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
"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.)
Dendy Opera Quays, Palace Verona, Roseville Twin
Nova, Palace Como, The Rivoli
Palace East End
The Windsor, The Luna
(June 22, 2000)