Author: saysmecaitlin

Digital Artifact

Hi everyone,

This is my digital artifact, two Storify posts:

https://storify.com/caitlin29/cultural-sovereignty-and-asian-crime

https://storify.com/caitlin29/cultural-sovereignty

– Caitlin Osborne

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CHINA, FULLTIME KILLER OF EAST ASIAN RELATIONS

What does East Asian cinema actually mean? This is a question I have been contemplating for some weeks. According to C. J.W.-L. Wee (2012), it wasn’t until the 1980s that the world started to see the emergence of a collective ‘East Asian’ film industry (p197). During this period ‘New East Asia’ as it was known, stipulated a capitalist-driven, modern cultural image showcasing urban settings through cinema. As I was reading this article, I immediately backtracked to all the Asian crime films I had seen and experienced over the course of this investigation. Every single one was set in either a city or a suburb – entirely urban environments. Perhaps this is indicative of the ‘contemporary’ image that East Asian cinema is trying to promote? And that the crime genre is no exception to this form of branding.

 

east asia

Geographical area of East Asia

 

It isn’t all sunshine and lollypops. The East Asian film industry is a ‘fractured collective’. It is a loose network of sorts divided at times by a long history of geo-political-cultural tensions. One film which I stumbled across called ‘Full Time Killer’ (2001) seems to embody this phenomenon. In the opening scenes of the film we are introduced to Chin who works in a video store in Hong Kong (remember those). We hear Chin’s inner monologue and how she wrestles with her Asian identity:

“My name is Chin. I’m from Taiwan. I know Japanese. I work at a Japanese video store in Hong Kong. The customers can never figure out where I’m really from…But does it matter?”

 

It is clear that Chin has difficulty in anchoring herself to a particular Asian nationality. Is she Taiwan because she was born there? Or is she Hong Kong given she is an expat? As I am hearing Chin’s story, I was empathetic toward her confusion. This feeling is linked to my own experiences of attachment to a particular place or lack thereof.  A significant part of my life involved living in three different states – Perth, Queensland and NSW. In a sense I have an attachment to all three places, whilst being known as a ‘New South Welshman’. Territorial boundaries define our racial and cultural identity. When faced with attachment to more than one physical place, how we identify ourselves is even more complicated, as with Chin. I would not have been able to connect with the character of Chin had it not been for autoethnography as a method of research as it “can uncover many different feelings within the writer. It can be joyful, sad, revealing, exciting, and occasionally painful” (Custer, D 2014, p1). Given that Full Time Killer was filmed in Macau, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan it is an attempt to create a cinematic product which transcends the borders between East Asian nationalities. How does one country retain its unique cultural identity, whilst being part of a broader, regional creative industry?

Seoul_Nightview(2009)

Moses Sye 2009

The broader theme of Full Timer Killer is the ‘good’ hit man versus the really, really bad hit man. It is their nationalities that are quite important. The good hit man named ‘O’ is Japanese, while his enemy Lok Tok-Wah is Chinese. Is this reflecting on the prickly relationship between Japan/East Asia and China? I could be reading too much into this. However, the entire plot development is built around the Chinese hit man versus the Japanese hit man as they battle it out to be the number one assassin. The nature of the plot coupled with the multiple filming locations reinforces this theory.

Custer, D 2014, ‘Autoethnography as a Transformative Research Method’, the Qualitative Report, volume 19, p1-13.

To, J 2001, Full Time Killer, motion picture, Team Work Motion Pictures Ltd.

Wee, C.J.W.L. 2012, ‘Imaging the fractured East Asian modern: commonality and difference in mass-cultural production’, Criticism, volume 54, issue 2, pp197-225.

INSULAR POLICIES NO CURE FOR SHRINKING CULTURAL IDENTITY

So this week I decided to shake things up a bit and expand my research into Japan. I wanted to examine whether China is also an obstacle in Japan’s ability to develop its own unique cultural identity. In last week’s post I proposed a relatively underdeveloped theory which I called ‘cultural sovereignty’. It is this concept that I intend to investigate as to whether or not it is prevalent in Japan’s film industry and broader cultural sphere. The crime thriller ‘Cure’ (1997), is an example I am going to use to examine this theory.

