Wednesday, July 2, 2008

More on the demise of Tartan Films

The closing of Tartan Films has sent shockwaves throughout the community of fans of Asian film. The company was responsible for the distribution of dozens of Asian titles, including those from Thailand.

Japan-based correspondent for Screen Daily Jason Gray has opened a blog discussion about Tartan's demise, with an essay by his brother and U.K.-based Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp.

Here's an excerpt:

But for me the biggest problem I had with Tartan was this whole "Asian Extreme" thing. Now, I should point out that the company did also release all the Ozu movies in the U.K., and wasn't entirely fixated on horror. However, distributors should remember that booms in anything are generally short-lived. Audition, Battle Royale, Old Boy etc caught the public's imagination because we hadn't seen anything like it before. When it comes five years later and you're still trying to capitalise on their success with crappy Malaysian ghost films, its no wonder you'll lose your audience, especially if you're selling the disks at 15 pounds a pop - the price of a night in the pub, for something you'll probably only watch once.


I keep saying this till I'm blue in the face, but distributors of Asian film over the past five years are so myopic its a wonder any of them are still in business. Aside from effectively killing any new interest in the market by constantly releasing the same blood guts ghosts and gangster films instead of some of the great comedies and dramas that have been coming out over the past five years, they never seem to actually have an eye out for any new interesting trends any more. [...]

Amen. Be sure to stick around for the comments thread. Illuminating stuff.

The salient point is that the idea of marketing Asian films as a genre is wrong, as is the idea of only marketing Asian horror films or Asian martial-arts films. To paraphrase a comment by Gray: people don't necessarily just want to watch Asian films (or Thai films, or Japanese films, or Hong Kong films), they want to watch good films -- a good many of which are ignored because they aren't horror or martial arts, which often tend to be among the worst films.

Related posts:

(Via the Golden Rock)


  1. Thanks for the link.

    Now I know where to come if I need info on Thai cinema.

    I'm curious -- is speaking & reading Thai not that crucial for living/working/watching films there?


  2. Hi Jason. I would definitely be a much better person if I spoke fluent Thai, but I haven't yet taken the time to learn. I am able to bumble my way through life in Thailand by working in an office where English is widely spoken and watching films that are subtitled.


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