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  • Asia's Emerging Literary Scene from the eyes of Author and Journalist Nury Vittachi

    Interview by Faye Bradley and Sarah Wei Written by Faye Bradley HONG KONG. For decades Western cinema – Hollywood – has dominated the international movie scene. Thanks to martial arts master Bruce Lee the 70s gave ‘the West’ its first peek into Asian culture, and recent years have seen an encouraging new wave of Asian cinema and Asian-inspired Western cinema coming into play from blockbusters like Pixar’s Turning Red, Marvel’s Shang Chi, and Crazy Rich Asians. But where is this cultural shift in film representation stemming from? The answer is right in front of our eyes. As the largest population in the world, Asia will inevitably continue to make waves in different sectors with creativity and entrepreneurialism at the forefront. Some of the best filmmakers are based in Asia and with Parasite (Bong Joonho, Korea) and Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong) impressing the likes of big names like Quentin Tarantino, foreign directors are setting the stage. Collaborations between Western and Eastern filmmakers will be one of the most prolific cinematic movements and the literary scene is taking note – writers and multi-disciplinary creatives are one of the most sought-after talents n Asia right now. Zooming out from the era of Asian cinema and tapping into this near future, Nury Vittachi a Hong Kong-based journalist, author, and founder of Asia Literary Review and Hong Kong International Literary Festival, speaks with us on Asia’s creative scene, and the books and films leading the wave. Paradigm Haus: Can you tell us about Asia’s creative scene? Nury Vittachi: Basically, there’s a huge anomaly. Until recently, most of the creative material in English books was from the West. What’s Asia’s contribution to culture in the terms of books, stories, and screenplays? Almost nothing. Anomalies are quite good because they normally fix themselves, which will lead to growth in Asia. That’s why publishers have offices in Hong Kong looking for the next great trend. It’s also why all the movies we watch today have Asian characters in it including Jet Li and recently Michelle Yeoh. The market is recognizing this change and has accelerated. In fact, China retained the top spot at the box office with US$7.9 billion in 2021. Chinese cinema and the rest of the Asian movie market is overtaking globally. So publishers are saying that is going to happen in books as well. We need to find the next Harry Potter and the next JK Rowling, who will likely be Asian! PH: How has the Asian creative market entered the West so quickly and effectively? NV: It’s partly numbers. The population is larger and we produce a lot – some good, some not so good. But if 1% of Asian material is fantastic, then it adds up. The market is on our side because most of the consumers in the world are Asian. Eventually getting fed up with the likes of Harry Potter – they want their own material. The other thing is that Asian culture has not been exploited in the way that Western culture has been exploited. For example, you’ve seen a million movies or books about witches and wizards – that’s classic Western culture. But have you seen a million movies and books about ancient Asian folklore? Do you think language is a barrier? Well, people are finding a way around it. All the big publishing companies now have scouts who look at Asian language publications – and these writers are making it on the Booker Prize List. A Hong Kong filmmaker recently made it on the Oscars list, Derek Tsang. Tsang was on the shortlist for foreign language movies, the first Hong Kong filmmaker on it for years. The other change is that movies these days are made with less dialogue, and more visuals. For example, Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne film has an entire dialogue of around 200 lines for the whole movie, and the average line was three words like “move” or “now.” With this style of tiny phrases, it’s easy to understand and not even necessary to translate. PH: Which comes first – market then movie or movie then market? NV: Big companies are very aware of trends. I remember about 15 to 20 years ago, I got a phone call from an agent in Hollywood, Miramax I think. She said, “I’m standing in a Hong Kong bookshop and it’s full of Harry Potter, but I’ve been sent here to look for Asian writers. You’re the only one I can find. What’s happened to the Asian writers?” That was 20 years ago and Hollywood was already becoming aware of the need for Asian representation. We need Asian movies. Disney has been at the forefront sending out agents and feelers for years. They’ve tried to remake Asian books into Disney movies. They’ve tried to send money to China to make Asian-style movies. They’ve tried all sorts of things, with experiments using Asian-Americans, like the first Mulan, and