Aside from the horrific and confronting murder scenes which I found to be very effective, I lost count of how many times the role of women in Japanese society was blatantly referred to – ‘she’s just a housewife’, ‘you’re just a woman’ and ‘woman is a lower life form than man’.  During the 1990s, the Japanese press were debating contentious social issues specifically – “the large household burden on women and the long working hours for men, as well as the problem of so-called ‘karōshi’ (death from overwork)” (Rawstron, K 2011, p58). In response to these issues, the government implemented a range of measures which included the ‘Labour Standards Law’s Women’s ‘Protection’ which limited women’s working hours and places of employment (Rawstron, K 2011, p58). Hence, the Japanese movie the Cure is reflective of this social upheaval in Japan, given that it was released in 1997. After reflecting on his autoethnographic study into paedophilia, suicide and homophobia, Dwayne Custer (2014) emphasised the importance of having an ‘open-mind’ and putting aside preconceived opinions (p2). In my experience of watching Cure this was certainly a factor as I had strong opinions about gender equity from a ‘western’ context. Hence, such feminist movements are not confined to Japan, as countries across the globe were experiencing similar issues of gender inequality, and as a result I was cautious of examining the Cure through an Oriental lens.

MV5BMjE1NTM1NTE5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzE4NDQyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_

Cure is situated within a pressurised East Asia market place. While, there are little obvious references to ‘China’ in terms of the actual content and dialogue of the film, the production elements suggest otherwise. For example, the film is an entirely Japanese production – Japanese producers, Japanese actors, Japanese writers, Japanese cameramen…well you get the point. During the 1990s when Japan’s economy stagnated, the media industry became withdrawn and ‘inward-looking’ (Tezuka, Y 2012, p161). The Japanese film industry did not have any interest in partnering with its Asian neighbours, especially its archenemy – the People’s Republic of China. In the last couple of years, Japan’s media industry has continued to become even more reclusive – “all the major Japanese media companies are preoccupied with tightening their oglipoly control of the domestic market. These companies no longer appear to be interested in participating and taking risks in inter/trans-national projects” (Tezuka, Y 2012, p161).

Film’s like Cure are a last ditch attempt by Japan to save its cultural identity from being swallowed up by China and pigeon-holed under the generic title ‘Asian cinema’.

Custer, D 2014, ‘Autoethnography as a Transformative Research Method’, the Qualitative Report, volume 19, p1-13.

Rawstron, K 2011, ‘Evaluating women’s Labour in 1990s Japan: The changing labour standards law’, New Voices: A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand, volume 4, pp57-77.

Tezuka, Y 2012, ‘Japanese cinema goes global: filmworker’s journey’, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong.

MACAU AND HONG KONG’S CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY EXILED

This week’s Asian crime movie I will examine is Exiled (2006) – a not so ‘typical’ gangster movie with some serious ‘Asian’ flare and a seriously awesome shoot out scene.

From the first 40 or so minutes, I quickly learned that Exiled isn’t about cops v baddies. Instead, it deals with some complicated themes around how life isn’t black and white, neither is the criminal underworld for that matter. In fact, there are people who work for the underworld that have shades of ‘morality’, but for whatever reason get caught up in gangs and criminal activity. The story centres on Tai, a reformed hit man who is banished from his gang and goes to Macau to start a new life, crime free. His fellow hit men friends show up in Macau on the orders from their Hong Kong boss to ‘take him out’. The men had a crisis of conscience when they realise that Tai has a wife and baby. The first ten minutes felt like thirty minutes, as the pace and overall feel of the movie was lethargic. Even the background sounds, music sequences and dialogue were….slow.

 

Aside from the disappointing feel of the first ten minutes, I quickly identified the setting – Macau. As the camera was panning around the small village in Macau where Tai and his family were living, I thought that this was the ideal place for an exiled criminal – its discreet, it’s like any other neighbourhood on the fringe of a major city. The housing commission-style villas of Macau got me thinking about my own cultural heritage – my grandfather was born in Hong Kong during the 1930s to a Portuguese mother. So as I was looking at the scenery, I was thinking about how my own grandfather and his family were crammed in an apartment not too dissimilar to Tai and his family. Making my own personal connections to the setting by extension allowed me to better relate to Tai and his struggles.

