several local talents started to earn recognition abroad. One such honor was bestowed to Manuel Condes immortal movie Gengis Khan 1950 when it was accepted for screening at the 13th Venice Film Festival. Other awards include Gerardo de Leons "Ifugao" 1954 and Lamberto Avellanas "Anak Dalita". By the end of the decade Philippine cinema had developed into a major force in the Asian region. The premiere Philippine directors of the era included Gerardo de Leon, Gregorio Fernandez, Eddie Romero, Lamberto Avellana, and Cirio Santiago.

The 1960s is often cited as being the golden age of Pakistani cinema. Many A-stars were introduced in this period in time and became legends on the silver screen. As black-and-white became obsolete, Pakistan saw the introduction of its first colour films, the first being Munshi Dils Azra in early 1960s, Zahir Rehans Sangam first full-length coloured film in 1964, and Mala first coloured cinemascope film. In 1961, the political film Bombay Wallah was released, based on the city of Bombay in neighbouring India, in the wake of the growing tension between the nations. In 1962, Shaheed Martyr pronounced the Palestine issue on the silver screen and became an instant hit, leading to a changing tide in the attitude of filmmakers.

The 1960s was the "golden age" of Cambodian cinema. Several production companies were started and more movie theaters were built throughout the country. More than 300 movies were made in Cambodia during the era. A number of Khmer language films were well received in its neougbouring countries at the time. Among the classic films from Cambodia during this period were Lea Haey Duong Dara Goodbye Duong Dara and Pos Keng Kang The Snake Kings Wife by Tea Lim Kun and Sabbseth, and An Euil Srey An Khmer After Angkor by Ly Bun Yim.

The range of Jewish entrepreneurs in the American film industry is considerable: Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, the Warner Brothers, David O. Selznick, Marcus Loew, and Adolph Zukor, Fox, and so forth. A more specifically Jewish sensibility can be seen in the films of the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, or Woody Allen; other examples of specifically Jewish films from the Hollywood film industry are the Barbra Streisand vehicle Yentl 1983, or John Frankenheimers The Fixer 1968. In 1966, 2.6 million Israelis went to the cinema over 50 million times. From 1968, when television broadcasting began, theaters began to close down, first in the periphery, then in major cities. 330 standalone theaters were torn down or redesigned as multiplex theaters.


1.5. History Modern era

By the late 60s and early 70s, Japanese cinema had begun to become seriously affected by the collapse of the studio system. As Japanese cinema slipped into a period of relative low visibility, the cinema of Hong Kong entered a dramatic renaissance of its own, largely a side effect of the development of the wuxia blending of action, history, and spiritual concerns. Several major figures emerged in Hong Kong at this time - perhaps most famously, King Hu, whose 1966 Come Drink With Me was a key influence upon many subsequent Hong Kong cinematic developments. Shortly thereafter, the American-born Bruce Lee became a global icon in the 1970s.

From 1969 onwards, the Iranian New Wave led to the growth of Iranian cinema, which would later go on to achieve international acclaim in the 1980s and 1990s. The most notable figures of the Iranian New Wave are Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi, Majid Majidi, Bahram Beizai, Darius Mehrjui, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Masoud Kimiay, Sohrab Shahid-Saless, Parviz Kimiavi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Amir Naderi, and Abolfazl Jalili. Features of New Wave Iranian film, in particular the works of Kiarostami, have been classified by some as postmodern.

The 1970s also saw the establishment of Bangladeshi cinema following the countrys independence in 1971. One of the first films produced in Bangladesh after independence was Titash Ekti Nadir Naam A River Called Titas in 1973 by acclaimed director Ritwik Ghatak, whose stature in Bengali cinema is comparable to that of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. Another great film of Bangladesh is Mitas Lathial The striker, were the best movies of the year of 1975. Lathial got first National Award as the best film, and mita got first National Award as best director.

In the cinema of India, the 1970s saw a decline in Parallel Cinema and the rise of commercial Hindi cinema in the form of enduring masala films, a genre largely pioneered by screenwriter duo Salim-Javed, with films such as the Mumbai underworld crime drama Deewaar 1975 and the "Curry Western" movie Sholay 1975, which solidified Amitabh Bachchans position as a lead actor. Commercial cinema further grew throughout the 1980s and the 1990s with the release of films such as Mr. India 1987, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak 1988, Tezaab 1988, Chandni 1989, Maine Pyar Kiya 1989, Baazigar 1993, Darr 1993, Hum Aapke Hain Koun.! 1994 and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge 1995. By this time, the term "Bollywood" was coined to refer to the Hindi-language Bombay now Mumbai film industry. The most successful Indian actors between the 1990s and the 2010s are Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan.

During the 1980s, Japanese cinema - aided by the rise of independent filmmaking and the spectacular success of anime - began to make something of an international comeback. Simultaneously, a new post-Mao Zedong generation of Chinese filmmakers began to gain global attention. Another group of filmmakers, centered around Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien, launched what has become known as the "Taiwanese New Wave".

The 1980s is also considered the Golden Age of Hong Kong action cinema. Jackie Chan reinvented the martial arts film genre with a new emphasis on elaborate and dangerous stunts and slapstick humour, beginning with Project A 1983. John Woo began the "heroic bloodshed" genre based on triads, beginning with A Better Tomorrow 1986. The Hong Kong New Wave also occurred during this period, led by filmmakers such as Tsui Hark.

With the post-1980 rise in popularity of East Asian cinema in the West, Western audiences are again becoming familiar with many of the industrys filmmakers and stars. A number of these key players, such as Chow Yun-fat and Zhang Ziyi, have "crossed over", working in Western films. Others have gained exposure through the international success of their films, though many more retain more of a "cult" appeal, finding a degree of Western success through DVD sales rather than cinema releases.

In the modern era, the success of Israeli and diaspora Jewish cinema can be observed in industry giants ranging from Michael Ovitz, Michael Eisner, Lew Wasserman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen. However, few of these ever focused on Jewish issues with the sometime exception of Spielberg. In the first decade of the 21st century, several Israeli films won awards in film festivals around the world. Prominent films of this period include Late Marriage Dover Koshashvili, Broken Wings, Walk on Water and Yossi & Jagger Eytan Fox, Ninas Tragedies, Campfire and Beaufort Joseph Cedar, Or My Treasure Keren Yedaya, Turn Left at the End of the World Avi Nesher, The Bands Visit Eran Kolirin Waltz With Bashir Ari Folman, and Ajami. In 2011, Strangers No More won the Oscar for best Short Documentary.