then they tried using actual people born in Asia, then the second Mulan, which had mixed reactions. But they are trying at least. There is still an opportunity for the next great Asian writer to hit the global stage. We’re counting on you, the next generation. I know one publisher who actively reads things like fan fiction and poetry and they are actually looking for Asian writers. PH: How do you think the process has changed? Like the scouting process or the ability to be discovered? NV: For the big Western companies, the process should be easier. But it’s not to be honest because movies are still dominated by the West and so they’re using the same stars. In Asia, however, it’s a bit more interesting because it is surprisingly quite creative. So Asia invented live streaming, for example – Asia invents a lot of stuff, but we don’t realize it. Like, I’ll give you an example between 2003 and 2006. The top stories in this part of the world, the biggest part of the world, were either on phones or on computers. They were texts based on technology and that was before the iPhone was invented and before the Kindle was invented. Right. So the best-selling stories in Asia were text-based stories before the keyboard, which not a lot of people know about. They would immediately assume Kindle invented eBooks. But no. They were never in print. They were always on your phone, always on your computer, always on, well now your iPad. There was one called “the ghost blows out the candle”, using the typical Chinese story. People are hunting for some treasure and then somebody blows out the candle and you’re in the dark. Who blew out the candle? It’s none of us, so it must’ve been, you know, the ghost. It was a huge hit in China. Everybody had it on their phone and computer – it was like the first big e-book sensation and nobody in the Western world even knew about it. Eventually, the writer sold the story to a physical book publisher who tried to publish it. But the Chinese government had lots of weird rules at the time and one of the rules was that no occult stuff. So, they said, well, can you rewrite the book but without the ghost? So that was a bit problematic. Fortunately, in the last couple of years, the Chinese government has totally relaxed and the ghost blowing out the candle became a TV series. PH: Which regions in Asia are becoming popular for creative writers? NV: Well, not so much a region, but a whole region. The biggest potential market is books and stories for young people. There are 750 million young people in Asia. Now name an Asian children’s book writer. There aren’t any, right? So even when we were doing the literary festival here, we had to import children’s book writers from America, England, and Australia, all the Western countries with majority white writers. So there’s a huge opportunity for local writers, because Western books would begin with “Billy went out of his house to play baseball” and we think, okay, nobody is called Billy and nobody plays baseball [in Asia]. Not good. We’ve been trying to cultivate local talent a lot. So we ran competitions to try and get the standard up. And it was really frustrating for the last seven or eight years, because what we found was great children’s book art but really bad stories – they just weren’t interesting. Like really bad folk tales, but in the past couple of years, the standard of stories has come up. So, I think within the next year or two, we’ll start to see more children’s books from Asia. Have you heard of the Gruffalo? Are you the Gruffalo generation? Now here’s some interesting gossip from the industry that drives the Asian book industry mad. You know why? Because the story is taken from here. It’s an Asian story that the writer Julia Donaldson read and then rewrote and published it with a Western publisher. And now it’s the biggest selling children’s book of the last 10 years or something. Occasionally in interviews, she will say, by the way, I took it from an Asian quote – but usually, she doesn’t say that. Another interesting one is Cinderella. There’s something weird about Cinderella compared to all the other Western folktales and traditional fairy tales. Typically, the woman marries the prince because she’s beautiful or clever or both. There’s no such fairy tale where a woman marries a prince because she has small feet. There’s only one place in the world where that makes sense – Asia. So Cinderella was written in China like thousands and thousands of years ago, and it made sense. It made sense to find that it was stolen. It was pirated by the French about 400 years ago or 300 years ago. And then it’s now everybody assumes, it’s a Walt Disney production with Walt Disney copyright. But in fact, it’s a story from this part of the world and only makes sense in this part of the world. This article is from our Asia's Emerging Creative Scene feature available to read in print. Get your limited edition copy here.