 

 

Exiled is another example of what I have dubbed ‘cultural sovereignty’ – the cultural tensions that exist between East Asian countries. For instance, in the brilliant shoot out scene as previously mentioned, an ‘old school’ gangster named Uncle Fortune is having a heated discussion with his young associate. Uncle Fortune explains; “we’ll all be the same people under the new regime. We are Chinese”. In order to understand what Uncle Fortune was alluding to, one must have some knowledge of the geo-political situation in East Asia. I don’t want to bore you with a history lesson, so all you have to know is that in 1999 (a year after the film is set in) ‘ownership’ of Macau was signed over to China after Portugal withdrew its administrator status (Martins, D 2013, p4). Therefore, China controls not only Macau but also Hong Kong. The younger criminal counters Uncle Fortune by saying; “we’re from Macau. But Boss Fay is from Hong Kong”, which suggests that the younger generations in Macau are resisting the cultural and political influence of China. Perhaps the older generations in Macau do not value their sovereignty as much as the younger generations? Given that Exiled is set in 1998 and the movie was released 2006, this is not a mere coincidence.      The producers intended to comment on these cultural issues through the crime genre. As Bridgens (cited in Coffey 2007, p4) states, autoethnography is sometimes the only way to give voice to marginalised groups on the periphery and to some extent, I was able to shed light on a largely ignored issue.

While, Macau and Hong Kong are not sovereign nations, can they still be considered as having separate cultural identities that differ from mainland China?

 

Coffey 2007, ‘The place of the personal in qualitative research’, Qualitative Researcher, issue 4, p1-12.

Martins, D 2013 ‘the Asian screen: the state of Asia’s film industry and the emergence of transmedia focus Macau’, Hexagon Concepts: media think tank, September, viewed 15  September 2014, http://www.scribd.com/doc/172962172/The-Asian-Screen-3-Macau-film-industry-casinos-gambling-with-transmedia#download

THE ROAD NOW TAKEN: REFINING MY AUTO-ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY

Over the past week, I have been reflecting upon my topic and how I am going to present this in a digital artefact. After much consideration, I have decided to compare my experiences of crime movies that have been produced by East Asian countries or cities. Given my interest in South Korea, I will focus on this as a site of production, as well as China, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau as an attractive locale for filming. I have observed over the course of my study into this genre (which I have not blogged about as yet) that while there are similarities in regard to cinematic quality, there is a prominent but underlying tension between these sites of production which often go unnoticed. These movies commentate on their country’s difficult geo-political-cultural relationship with China and their struggles to carve out their own individual identities.

 

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So the next obvious question will be how I am going to present my findings from the autoethnographic study? One of my strengths is writing. Now I know what you are going to say; ‘perfect write an essay’. Since I have been given the opportunity to produce a more creative-based project, I have decided on a happy medium between writing and a digital platform – Storify.  Two separate Storify pieces will provide a detailed examination of two broad results from the autoethnographic study; one the complicated definitional boundaries of the ‘crime’ genre and two; the tensions between East Asian countries/cities/states. Storify is a flexible medium because it allows the user to integrate videos, images, Twitter feeds and Facebook posts within a body of text. Hence, it will provide an effective balance of exploring academic concepts through more informal language and engaging media.

 

800px-Hong-Kong_skyline

Hong Kong Skyline 2009

 

 

But what is auto-ethnography and how does it tie in with my research? Autoethnography is a research method where “the author is both informant and investigator… the autoethnography is not simple personal narrative” (Cunningham, J.S. 2005, p-2), but rather connecting personal experiences with wider cultural implications. This method has allowed me to connect my own experiences of watching these movies with academic literature in order to better understand East Asian cinema. For example; as raised previously I have discovered that many of these films have an underlying resentment toward China. I would not have been able to discover this if not for autoethnography, if not for directly experiencing it. I was then able to connect this ‘experience’ with an industry report which seems to mirror this observation; “government shake-ups and new policies – such as the Chief Executive elections and the recent National Education curriculum, which is designed to encourage understanding and patriotism for China – are fiercely opposed when perceived as moves by the Chinese Communist Party to assert their influence on Hong Kong” (Ma, K 2012, p3).

