>In Which I Take a Look at Summer 2010’s Asian Film Festival

>With the opportunity to get a free showing to Red Cliff, a movie I’d longed to see in its full-length format I attended and viewed the premier of the Freer Gallery’s 2010 Hong Kong Film Festival. Originally posted here.

Made in Hong Kong, Shown in DC

By: Jeremy Skog
Special to The Examiner
06/22/10 11:50 AM EDT

DVDs were a Godsend. You see I have long been a film snob, in that I demand verisimilitude. I believe in watching movies in the way they were intended to be seen – if directors did things a certain way there was a reason for it. But the medium of VHS demanded a hundred different compromises, both technical and in content. With the advent of DVD I was finally able to watch films properly, with subtitles instead of dubbing and no more of that terrible pan-and-scan “technology.” But some genres are best seen on the large screen, historical epics in particular, and in theaters I am still a prisoner to the prejudice against American audiences. So while I was thrilled to hear that John Woo was making an epic based on the eponymous Battle of Red Cliffs, I was dismayed to hear that what was originally made in two parts (I II), would be condensed into a half-sized “theatrical version” for its U.S. release. Two whole hours of story would be cut.

But the internationalism of DC once again came to the rescue – the full edition was chosen for last weekend’s launch of this year’s Made in Hong Kong Film Festival at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer gallery. Even better for those on a budget the films are entirely free, although the organizers do ask for a donation to help fund the series. (The series is cosponsored by the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.) The festival features Asian movies which are rarely shown in the United States. The film lived up to the hype and is unmistakably the work on Mr. Woo featuring grand vistas and intensely choreographed fight sequences. Although the audio system in the Freer’s Meyer Auditorium is obviously designed for lectures rather than films, I didn’t notice after being drawn in to the story. This was the way the film was meant to be shown.

For those in search of something besides the standard Hollywood blockbuster this summer, they could do much worse. The seven (or eight, depending on how you count) films are shown at 7:00 on Fridays with an encore matinee the following Sunday at 2:00 from now until the middle of August. Doors open about 30 minutes before the showing and arriving early is recommended. The theater was nearly full for the first showing. Sadly, food and drink are not permitted as this is an art gallery.

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