Ang Lee’s Oscar win served as a reminder of how far Asian Cinema has come in terms of global recognition. We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on other Asian directors who have helped push Asian Cinema to where it is today.
Demonstrating an extremely diverse and versatile directing style, Ang Lee’s win for Life of Pi firmly establishes him as a world-class director, who eschews standard stereotypical “Asian” movie concepts, to create breathtaking films in many environments. Lee’s art studies at the National Taiwan University of Arts helped him form his love for drama and film, leading him to study theatre and film production in the US. While his first works garnered much praise, he still spent almost six years unemployed. His movie, based on Jane Austin’s literary masterpiece of the same name, Sense and Sensibility, catapulted Lee to international acclaim. Movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain earned him further recognition and many more awards including Academy Awards and a Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion award for Brokeback Mountain. Ang Lee is famously quoted as saying, “I don’t find my films, my films find me.” With the legacy he has left, we can only assume fate has played a role in his directing career.
Akira Kurosawa is probably one of the biggest role models for any film maker in the business. His movie, Seven Samurai is considered by many to be one of the top ten films of all time, and is an incredible study for filmmakers in creating characters with immense depth. In 1990, he was accepted an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he was voted as one of the five people who have contributed the most to the betterment of Asia in 100 years by AsianWeek and CNN.
AX3 is no stranger to director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter, Miyazaki! Most know him as the mastermind behind Studio Ghibli, the studio that has created masterpieces such as Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. His biggest success may have come from his film, Spirited Away, which won Miyazaki a Japan Academy Prize, a Golden Bear Award at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Miyazaki is considered to be one of the most influential people to bring Japanese animation to the west at a popularity level of Disney proportions.
For a decade, John Woo’s films redefined action films in Hollywood. He did epic action movies, such as Face/Off featuring Nicholas Cage and John Travolta, and also worked with legendary action heroes, such as Jean-Claude Van-Damme in Hard Target, and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible II. His movie making success includes the Asian epic Red Cliff. In 2010, John Woo was presented with a Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival.
While many directors made the jump to Hollywood before they became famous. Zhang Yimou has carved out his legacy in Chinese cinema, where he creates films that are so fantastic, they’re popular on a global scale, regardless of language barrier. Zhang has many accolades to his name, including Best Foreign Film nominations for Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern, Silver Lion and Golden Lion prizes at the Venice Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. His film, Curse of the Golden Flower was one of the most expensive Chinese films made thus far, at $45 million US.
Wong Kar Wai
While hardly an a obscure director, Wong Kar Wai may be considered the most “indie” of the directors of this group, as most of his work is focused in Hong Kong. With that said, his films are watched by many Hollywood actors, and serve as new inspirations for scripts and ideas. Wong’s movies have garnered him enough attention to make him the first Asian Director to win the Best Director Award of Cannes Film Festival for his film Happy Together. Wong was also President of the Jury at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and he has also served as the President of the Jury at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival this year.
This list is not meant to be all-inclusive, and there have been many individuals who have contributed to the success of Asian Cinema, however we think it’s definitely a great place to start!
Are there any other directors you’d like to add to the list?
Tell us below!