So now I continue on my quest to better understanding Asian crime cinema through the use of autoethnography.

 

 

 

Cunningham, J.S. & Jones, M 2005, ‘Autoethnography: A tool for practice and education’, CHINZ ’05 Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI New Zealand chapter’s international conference on Computer-human interaction: making CHI natural conference proceeding, New York, July, viewed 10 September 2014, http://goo.gl/AOhB75

Ma, K 2012, ‘The Asian screen: the state of China and Hong Kong’s film industry and the emergence of Transmedia’, Hexagon Concepts, October, viewed 10 September 2014, http://www.scribd.com/doc/109335662/The-Asian-Screen-1-Hong-Kong-China

THICK AS THIEVES: SOUTH KOREA’S ROMANCE WITH CRIME CONTINUES

Drawing some inspiration from my last post on KOFFIA, this week I decided to do some further examination of Korean crime cinema. The Thieves (2012) a high budget, high impact heist movie with an all-star cast, is my next patient.

As I am pulled into the first scene, I immediately notice a young woman dressed in expensive clothes with a hat five times bigger than her head strutting down a hallway, her ten inch heals click on the ground while an older lady trails behind. Suddenly, the young woman seems familiar. Anyone seen Oceans Twelve? She [Yenicall, played by Gianna Jun] is very much like Julia Roberts’ character, Tess Oceans. The two characters wind up in an office greeted by the director of the gallery who bows at the older lady when I learn that she is his future mother-n-law. I immediately wonder if ‘bowing’ to senior figures is an exclusively Korean cultural practice. The older lady (Chewingum), says nonchalantly; “so I understand you deflowered my daughter? “Once driven, even a Mercedes is a used car.” I immediately thought it was both perverted and funny. My earlier comparison with Oceans Twelve is validated when I learn that the mother-daughter combination is actually a scam, and that both women are con-artists.

 

(Skip to 1:24:57)

Another experience, that seemed to resonate with me, was the constant use of the word ‘bitch’. Not that I was offended, but I noticed the frequency of the word. While this maybe a trivial observation, this raised some interesting questions around language and if they could be applied to the broader framework of Korean cinema. Of all the profanities at the producer’s disposal why the constant use of ‘bitch’? Is this South Korea’s favourite word?  This quandary of language also surfaced in another scene where the jeweller in the jewellery store writes on a napkin ‘help’. As I was watching this unfold, I was confused as to why ‘help’ was written in English when the movie was originally released in Korean. Is the English version of ‘help’ universally recognised? These questions have naturally emerged from my use of autoethnography as a method of research which is “intrinsically subjective. It brings the researcher/writer into self-awareness” (Custer, D 2014, p8). It is this subjectivity and self awareness that has allowed me to connect my personal experiences with broader Korean culture and its use of cinema as a medium.

 

Thethieves

 

Aside from these themes, setting also proved to be just as important. Macau becomes a central focus as the plot develops. In the last few decades or so, Macau has played host to dozens of films. Movies from the ‘west’ such as Johnny English Reborn (2011) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), “were also shot in Macau but only as sporadic scenes in the films themselves (the city itself is more used as a prop than a location in most of them, sometimes even mimicking other cities rather than “playing itself”), (Martins, D 2013, p8). In complete contrast, Asian production companies have recognised the opportunities that Macau presents “due to its beauty and cultural appeal, but, also, due to its closeness to Hong Kong” (Martins, D 2013, p8). Macau’s aesthetically pleasing cityscape and iconic casinos motivated the producers to film there. Does this also make The Thieves partly a Macua production as well as a South Korean production? This certainly complicates the film’s ‘Asianness’.

 

Custer, D 2014, ‘Autoethnography as a Transformative Research Method’, The Qualitative Report, volume 19, issue p1-13.

