BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA • A 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 marked its milestone with a poll of noted Asian film-makers and international critics of Asian film, who were asked for their top 10.
Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao- Hsien said the release of the Asian Cinema 100 was a reminder to fellow film-makers of their obligation to "seek the truth". "Sometimes as a film-maker, you have to show things that people don't want to see," he said. His breakthrough work A City Of Sadness was ranked fifth-best on a list topped by Japanese master auteur Yasujiro Ozu's seminal family drama Tokyo Story (1953).
Hou's new film, gongfu epic The Assassin, is among the early critics' favourites for this year's Best Foreign Film Oscar after picking up 11 nominations for the Golden Horse Awards last week.
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 the movie 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 Hou, 68. "It was a turning point for me. If not for this film, the work that has followed would not exist and it allowed Taiwanese film-makers 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, tied 10th with the highest-ranked Korean film, Kim Ki Young's sexually charged drama The Housemaid (1960).
The festival will this week screen a pick of the films chosen. Updates to the list are expected every five years.
Asia's most successful film with an estimated US$128 million collected in the global box office, Lee Ang's epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), was voted in joint 18th position with other films.
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, and ranked 48th. The top animated film to make the cut was Hayao Miyasaki's Spirited Away (2001), at joint 18th.
Singapore's Ilo Ilo by Anthony Chen tied at 66th with several others.
"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 said. "We want to discover and value Asian films that might be relatively less known to the world." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE