Martial Arts Season

Martial Arts Season

6-29 March 2023

The history of East and South East Asian cinema is laden with astonishing martial arts films. This March, Depot brings you some of the finest examples of this visually compelling art form, screening films from different countries and traditions.

Martial arts films are well known for featuring intricately choreographed hand-to-hand combat as part of their storytelling, though they can also include other forms of stuntwork such as swordplay or even gunfights. The films serve as showcases for the skill and physicality of the performers, utilising filmic techniques such as dynamic editing and sound design to thrilling effect.

One of the best known sub-genres of martial arts cinema is kung fu. Originating in Hong Kong, kung fu films quickly found success with Western audiences, reaching the height of their popularity in the 1970s with films like Enter the Dragon (1973), starring the iconic Bruce Lee. As well as Enter the Dragon, we’ll be showing another kung fu classic, the spectacular Drunken Master (1978), starring Jackie Chan. These films tend to focus on believable, unarmed combat, and were produced in part as a reaction to the established wuxia subgenre of martial arts films.

Wuxia films find their roots in seventh century romantic Chinese literature, depicting chivalrous, sword-wielding characters fighting to attain personal freedom. The wuxia subgenre often features fantastical fight sequences, incorporating the use of wires and special effects. In recent history, some of the most famous examples of wuxia films include Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002), both of which are included in our season. Both films highlight the extraordinary skill of female performers, including Maggie Cheung in Hero and Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger.

Also part of our season, Gareth Evans’ Raid films are noteworthy for featuring pencak silat, a class of Indonesian martial arts less widely known in the West. While there are hundreds of different styles, broadly speaking pencak silat is a form of fighting in which every part of the body is used, along with weapons. The Raid: Redemption (2011)and The Raid 2 (2014) are widely regarded as two of the most sensational, propulsive martial arts films of the 21st century, featuring stripped back narratives and no holds barred action.

Films in this season