Martins, D 2013, ‘the Asian screen: the state of Asia’s film industry and the emergence of transmedia focus Macau’, Hexagon Concepts: media think tank, September, viewed 1 September 2014, http://www.scribd.com/doc/172962172/The-Asian-Screen-3-Macau-film-industry-casinos-gambling-with-transmedia#download

 

 

 

‘STANDING ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKIN IN’: MY PEEK INTO KOREAN CINEMA DOWN UNDER

“Some like it hot…some like it funny…some like it sweet…some like it spicy”. In case you are a little confused this is the promotional tagline from KOFFIA 2014. What is KOFFIA 2014 you ask? Why it’s the annual Korean Film Festival in Australia – a 9 day-long celebration of the best of Korean cinema. So I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

My experiences of KOFFIA were mediated through YouTube and the official website. Nonetheless, the use of these digital platforms shaped a space where the voices of Korean-Australians and Korean cinema could be heard. I quickly realised that the site was dominated by the event’s promotional video series – comical skits created and acted out by Korean-Australians with the tagline ‘need something spicy? KOFFIA is the answer’. My immediate thoughts when watching these videos (aside from the fact that they were quite funny) was that the producers had taken a leaf out of MyChonny’s book. It definitely had this MyChonny flavour – self-deprecating, comical reflection of the challenges of negotiating an Asian identity in Australian mainstream culture.

 

 

Aside from this skit series, the YouTube channel had posted a highlights reel of the festival with montaged video footage featuring the hundreds of fans who turned out for the event. I was surprised not only how successful this event was in carving out its own niche market, but also the ‘voices’ that were being heard. It wasn’t just Korean-Australians easily identifiable with their Aussie accents, but people from the broader Australian community were getting involved. During this short clip it was evident that there were many people from different countries (which I identified through their accents as they were talking in front of the camera).

 

Besides the fact that KOFFIA and other similar events “offer passionate fans of cinema new opportunities to discover the diversity of film from the region” (Gray, R 2012, p108), the festival is much more than that. It is a crossroads, where gender, age, culture and genre intersect. This ‘intersection’ can also be seen in curated online spaces which “has provided ample material to examine how cyberspace and other forms of new media assist the formation of diasporic subjectivities” (Suna, W et.al 2011, p520). Let’s take the ‘official’ film trailers on KOFFIA’s YouTube channel. I came to an interesting conclusion that – genre became very muddy. When viewing the trailer for the movie ‘Cold Eyes’, I initially thought it was categorised as a spy thriller. After a search on Google, Cold Eyes was considered to be a ‘crime’ movie, despite the fact that there was no obvious visual indicators such uniformed cops, detectives, police cars etc. commonly associated with this genre. In a sense, YouTube was a site of genre traversing one another which begs the question; do the corporate creators intentionally frame the movie in such a way as to influence how diasporic fan communities perceive genre?

 

 

It is also important to note that KOFFIA’s online presence also saw a complex cultural fusion of sorts – where elements of Korean, ‘mainstream Australia’ even ‘American’ culture merge. This was most evident in the comical skit series where ‘selfies’and ‘Mr No-work’ resonated with me because of their Australian as well as transcultural qualities. While, KOFFIA does allow individual voices to be heard, it acts as a collective voice for the Korean-Australian community raising concerns over who is and isn’t heard? Furthermore, there is an overriding corporate presence with companies like Samsung primary sponsors of the event. We must ask ourselves; does advertising play a role in the longevity of online diasporic communities? KOFFIA and more broadly, MyChonny and Natalie Tran have to do deals with the devil in order to maintain their presence online. Often these online communities play host to companies wishing to advertise on their sites. Does this reduce their credibility as an ‘authentic’ voice for diasporic Asian communities all around Australia?

 

Gray, R 2012, ‘Festivals traverse the region’, Metro Magazine, issue 174, pp108-109.

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Cold Eyes’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 23 July, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zhVUJ-F6ck

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Festival Highlights KOFFIA in Sydney’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 21 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrLhoIChfdc

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Selfie Girlfriend Bonus Cut’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 8 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0v0HtihqDk

Suna, W; Yueb, A; Sinclairb, J; Gaob, J 2011, ‘Diasporic Chinese media in Australia: A post-2008 overview’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, volume 25, issue 4, pp515-527.

