Amuro Namie visits Seoul, Indian director casts Pakistani actor, and a new Japanese WWII submarine action film is currently in production. Find all this news and more in this issue of News From Abroad.
By Ada Tseng
Singer Namie Amuro Has First Korea Concert
Japanese pop singer Namie Amuro visits South Korea to promote her upcoming concert in Seoul on the Asia stop of her "So Crazy" tour, which begins in Taipei on May 1 and concludes in the Gymnastics Gymnasium in Olympic Park, Southern Seoul, May 13-15. This is her first concert ever in Korea, as Japan is still struggling to break down Korean barriers.
For many years, it was illegal for Koreans to purchase any copies of Japanese entertainment, due to fears of "cultural imperialism" because of Japan's antagonistic history with Korea. The Korean government only recently lifted an import ban on Japanese pop culture products beginning January 1 of this year, hoping to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Amuro began her career at age 15, singing with the teen group Supermonkeys, before her solo career took off in 1995 with her first hit single "Body Feels Exit." Since then, she has sold over 20 million albums and been dubbed the goddess of J-pop.
The "So Crazy" tour 2003-2004 features her best singles, and NHK BS2 is planning to broadcast a 2-hour special of her Tokyo 1/16 concert on May 17th. Her new CD+DVD 181920 & films is on sale now.
What: Namie Amuro's Asia So Crazy tour
When/Where: May 1-2 Taipei Shinjo Gymnasium, Taipei, Taiwan
May 13-15 Seoul Olympic Gymnasium, Seoul, Korea
Pakistani Superstar Cast in Bollywood Movie
Pakistani actor Muammar Rana joins director Shashi Ranjan's Bollywood film, Dobara, in the first cross-border casting in ten years. Both countries continue to mutually bann each other's films, but Dobara could be the first movie officially released in Pakistan. This would be seen as another forward step in the peace process between the two countries.
Ranjan credits the warmth he felt from the people of Pakistan during the cricket match in Lahore he attended last month, during India's first tour of Pakistan in 15 years, for fueling his desire to sign Rana. Rana, who has about 40 films to his credit including hits such as Yeh Dil Apka Hua and Choodiyan, has a guest starring role in this movie about a love triangle between an Indian couple and a psychiatrist.
The picture also stars Bollywood actors, Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon and Mahima Choudhury. It is currently shooting in Mumbai and is set for a June release in India.
Expected Release Date: June 2004
Higuchi Shooting New Japanese Submarine Flick Lorelei
Shinji Higuchi, a SFX-specialist turned director, is busy in Japan shooting Lorelei-The Witch of the Pacific Ocean, an ambitious World War II submarine action-adventure picture for Toho Co. and the film division of Fuji Television. Starring Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance) as the submarine captain and Satoshi Tsumabuki (Waterboys, Dragon Head) as a young spy, the film is based on the best-seller by Harutoshi Fukui, Shuusen no Lorelei.
Lorelei tells a story of an alternate World War 2, where a submarine carrying secret weapons races to prevent a third atomic bombing on Japan. The film is budgeted at 1.2 billion yen ($11.3 million), massive by Japanese criterion. Filming is expected to be completed by June, and it is slated for a spring 2005 release.
Expected Release Date: Spring 2005
Extreme Makeover and Rose Red Being Distributed in Asia
Buena Vista International Television-Asia Pacific has acquired two licensing deals, bringing the reality show Extreme Makeover and Stephen King's miniseries Rose Red to new audiences in Asia.
Already licensed to more than 120 territories worldwide, Extreme Makeover will air on i-Cable in Hong Kong. The successful one-hour reality show featuring people having major plastic surgery makeovers has been scoring high in ratings in the U.S. Other Asian regions that have picked up the show include TVNZ, Channel 5 in Singapore and IVM in Indonesia.
Stephen King's Rose Red has been licensed to South Korea's KBS Media, marking the series' debut on global television. Rose Red is a three-part, six-hour miniseries, telling the story of a group of psychics who enter an empty haunted mansion, accidentally unleashing the ghost of the former owners and discovering their horrifying secrets. This miniseries was created directly for television by Stephen King and made from the same team that did Stephen King's Storm of the Century in 1999.
Popular Bollywood Actress Dies in Helicopter Crash
Soundarya, a popular 32 year-old Bollywood star, was killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday, April 17, along with four other passengers, including the pilot and her brother, Amaranath. They were on their way to Karimnagar to campaign for the Bharatiya Janata Party when the helicopter crashed in southern India, near Bangalore.
