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Writing in the New York Press, Matt Zoller Seitz (who recently spoke with Jeremiah Kipp for Filmmaker about his own debut feature, Home) uses the occasion of Jet Li’s trip to the U.S. to promote the Rogue Pictures release of Unleashed to pen a lengthy and thoughtful appraisal of the various martial arts genres in the age of globalism and the Internet.

From the piece:

“In the past decade, the rise of the internet and cheap DVD authoring technology made it harder for repressive governments to regulate pop culture’s ebb and flow. When a noteworthy new release comes out in any country, word spreads instantly through cyberspace. In a matter of days or weeks, the movie can be downloaded illegally by anyone with the right software and connection, then packaged and distributed for sale…

Li sees this phenomenon as evidence that distributors are still stuck in 20th-century business models, while their customers have moved into the twenty-first.

‘Hong Kong film industry is dead now, but the audience still wants to see Chinese movies, martial arts movies,’ Li says. He points out that during Hong Kong’s creative and financial peak in the late 1980s, the industry cranked out hundreds of films a year; now it’s lucky to put out 40. Yet the mainland Chinese film industry has become both more productive and more open to importing and exporting pop culture; ditto Vietnam, Thailand and other neighboring countries. Thanks to the internet and home video, Asian and American moviegoers have become more curious about each other’s movies, and more capable of satisfying their curiosity. It’s a nightmare for distributors and producers, but a dream come true for movie buffs. And it contributes to the notion of cinema as a language of pictures, and moviegoing and moviemaking as an endless conversation between people and nations.

‘In Unleashed, the hero, who is Asian, finds a new family with a black man and a white girl,’ Li says, bringing the conversation full circle. ‘They are not a real family, but you see those three people standing there, and you believe that they are family. I believe that in real life. I believe love has no borders.'”

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