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Asian Film Industry Globalization

Before 1997, most of the East Asian film industry was purely based within the region and marred with little success. Two political and economic events that year marked a turning point for this industry. These events included the repossession of Hong Kong by China and the economic downturn in the Asian region. These two events impacted greatly all the aspects of the region. There were great changes in the social, economic and cultural perspectives of the people of East Asia.

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The changes brought rejuvenation in the Asian film industry that saw more productions and great successes in the local box office. However, these films did not have great effects in the West. Most of them experienced little success until Hollywood chipped in. Movies that had been remade by Hollywood faired on well not only within the Asian region but also in the West along with other regions of the world. It was at this point that the Asian movie industry experienced a touch of globalization where more and more involvement by the West took more interest in the production of the Asian movies (EACS 2008).

In addition, Hollywood, for a long time, had been accused of propagating the Western culture to the global platform. This attitude led to a less enthusiasm of the Hollywood movies in several parts of the world. Consequently, Hollywood had to take an action that would change this view. This action included refocusing its efforts on the Asian market. This led to a two way affair. It included “the Re Hollywoodization of the Asian movies and the Re Asianization of the Hollywood films” (Klein 2003).

This move worked successfully for both, the critical acclaim and the box office success. By the year 2003, Ang Lee, Michelle Yeoh and John Woo were already making history in the American movie industry. Others like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat and Jet Li were house hold names in the film industry in the Hollywood. Aside from actors, several directors were making impact in Hollywood. They include Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Kirk Wong. In addition to these, there were martial arts choreographers like Yuen Wo Ping, Corey Yuen and Yuen Cheung-Yan. All these people were making exploits in Hollywood as the Asian movie industry experienced a global touch to make it more acceptable to the world at large.

Several efforts have been done by the Hollywood to ensure that they remake films to fit their scenario. Most of the effort was identified in Europe and other parts of the world but the magnitude by which it has been experienced in East Asia has been so great that several people have tried to give an explanation of such approaches. Although none of the reasons has been clearly justified without criticism, they are worth noting so as the phenomenon can be explained. Some scholars try to explain the phenomenon as a result of the affluent supernatural trend in the Japanese literary culture as evidenced in the short stories’ tales of moonlight and rain (Ugetsu Monogatari).

Japanese ghost fiction tend to be associated with a certain aura which fails to exist in the American culture. In this culture, the Japanese movies are much associated with women, who have great grudge and ready to revenge against men, who subjected them into pain through deserting them of hurting them in a way or another. On their part, the American audiences are characterized by efforts to seek “moments of shock and thrill” (Xu 2004). This fact, therefore, calls for a clever way to make the films’ taste in the American culture to be varied. This is one of the reasons why there has been an upsurge in the remaking effort of the East Asian films by the Hollywood.

Emerging production centers in the East led to more productions and further initiatives to promote the Asian films that are made in a more global perspective. Taiwan, Korea and China experienced changes like institutional realignments and other government sponsored initiatives, which placed them in an advantageous position in terms of competition from international businesses.

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In the 70s the Asian states experienced what was referred to as the “East Asian Miracle”, which was marked by initiatives from the government to protect emerging industries. In addition, the liberalization of markets as a regulation of the WTO also led to the liberalization of the communication services. This triggered the development of new institutional practices, which were characterized by technological forward leap that set the platform for development of the film industry in Asia.

With the event of the Asian financial crisis, the governments in the Eastern Asian region were forced to come up with corrective measures that would help stimulate the growth of the economy. This led to transparency and made most of the markets to be less interventionist. Accordingly, these initiations led to a somewhat encouraging environment for international investment (Keane 2006).

Cultural aspects and some industrial and trade policies within the East Asian states also played an important role in the globalization of the Asian film industry. These aspects of the economy encouraged a form of economy that was characterized by high-tech approach which was capital intensive. Leading to a very competitive culture within the Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and etc, this culture was more effective in the film production in the later years.

