THE FIGHtING SPIRIT FILM FESTIVAL 2017
Fighting Spirit Film Festival 2017
Having attended the first Fighting Spirit Film Festival last year, I was very much looking forward to attending this year's event and to witness its growth. As before, the festival put on a number of films throughout the day, which I shall describe shortly, but the festival had also expanded its short film programme and organised a competition whereby the audience and selected judges could vote for their favourite shorts on the day.
The festival kicked off with a special charity screening of Ip Man: Final Fight. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend this particular film as I was travelling up from Bristol but having seen Ip Man: A Legend is Born, I imagine the film, directed by Herman Yau, is a very solid martial arts film and not the exploitative cash-in that people might be expecting.
I was able to get to see The Karate Kid - the original version starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. Funnily enough, I had never seen this film - much to the incredulation of everyone I mentioned that to on the day - so what better way to finally get round to seeing this now-cult movie, than on the Big Screen?
It turned out to be a lot of fun, although Macchio's Daniel comes across as a total prat that it's difficult to feel too much sympathy for him when he's getting bullied. However, the final tournament scenes are really exciting.
Later we were able to see the first UK screening of RE:BORN, a Japanese action thriller starring Tak Sakaguchi (from cult favourite VERSUS). The film's plot bears similarities to the likes of The Man From Nowhere and Headshort, and has a tonne of action - maybe too much. There is a scene of carnage in a forest which just goes on for way too long, for my taste.
The day's features were rounded off with a classic, 36 Chambers of Shaolin, starring Gordon Liu. This is one of my favourite martial arts films, and contains one of the greatest training scenes as Liu works his way through each chamber, developing his skills more and more. Again this was a great treat to see on the cinema screen.
The features were only part of the picture, however. Arguably the bigger draw was the short film programme and meeting many of the film-makers who were in attendance on the day. There were two programmes - a more family friendly one in the afternoon, and then a more violent-orientated one in the evening. Both had some exemplary shorts to offer, and these are my pick of the best...
SOHO JIMBO - Chris Cheung blew me away with his playful take on the martial arts duel in his previous short, Handuken. Soho Jimbo ups the playfulness with a great mistaken identity concept.
EXPRESS DELIVERY - Beau Fowler both directs and stars in this great fight scene. A man only known as Swifty finds himself in the trunk of a bounty hunter - he has to discover the man's identity before the clients arrive. This is a very well shot and executed fight scene which messes with your allegiances.
I AM NOT THE DEVIL - Not only is this a well put-together action film, but it contains one of the best horror concepts I've ever come across. A professional thief infiltrates an illegal underground auction where girls possessed by demons are being sold to the highest bidders. Of all the films on show, this is the one I hope gets expanded to feature length the most.
BLINDSIDED - Eric Jacobous and his team are just on a different level to everyone else out there. Blindsided follows in the footsteps of Rope-a-Dope 1 and 2 and delivers what is best described as an unofficial Daredevil episode, if Daredevil lived in Los Angeles. Eric plays Walter, a blind guy who comes to the aid of Gordon, a shopkeeper being threatened by the Kung Fu Mafia we saw in the previous films. The fight co-ordination is just electric.
PORTRAIT OF A MARTIAL ARTIST - When you strip away the myths and fiction and fantasy of martial arts, this is what you are left with - pure spirit and potential. Xue Yhang is a Martial Artist and Self Defence practitioner, coach / instructor, and the film documents his training and philosophies about martial arts.
THE REAL TARGET - This is a film with its eye on becoming a feature - its one of three films connected by various characters. In this film, a group of secret agents are trying to prevent a deadly weapon being sold at a black-market auction. It's a lot of fun and would make a great feature film.
SHADOW WARRIORS - One of the shortest films on show but still manages to tell an entertaining story about two masked vigilantes who are after the same target and discover a startling revelation about each other.
DEAD END - another film containing a startling revelation, this time between two partners in crime who have managed to escape from a heist-gone-wrong, only to turn on each other.
KOWLOON KILLERS - Leif Johnson knocks it out of the park with a film which harks back to the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema. Two undercover cops are ambushed in a supermarket in Kowloon - but who set them up?
CAIN AND ABEL: CURSED EARTH - This is one of those films with a convoluted backstory but if you can stay with it its a very entertaining film. It reminded me of a lot of Japanese anime with its concepts of beings with great power living on Earth.
LAST CHANCE: A very short and not sweet tale of a woman being bullied in the gym and being forced to give an ass-kicking. Good choreography and editing make this a petite delight.
Blindsided, Kowloon Killers and Express Delivery were the winners on the day but the festival's short film programme really showcased the burgeoning talent in the film industry and especially those who have a keen interest in martial arts films. It certainly bodes well for the future when hopefully we shall see some of these film-makers producing feature length films of their own.
Next year, the festival is planning on taking place over two days. This is a great decision and a clear indication of the festival's success and growth. I personally can't wait to see what they come up with.