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SILK SCREEN: PREMIERE SEASON

ASIAN FILMS, TIRED TRAILERS
Continuity and accessibility have informed Columbia TriStar's latest initiative in the area of arthouse distribution, with the launch of Silk Screen, a dedicated season of Asian films around Australia, starting July 6, 2000 and running through to December. But will the impressive and praisworthy marketing plan stumble on the Americanised trailers, asks ANDREW L. URBAN.

They've thought it through very well: arthouse films have suffered from being scantily promoted as they travel around the country from city to city, unable to benefit from a beefy, national campaign. Now, a collection of six fine Asian films from some of the region's most acclaimed filmmakers will be released nationally, all at the same selected cinemas. (See left.) This ensures continuity and the marketing campaigns will help accessibility - a commendable strategy.

"an integral part of their appeal"

But what's with the trailers? As the frontline marketing ambassadors for these films, the trailers (all made at the company's US parent base) have the cheesy voice over typical of every American studio movie, complete with melodramatic, staccato script - and not a word of dialogue, to avoid revealing that the films are ina foreign language (gasp, subtitles!) which may scare off the audience.

This is hardly having the courage of your convictions, for a start, but the greater misjudgement is presenting the films in the same tones as, say, For Love of the Game or Gladiator. The very exotic-ness of Asian films is an integral part of their appeal.

While it can be argued that the trailers are intended to sell the strong visual elements of the films in an effort to give potential new audiences a taste for it, it is a flawed strategy. These trailers seem to be aimed at the wrong audience, promoting the spectacle out of context - and they will likely turn off the target audience for the same reason. To its credit, the Australian office of Columbia TriStar (headed by managing director Stephen Basil-Jones and Suzanne Stretton in marketing) is lobbying its US parent to make some judicious changes to the trailers and we can only hope their arguments will be heeded.

"an excellent concept"

The season itself is an excellent concept, creating a sense of occasion and a focal point for promoting the release of each film. Many smaller distributors have quietly fumed at the bigger players buying up rights to arthouse films, usually by paying higher prices - but not always following through with a suitably careful marketing strategy. In this case, Columbia TriStar has done some homework and is showing that arthouse films can indeed benefit from being released through a major, cashed up marketing machine.

The season begins with The Road Home, winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival (2000). The Premieres in Sydney and Melbourne have been donated to the Australia China Friendship Society to raise money for an underprivileged school in Mongolia. "The Road Home is a work of intensity, passion and hope quite a remarkable combination," says David Edwards. (See our full reviews of each film on release.)

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CINEMAS:

Sydney -
Dendy Opera Quays, Palace Verona, Roseville Twin

Canberra -
Electric Shadows

Melbourne -
Nova, Palace Como, The Rivoli

Brisbane -
Hoyts Regent

Adelaide -
Palace East End

Perth -
The Windsor, The Luna

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(June 22, 2000)

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Films and release dates:

July 6 -

THE ROAD HOME
dir. Zhang Yimou

"The Road Home is cinematically glorious, with indelible scenes of autumn colours, melting snow and wind-kissed fields; the film's emotional impact is enhanced by San Bao's seductive score."
Louise Keller

August 24 -

SHOWER,
dir. Zhang Yang

"Shower provides a great many little joys and a few larger ones to anyone open to the magic of cinema."
Andrew L. Urban

October 5 -

THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN,
dir. Chen Kaige

"The Emperor and the Assassin is a rousing, rewarding history lesson from a filmmaker at the top of his game."
Leo Cameron

November 16 -

KIKUJIRO,
dir. Takeshi Kitano

December 26 -

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON,
dir. Ang Lee







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