Apart from protecting the infant industries, the policies also provided for a shared growth system, which encouraged subsidies that guaranteed employees job security. In addition, large conglomerates and the central bank extended credit to enterprises, thus giving them more strength and competitive edge. However, in 1997, the countries experienced an economic downturn that sent signals to the policy formulators stating that government involvement would not help the countries emancipate themselves from economic challenges. They needed a readjustment of the policies in order to come up with systems that would ensure sustainable growth in the future. This called for a knowledge based economy in place of governed economy (Keane 2006).

One of the ways through which countries attract international investors is through outsourcing. Here, the countries come up with initiatives that set a friendlier production ground as compared to other regions. To achieve this, the countries come up with relieves on taxes, removal of location fees, investments in equity and provision of subsidies (Keane 2006). Outsourcing in the production industry, a country or locality must have a surplus of low cost labor, unlike the other forms of production.

The cinema industry needs more advanced approach in comparison. With the cost of production in advanced countries rising, the companies prefer to relocate to less costly regions that will allow them to cut down on the costs of production. One of the greatest outsourcing examples is Hollywood. This form of attracting investment was evident in the Asian film industry, which attracted Hollywood to redirect its energy and finances in the effort of “Hybridization” of the Asian film industry.

Another great form of outsourcing is through the use of “cultural technology transfer, joint ventures and franchising” (Keane 2006) as provided by the New International Division of Cultural Labor. This provision offers chances for local production companies to form joint ventures with internationally known companies. Through such cooperation, the local industries benefit through training, expertise, employment and also investment in infrastructure.

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Co-production in the cinematic realm is very beneficial in such a way that it attracts business through the fact that it provides cultural capital from the local industry while identifying with a global brand or commodity. This also leads to adaptations, a phenomenon that is experiencing a rapid multiplication within the contemporary cinematic world. Through adaptations, movies become series while these series give way to features. Apart from these forms of adaptations, the film industry experienced an increase in licensed remakes. According to Xu (2004), Hollywood has taken a keen interest in the remaking of East Asian movies thus confirming that Asia is a great production center.

This could highly be attributed to the technological advantages of this region. Countries like China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan etc are coming up as the hub for technological inventions and therefore being the home for products like computer chips, DVD players, flat panel screens and etc, marking a great source of attraction to Hollywood. As a result, successful films from East Asia are having their rights sold to Hollywood. Among the most successful films to have their rights sold to the West are the ring (2002), Dark water (2004: Japan), My Sassy Girl (2001), My Wife is a Gangster (2001: Korea), Infernal Affairs (2001) and The Eye (2003: Hong Kong).

Another method through which cultural aspects of the East Asian films have gained international acclaim is through the use of selling formats. In this method, the legal agreement of reproduction is done by the provision of consultancy advice and expertise plus the permission of reproduction of a film through a local version. A good example is the Weakest Link which had to under go different restructuring and reformatting in order to bring out their version of Yixiao Bi OUT. In addition to this, some Japanese films like future Diary, Happy Family Plan and the Iron Chef had to undergo several restructuring which called for the advice on the format from the original makers so as to access the international; market (Keane 2006).

The globalization of the East Asian film can be seen in the example of the Japanese horror film Ring (1998). The US version The Ring (2002) did not have a lot to adapt, where the Japanese version itself was made according to the US mainstream standards. This fact is especially obvious through the observation of the 1995 Japanese version of Ring, where both films are adaptations of a book by the same name.

In the 1998 Japanese version, the setting was featuring typical suburban life style, an image of the strong single female and thrilling horror, attributes that can be considered typically American. In that sense, the 1995 version would have been more shocking to the American audience if it was taken for adaptation. The original 1995 version is more faithful to the Japanese book original -Ring by Koji Suzuki. The elements between the book and the film share mutual aspect, i.e. the death after watching a video tape. However, many elements in the original that might deem the film to be too Japanese, include a different storyline.

The storyline includes a hermaphrodite who is raped and later killed by her doctor on discovery that she was a hermaphrodite. She comes back as a ghost who killed anybody who saw her. Within the story, the doctor’s decision to kill her was not his own. He is telepathically motivated by the lady. The film was also full of erotic violence and sexual ambiguity. Such a story line and the form of erotic and sexual ambiguity could have resulted into total failure within the mainstream American audience.