  • high or low

    TEXT & PHOTO // Tomé Palla i’m out, try to find my about psychotic breaks left stuck in my mind life in between the poles the only thing i’m allowed lock him down for his highs too high, his lows too low while some crack up the floorthe others’ were never seen before watch him as he goes don’t forget to analyse his flow easy odd to come across bear in mind he’s either high or low he’s either high or low i’m out, try to find my about psychotic breaks left stuck in my mind easy odd to come across bear in mind, bear in mind he’s either high or low he’s either high or low he’s either high or his low he’s either high or his low stuck in between the poles LISBON. Tomé Palla, a song produced out of the rooms between Macau and Lisbon with Eleonora Yung, Nathan San, and h.s studios.

  • Landing in Vienna

    Written by Danielle Wu I’ve never been a morning person and I couldn’t tell you the last time I purposefully woke up to catch a sunrise. But one frosty morning in Vienna at 05:30, I was awoken by an impalpable energy coursing within me that I could only interpret as the siren call of the Viennese city below me. Its cultivated cityscape awash in staggering shades of crimson coloured Morgenrot set fire to my soul, famished for culture and immediately did Karl Kraus’ quote spring to mind, “The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with Asphalt.” At once my eyes were drawn to the Hofburg Imperial Palace with its enchanting palatial domes of turquoise and tiffany-blue, reminiscent of its former Habsburgs Empire who ruled first over the Austrian patrimonial lands from the days of the Holy Roman Empire until its final days of reign over the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the first world war. Just a kilometer away stands Vienna’s historical jewel St Stephen’s Cathedral, an illustrious incomplete monument which exhibits the city’s fascinating and ever-shifting historical landscape in all its non-traditional gothic, Romanesque and zigzag-tiled roof architectural amalgamated glory. As ruby hues gave gradual way to a florid orange glow and morning light swept through the rousing downtown, illuminating the distant landmark giant wheel of the Wiener Prater just across the water in Leopoldstadt and even further back, sleek and modern skyscrapers emerged into visibility. Like every other aspect of this carefully curated city of blended cultures, the contrast between New vs Old Vienna somehow fuses together tastefully with the impressive DC Tower I soaring above simplistically elegant rows of Biedermeier neoclassical townhouses, reflecting dazzling strokes of golden light onto the legendary Danube River. It inspired me to reflect upon the insurmountable centuries of change, of paradigm shifts, of revolution, restoration and reconstruction – and how these cities and the stories left behind will outlast us all, as they did the Romans, their Imperial Reich, the logical empiricists of the Vienna Circle and the occupation of the National Socialists. These curious little existentialist whispers remained with me throughout the rest of my visit in Vienna, because nothing makes the passing of time feel quite as surreal as this timeless historic city with its immaculate paths and pristine façades maintained to appear as if it, miraculously, simply stood the test of time. As I ambled along storybook cobblestone alleys and passed by the stately traditional Wiener coffeehouses of the historic Ringstraße’s innere Stadt, I quietly observed the elegantly understated aura of the Viennese folk around town. I have always somewhat considered imitation to be the highest form of flattery and so I thought to myself, “When in Wien, do as the Viennese do”. I popped on Johann Strauss’ 10-minute waltz ‘An der schönen blauen Donau ‘, straightened out my posture and donned the uniform demeanour of Austrian aloof affability as one so naturally does on their morning stroll down the Canal; Semmel bread roll in one hand, coffee in the other. I even tipped my head ever so slightly and greeted passers-by with a lilting “Grüß Gott!”, deliberately letting my roll ever so delicately, doing right by the famously melodic Austrian German dialect. By afternoon, I was hopelessly besotted with the city after having fallen into an artistic trance at the Kunsthistoriches Museum from gazing up at the lavishly painted arches and columns of Gustav Klimt. I walked back out onto the large sprawling main streets lined with their sumptuous mix of baroque, gothic, neo-renaissance and classical buildings and headed straight for the Burggarten where I found myself at the foot of Mozart’s monument. For a few minutes, I simply looked up at the composer’s stone visage and basked in my admiration and gratitude for his arias and sonatas which were musical comforts throughout my childhood. “Danke schön” I whispered in thanks to Mozart, to Vienna, to no one in particular really, but to the unparalleled experience of learning and discovering such abundant beauty and culture that it seizes you with inspiration and reignites our inner artist, our musician and our creator who lives within each and every one of us. This article is from our Vienna diary feature available to read in print. Get your limited edition copy here.

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    Death Cab For Cutie as told by bass guitarist Nick Harmer Nick speaks to us on the Seattle music scene, Japan's impressive vinyl stores, and decades-long inspirations. Read more interview PIXAR'S FLOAT AS TOLD BY DIRECTOR AND WRITER BOBBY RUBIO Bobby Rubio, a story artist at Pixar and the writer and director of Spark Shorts’ Float, shares his story on self-discovery through animation, drawing and writing. An excerpt from our feature on ‘Asian Stories’ coming out this Fall in print . read more interview TOP 5 COFFEE SHOPS BY OH WONDER London-based Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht of indie-pop band Oh Wonder and London coffee store NOLA share their top picks for coffee shops in London. read more feature RACHEL DEMY RECOMMENDS 5 PHOTOGRAPHERS SHE LOVES RIGHT NOW Rachel Demy who's work has been featured in publications as The Rolling Stones and NPR shares with us her current favourite photographers to follow for inspiration from Taryn Simon, Autumn de Wilde to Courtney Coles. read more recent Mini Trees’ Lexi Vega on Expressing Her Life Through Music Summer in Milan: Top Events, Exhibitions and Galleries, From Fashion Week to Art and Design. Lexi Vega's Top Songs, Local Indie Artists & Tour Essentials Percussionist Angela Wai Nok Hui Experimental Music Artist in London Thomas Nuding of SARAH Sea Rescue Tells of Refugee Missions in the South of Europe Nathalie Suthor on Her Sea Rescue Journey Through the Mediterranean blog archives

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    blog archives june 2021 Oh Wonder's top recommendations at Nola, London Pan Jian: A Chinese Abstract Artist and his view on the world. Submotion Orchestra's Ruby Wood on the Influence of Jazz & Musical Collaborations Art, Music, and Clubs from Europe to Asia with Fabio of Rossi&Rossi. Oh Wonder's view on the London coffee scene & its relationship with music may 2021 The Best Bars in Hong Kong Travel Influencers Share Their Dream Destinations For When Travel Re-Opens Pixar’s Float as told by director and writer Bobby Rubio. 10 Minutes With...Sally Ryder, Founder of RYDER Diamonds How The Vuze Aims to Decentralise the Music Industry Whisky Expert John Rhodes Shares Insight on Forecasts for 2021 Hong Kong's Top Influencers Share Their "Happy Places" Inner Strength – Outer Strength at The Oriental Spa, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Top 5 Coffee Shops in London By Oh Wonder Vivarium director Lorcan Finnegan on Irish folklore in film & dystopic cities Rachel Demy Recommends 5 Photographers She's Enjoying Right Now The Asian-American story behind Pixar’s Float with director Bobby Rubio. Oh Wonder's London Cafe Playlist Meet the brains behind the world's first global culture mapper, Step Your World Nury Vittachi shares his top tips for starting a creative career in Asia april 2021 The future of hotels in cities, according to the experts 5 Places to Grab Breakfast in Hong Kong march 2021

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