What is like to be an asian cinema fan in Poland? Well, Almaaghra from Cinema Asia accepted to answer some questions about it!
How/when have you discovered Asian Cinema?
Well, it was really a long time ago. As a child I saw “Seven Samurai” on Polish public TV and it left me with a great impression, although I can’t say it sucked me into the world of Asian cinema. I was simply too young for that.
My first serious interest in Asian or more precisely in Japanese culture was born when one of the first Polish commercial TV channels, Polonia 1, started broadcasting programmes in the beginning of the 90’s. A lot of my peers (born in the early 80’s) get sentimental when asked about that. We watched old anime series like “Tosho Daimos”, “Captain Tsubasa”, “Yatterman”, dubbed in Italian and with a Polish lector at the same time. They differed so much from what we saw in the state-owned TV station. But when a TV concession system was introduced, Polonia 1 lost in the licence competition and became a niche station available only through satellite. However, some of us had already catched the “virus”.
“Seven Samurai – my first and favourite Asian film”
With the arrival of capitalism Polish cinemas were (and still are) flooded by American films. For me, watching Hollywood blockbusters became boring in time. The same faces and places all over again. At the beginning of the century, Asian cinema gained popularity, because it offered something different than entertainment for the masses served to us on a daily basis. A new aesthetics, genres, a different approach to fundamental questions. It suited my taste.
Nowadays, what’s the place of Asian Cinema in Poland? Any theaters/DVD releases? Any specialized magazine or website?
The popularity of Asian cinema results from several different factors. There is a considerable anime fanbase thanks to commercial channels broadcasting popular series. So it’s not a surprise that websites dedicated to anime are in majority. Furthermore, several years ago an increasing global popularity of Asian cinema reached the country and Polish viewers became acquainted with the finest genre movies such as “Oldboy“, “Zatoichi“, “Ringu” or “Infernal Affairs“. Sadly the trend weakened and today many releases go straight to DVD.
Fans of Asian cinema have access to a limited selection of DVD releases, mostly from big names such as Kim Ki-duk, Wong Kar Wai, Stephen Chow or popular genres – Korean horror films and Chinese wuxia. Some of them are really cheap and available in newsagents. On the other hand, you can forget about buying works of Japanese classic and cult directors (with the exception of Akira Kurosawa collection and Kobayashi’s “Harakiri” released recently on DVD).
“Battle Royale – a great praise of youth and life despite all gore and violence; I’ve never seen as adorable psycho killer as Masanobu Ando”
Anime enthusiasts can purchase magazines dedicated to their favourite genre and distributed in a limited edition. And as for the websites, there are few popular forum sites and film databases made by the fans for the fans. Internet remains the main source of information since mainstream media just overlook the existence of Asian cinema fans.
“By the fans for the fans“– Are fans trying to introduce an unfamiliar audience to this cinema? Like writings, open discussions, translation of subtitles, downloads….?
What I find really odd is the absence of major Asian film festival or even genre film festival in Poland. With so many people interested in horror films, SciFi productions, martial arts flicks there should be someone who notices the potential of this group. But this is not happening. A great chance to promote Asian cinema in our country is missed. Of course, there are minor initiatives like film reviews (for example two editions of Vietnamese Film Festival organized by an association to acquaint people with culture of one of the largest national minority in Poland), local Japanese or Chinese Culture Days and also anime conventions, but most of them attract people already fascinated by Asian cinema and culture.
“Oldboy – it impressed me deeply; I love the composition of the picture”
Unfortunately, it’s not an easy job to promote Asian cinema and distribution companies are not much of help. Releases are postponed, websites not updated in time, e-mails not answered. Many films can be watched only years after their international release. People are not that patient. Just as in many countries, it is a common practice to download films. Many young cinema enthusiasts complain that they have no real alternative except purchasing expensive foreign editions that many of them can’t afford. Internet fills a gap in the market. And with fans translating and exchanging subtitles, many unreleased films quickly gain popularity.
“Many unreleased films quickly gain popularity“– Do you have any examples?
Takashi Miike’s films are mostly known from unofficial sources. He’s popular amongst Asian cinema fans even though only a few of his works have been officially released. The most recent is “Sukiyaki Western Django“.
“Memories of Murder – my favourite thriller; I like the picture of pre-democratic Korea (it reminds me of Poland during that time – protests, militia beating people, chaos); beautifuly shot and meaningful scene”
Do asian films distributors communicate with fans?
Every day I browse foreign sites dedicated to Asian cinema and I’m surprised to see how people are widely informed about distributors plans and release schedules. In Poland communication leaves much to be desired. Anime distributors are more active in this field, no surprise here. As for feature films, some bigger players don’t even bother to reach fans and focus on the general audience instead or don’t promote their Asian releases at all. One of the companies, specializing in Asian and Bollywood films, have created an affiliated forum where fans are informed about its new releases and discuss films. Sadly, it’s an exception.
Have you noticed a change since the beginning of 2009? Are things improving?
Not much. I presume we need to wait for another Asian Wave madness
“Infernal Affairs – a classic”
Polish posters are (were?) famous for being so creative. Do you have any favourite polish posters of asian films?
I’d choose Andrzej Pagowski’s works. They are amazingly erotic. It’s a shame that nowadays original works of Polish graphic designers are rarely used to promote Asian films. Personally, I also like the recent project of Andrzej Wieteszka who designed the cover for Kim Ki-duk’s “Crocodile/Samaritan Girl” double dvd release .
■ Thank you for your time Almaaghra!