The 1998 remake and the subsequent 2002 US remake could be considered as equal copies. Through this Hollywoodization, the movie would achieve great heights within its launching in the United States. This was evident when DreamWorks adopted the movie and bought it at $1.2 million from Hideo Nakata, remade it at $40 million but raked in $230 worldwide and a $130 domestically (Xu 2004).

With the increasing cost of production, the Hollywood has been forced to come up with means that would assist them cut down their costs and increase in their revenues. This could be one of the explanations to the ever increasing reasons of the remakes of East Asian movies by the Hollywood. How can this be explained? To make a whole new movie in Hollywood, it could cost as much as $90 million. Compared to the cost of buying the rights of a movie and remaking it, this option looks smarter.

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In addition, in the developing countries, especially East Asia, the cost of production is further reduced by the reduction of labor. These regions are plenty with people who are ready to work at a lower cost compared to their counterparts in the West. Therefore, to achieve this, Hollywood ensures that it goes into the East to purchase on movies that have already been proved successful on the Asian market before readjusting them to fit into the Box office category (Lee 2005).

In addition, producers and directors have realized that remakes are often more profitable as compared to an original production. Basing on these profitable chances, the directors have always tried to put in more efforts in ensuring that they continue with the spirit of remakes. These trend has however been met with criticism with those against them purporting that the richness of the themes are lost within the remaking.

In addition, there are instances of negligence in terms of character development which translates to weakened plot. Finally, the opponents purport that in the process of translation, the cultural aspect of the movies completely lose their originality. To curb this challenge, the directors have resorted to poaching local talents and thus use them in their high budget productions. By using these actors and directors and screen writers, the Hollywood could easily maintain the most of these aspects that were being viewed as a drawback to translation.

What effects did this have on the local market? This therefore led to the killing of the Asian the industry. There was only a single way to survive. The Asian movie industries had to come up and unite against Hollywood. The latter’s dominance could not be left to persevere at the expense of the local industry. As a result, this led to the formation of the pan Asian Film Cooperation. This organization aimed at outweighing Hollywood through marketing on their own market capacity which contains 300 million people. Through this, they could beat the Hollywood dominance because their market capacity was far much bigger than the US domestic market.

The countries within the Pan-Asian Cooperation include Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. Among the corporations that have tried to bolster these efforts are Sony Corporation which has put in effort to come up Asian production and has come up with The Crouching Tiger, and the Hidden Dragon. Another Japan based company NHK also initiated a project that would produce Asian motion pictures. Finally, in 2000, another production house, Applause Pictures entered the scene by producing several movies among them The Eye which was later remade in the American culture (Lee 2005).

Other implementations of the integration of Asian films and US market can be seen through Chinese themes. Before releasing the Academy Award winner Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (20000, Ang Lee starting from 1992, made six films. In each subsequent film, Ang Lee’s movies became e less Chinese than the previous. Nevertheless, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee returned to the Chinese theme, although this time equipped with the power of the American cinematographic technology.

The strange fairytale about the tiger and the dragon, which made a huge sensation in the world, revealed the exotic attributes of the Chinese poetry. At first sight, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon can be directly related to the martial arts genre, which was extensively exported to the western world. In that sense, this is only true partially, where Ang Lee used martial arts to cover the core conflict in the film, i.e. the agonizing and tragic attempts to combine two contrasts – Yin and Yang.

In other words, the film was about love, where the tiger symbolized the Yang and the dragon symbolized Yin. The complex relations between the film’s characters led to that no character could tell the other about his or her love, where the fights substituted the words. In that sense, delicate psychological details did not prevent the picture to be the first Asian action movie which gained a global recognition using local contexts without adaptation to other markets. The success of this movie can be seen as one of the obvious attributes of the globalization. In that sense, the globalization can be seen not only when the West comes to the East, but also when the East can make it to the West.

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