 

IMAGE CONTROL IN WEB 2.0: THE RISE OF ANDY LAU

When I needed to find an Asian celebrity, I went to my best friend – Google. You would be surprised how many search results come up when you type in the words ‘Asian’, ‘celebrity’ and ‘cop movies’. I stumbled across a male actor I had seen before. Meet Andy Lau. Famous for being a ‘jack of all trades and master of many’ – an actor, producer, director, Cantopop singer, songwriter…well you get the point. I first met Mr Lau just last week…not literally of course. I first saw him briefly in the ten minute clip of Infernal Affairs (which I discussed in last week’s post). Given that I only saw him for a few moments as the start of the film is an eight minute flashback, my impressions of him were…let’s just say they were pretty limited. So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to not only watch some more Infernal Affairs to see how good of a baddie he really is, but to do some research into this very intriguing celebrity.

The next 10 minute segment of Infernal Affairs definitely broadened my understanding of Lau as an actor. As I was watching the drama unfold, I had come to an interesting paradox. As much as I hated Inspector Ming for how corrupt and evil he was, at the same time I loved his character – Ming is the perfect villain because everyone loves to hate him. At one point in my viewing time I became quite annoyed when Inspector Ming who’s so desperate to ensure that no one finds out he is a bent cop, he walks into the interrogation room and fools the criminal into believing that he is his attorney so he can shut him up. The scene is quite something.

 

 

AndyLau2005_2

Andy Lau being at the 29th Hong Kong International Film Festival (2005).

 

But celebrities in Asia have become much more than just your garden variety actor or singer. They are product endorsers, advertisers, marketers…they provide 24/7 commentary on the latest products to hit the shelves. Andy Lau is no exception to this branding movement.  The ‘Andy Lau brand’ very much mimics the cop and criminal characters he plays in his movies – charismatic, likeable and cool. It doesn’t matter if he plays a good guy or a bad guy, his appeal reaches far and wide both in Hong Kong and outside of it – women want him and men want to be like him.

This theme of branding is apparent on Twitter. After a search of Andy Lau, I discovered a Twitter handle devoted entirely to his film career which has been created by fans for fans. There are several tweets posted in the last few weeks encouraging people to watch Lau’s latest cop movie Blind Detective. This is clearly an example of ‘consumer-generated advertising’ – “when consumers create brand-focused messages with the intention of informing, persuading, or reminding others” (Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014, p183). As I have come to understand through my experiences of Twitter, “the more followers one garners on Twitter, the greater perceived social influence one has” (Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014, p182), which is certainly the case here given the account’s number of followers.

 

andy lau twitter

Fan Twitter handle of Andy Lau

fan twitter feed

Fan Twitter handle of Andy Lau

 

Chung, J 2011, ‘Infernal Affairs Part 2 of 10’, 17 April, viewed 24 August 2014,  www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP5CnQ5Z6x0&list=PL1E837A6680BF14D1&index=2

Jin Annie Seung-A; Phua, J 2014 ‘Following celebrities’ tweets about brands: the impact of twitter-based electronic word-of-mouth on consumers’ source credibility perception, buying intention, and social identification with celebrities’, Journal of Advertising, volume 43, issue 2, pp181-195.

Yeung, P 2007, ‘Andy Lau being at the 29th Hong Kong International Film Festival’, Wikipedia, 8 November, viewed 19 August, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Lau#mediaviewer/File:AndyLau2005_2.jpg

Wah Tak Lau, A, Twitter account, https://twitter.com/AndyLauTakWah

‘ART IMITATING ART’: INFERNAL AFFAIRS V THE DEPARTED

As I am searching through YouTube looking for a free clip of Infernal Affairs (hoping that the piracy police don’t get me) the task of finding one with English subtitles is to my surprise a little harder than first thought. After a couple of minutes, I do manage to find what I am looking for. A minute or so into the first scene, I am already making comparison to its American cousin – The Departed, released four years later in time for Martin Scorsese to snatch up an Oscar before anyone noticed the resemblance. Before you raise your fists and shout ‘American imperialism’, let me tell you that the case of Infernal Affairs and The Departed is a little more complicated than just America ripping off ‘Asian’ content.

