A new list of the best Asian films of all time was published this week, as the region\’s increasingly vibrant cinema scene celebrated another bonanza in Busan.
The 20th anniversary of the Busan International Film Festival, in South Korea, marked its milestone with a poll of noted Asian filmmakers and international critics of Asian film, who were all asked for their top ten.
Oscar front-runner Hou Hsiao-Hsien said the release of the "Asian Cinema 100" was a reminder to fellow filmmakers of their obligation to "seek the truth."
"Sometimes as a filmmaker you have to show things that people don\’t want to see," said the Taiwanese director.
Hou\’s breakthrough work "A City Of Sadness" was ranked fifth-best of all time on a list that was topped by Japanese master auteur Yasujiro Ozu\’s seminal family drama "Tokyo Story" from 1953.
Hou\’s new film, atmospheric martial arts epic "The Assassin", which he has brought to Busan, is among the early critics\’ favourites for this year\’s Best Foreign Film Oscar after last week picking up 11 nominations for the Golden Horse Awards, the most prestigious given to Chinese-language films.
But its mood and mysticism are a far cry from the harsh realities of Taiwanese history portrayed in "A City Of Sadness", which follows the destruction of a family under the "White Terror" campaign instigated when martial law was imposed across the island in the late 1940s.
It is widely acknowledged that the film was the first to confront this dark period of the island\’s past and "A City Of Sadness" was a major critical success, winning the island nation its first Golden Bear award from the Venice Film Festival.
"If it had not been for the awards overseas it would not have been screened in Taiwan," said 68-year-old Hou when asked how he remembers the film.
"It was a turning point for me. If not for this film the work that has followed would not exist and it allowed Taiwanese filmmakers to look at our history."
The poll also rated Asia\’s top directors of all time with Japan\’s Ozu coming out ahead of Hou, and Iran\’s Abbas Kiarostami, whose highest-ranked film was 1994\’s "Close Up", coming tied 10th with the highest-ranked Korean film, Kim Ki-young\’s sexually charged drama "The Housemaid" (1960).
Festival organisers said they had created the list of the region\’s greatest films to widen the world\’s knowledge about its cinematic history. They are this week screening a selection of the films chosen. Updates are expected every five years.
Asia\’s most successful film in terms of global box office, the Oscar-winning Ang Lee-directed martial arts epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000) from Taiwan which collected an estimated US$128 million, was voted in joint 18th position.
Japan accounted for 26 films on the list, followed by Iran (19) and Korea (15). The oldest film chosen was Ozu\’s "I Was Born, But…" from 1932, which was ranked 48th of all time.
The top animated film to make the cut was Hayao Miyasaki\’s "Spirited Away" (2001) from Japan, also an Oscar winner, which was joint 18th.
"We… wanted to re-write the history of Asian cinema with an Asian perspective, different from the western ones," the festival\’s Asian Cinema programmer Kim Young-woo told AFP.
"We want to discover and value Asian films that might be relatively less known to the world."