A beloved Indian actress with more than ninety films to her credit, Soundarya has been a hit on the Telugu and Tamil silver screens. She won the national award last year for producing the Kannada-language film Dweepa, and three state awards for Best Actress, Best Film, and Best Cinematography. She had just married Sridhar, a software professional, in April of last year.
Singapore Film Festival Presents Works of International Talents
The 17th Singapore International Film Festival is back and will be held from April 15th to May 1st 2004, showcasing over 300 films from over 35 countries, recognizing the best in Asian and worldwide cinema. The festival provides a platform for films and filmmakers of Southeast Asia, especially with the establishment of the prestigious Silver Screen Awards in 1991, which has given Singapore filmmakers like Eric Khoo, Sandi Tan and Royston Tan international recognition.
This year, we can look forward to several premieres from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Highlights include a Retrospective of Laurice Guillen, a leading Filipino director/actress who is a figure of the new wave of the '70s, as well as a tribute to the Amiens Film Festival and African cinema. Also, expect a World Premiere of paintings from Filipino animator Rox Lee and much-anticipated cinema from Li Han-Hsiang, Chu Yuan, Paolo Virzi, and Martin Scorsese.
What: 17th Singapore International Film Festival
When: April 15-May 1, 2004
Where: GV Grand Cinema 1, Kim Seng Promenade, Great World City, #03-29, Singapore, Singapore, 237994
For more information, call +65 6738 7578 or go to www.filmfest.org.sg/fframe.html.
Sylvia Chang's Latest Film Tracks Three Generations of Taiwanese Women
At this year's Berlin Film Festival, the only Chinese entry belongs to Taiwanese actress/filmmaker Sylvia Chang for her film, 20:30:40. A veteran in the industry, making over 80 films in her 30 year career, Chang not only wrote and directed this project, but also acts in the role of the 40 year-old divorcee, trying to move on with her life after discovering her husband's infidelity.
The title 20:30:40 represents the ages of the main characters in the film, with Renee Liu playing the jaded 30 year-old flight attendant and Angelica Lee Sinje as the naive 20 year-old aspiring pop star. Without resorting to grand themes or motives, 20:30:40 merely explores the complex, conflicted nature of contemporary Taiwanese women and how they deal with crises of the heart. The film is currently playing in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Filmko Films Premieres Koma
Filmko Films' Koma, a $2 million psychological thriller directed by Lo Chi Leung, starring award-winning actresses Karena Lam (Inner Senses) and Lee Sinje (The Eye) premiered in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and China on April 22.
In September, Filmko is scheduled to release Barbara Wong's film Six Strong Guys, starring Ekin Cheng, George Lam, Chapman To, Shaun Tam, Andy Hui, and Hacken Lee as six men who want to commit suicide together but can't agree on a date which works for all of them. Katherine Lee, Filmko's senior VP of distribution likens it to a Chinese version of The Full Monty.
Currently in production for Filmko is Butterfly, based on a story written by Taiwan's Chen Xue, with director Mak Yan-yan helming the project. This is Mak's second film, after the award-winning Brother, and it stars Josie Ho (Naked Ambition) as Butterfly, the married schoolteacher who falls for a young woman played by singer Tian Yuan. There is no release date set yet, but filming is expected to conclude in May.
Choreographers Showcase New Dances in Seoul
Modafe 2004, the 23rd International Modern Dance Festival, returns from April 14 to May 2 at the Korean Culture & Arts Foundation Theater and the Marrionnier Art Center.
The festival represents contemporary dance in Asia. Initially entitled Korean Contemporary Dance Festival when it began in 1980, it changed its name in 2002. Since then, it has established itself as an international showcaser of new trends and directions of the creative dance spirit.
The theme this year is "Contemporary of the Contemporary," and there will be seventeen dance companies from ten different countries to showcase new internationally acclaimed dances and choreographers. There will be workshops, the Modafe Roundtable, and a media performance of Beauty and the Beast.
April 22 and 23 kicks off the beginning of the dance portion of the event, starting with "Conjunto di Nero," the third piece of Italian choreographer Emio Greco's well-received series performed in last year's festival. Chunky Move, an Australian troupe will perform "Crumpled & Corrupted" on the 24th and 25th, and Peeping Tom, a wildly applauded Belgian troupe, will present "La Jardin" on the 29th and 30th.
The festival will culminate with exciting presentations of new local choreographers. The goal of Modafe is to pursue innovative art forms and experimentations in order to pave a way towards the future of dance.
What: The 23rd International Modern Dance Festival (Modafe 2004)
When: April 14 - May 2, 2004
Where: The KCAF Arts Theater-Main Hall, The KCAF Arts Theater-Small Hall & the Marrionnier Art Center; Seoul, Korea
For more info, call 82-2-738-3931 or visit www.modafe.org.