 

As I am watching, the expression “art imitates art” ticks over in my mind. There really isn’t an ‘original’ idea. Aside from the fact that The Departed is actually a legitimate remake, a case could be made that Infernal Affairs isn’t really that original either. The premise of the film – a cop goes undercover while a criminal pretends to be a cop is really nothing new. Such themes have been the subject of many other ‘gangster’ films. To make things even more complicated, the directors of Infernal Affairs have teamed up with Martin Scorsese in an Asian-American co-production – ‘Revenge of the Green Dragons’ (Grettel, O 2014, p1).  Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between Asian and ‘western’ production houses where material is constantly being ‘borrowed’ and ‘reused’.

 

 

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departed

 

But what exactly makes Infernal Affairs Asian? According to Teo (2013), a film could be considered ‘Asian’ on the basis that we “recognise the presence of Asians, the geophysical locations of Asian cities, its countryside, plains, jungles and deserts” (p219). In the case of Infernal Affairs, the fact that it references Mahayana Buddhism – a dominant religion in Hong Kong, filmed on location in Hong Kong and that it was produced entirely by an Asian production house – ‘Media Asia Films’, one could argue that these elements constitute the film as being  exclusively ‘Asian’.

After watching the film, I found two scenes which contained elements that cannot be anchored to a particular nationality or culture. The first; after Triad boss Hon Sam finishes his speech, he gives each of his apprentices some unknown drink and says ‘bottoms up’ before consuming its contents. It is a universal expression – no matter what language it is communicated in people understand its meaning. Second; good cop (Chan Wing Yan) is asked by a detective “what do you think of me?”. Chan Wing Yan replies “sorry, I’m not sure sir. But I know you’re in a hurry today, coz your socks don’t match”. The detective looks down at his shoes clearly annoyed, while his colleague; a police recruitment officer laughs. After Chan Wing Yan leaves the room, the recruitment officer says; “you owe me $500…I told you he would make the best undercover cop”. For whatever reason I found this to be amusing, indicating that despite perceived  language and cultural barriers, I understood the nuisances between certain characters because of their transnational quality. One solid conclusion that we can draw from both films is that; they are caught up in a rich tapestry of cultural exchanges and interconnectedness.

 

Teo, S 2013, The Asian cinema experience: styles, spaces, theory, Routledge, New York, viewed 12 August 2014, Summons.

Grettel, O 2014, ‘Martin Scorsese-backed Green Dragons to get VOD-first release’, LA Times, 13 August, viewed 25 August 2014, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-martin-scorsese-revenge-of-the-green-dragons-release-date-20140813-story.html

 

Introduction: Caitlin

Hi everyone from DIGC330. My name is Caitlin and I am in the middle of my third year of BCM, majoring in journalism and international media and communication. I always have difficulty finding the right words to describe myself, but we will see how it goes. I prefer talking about other people and their stories which is why I am pursuing a career in journalism. I really would like to one day in the not too distant future end up in investigative journalism. Being paid to look into corruption and ‘shady’ characters is my kind of fun.

If you ask any of my friends, they would probably say that I am opinionated and not afraid to speak my mind. That is definitely true. I do like to argue a lot. Besides debating, my interests or ‘hobbies’ (for a lack of a better word) are; movies, music, watching sport, cooking, reading, history and politics. While I was born in Sydney, I moved around a lot as a child because of my dad’s work. When I was about 6, we moved to Queensland and lived there for 3 years, before moving to Perth. After 4 years in Perth we ended up returning to Sydney. In the 13 years of my school education, I attended 5 schools. For some people, that would seem crazy. For me it was normal. So I think that travelling shapes who we are and who we want to be and allows us to experience new things (sorry to sound kind of philosophical).

In terms of the auto-ethnographic assignment, I have not committed a 100% to a topic. However, I am interested in foreign films, particularly appropriation and how Asian cinema is a big source of creative inspiration for US production houses. For example, the Martin Scorsese film the Departed is a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. So I was considering looking at something like this. Anyone with suggestions on how this could be researched in an Australian context using auto ethnography?

Thanks