Mei-Juin Chen and Martha Burr's "Shaolin Ulysses" is a brisk portrait of five "kungfu monks" attempting, by various methods, to transfer the teachings of China's famed Shaolin Temple to American soil.

Mei-Juin Chen and Martha Burr’s “Shaolin Ulysses” is a brisk portrait of five “kungfu monks” attempting, by various methods, to transfer the teachings of China’s famed Shaolin Temple to American soil. Peppered with delightful archival footage from decades-old informational films produced about the temple, with onscreen demonstrations of such hair-raising martial arts techniques as “iron stomach” and “iron crotch” (just what it sounds like), pic is bound to entertain festival audiences far and wide with long ancillary life to follow.

Based in such disparate American outposts as New York City, Houston and Las Vegas, Chen and Burr’s subjects are united in their wide-eyed infatuation with America, and there’s a raucous innocence to that love affair that makes “Shaolin Ulysses” instantly charming. A highlight is the story of ex-monk Li Peng Zhang and his very Catholic wife, who live happily in New York and proudly proclaim their son will be raised “half-Catholic, half-Buddhist.” Chen and Burr put the emphasis on character — in less than an hour, we feel like we really get to know these monks — but there’s still enough high-flying, high-kicking action to keep genre fans happy.

Shaolin Ulysses: Kungfu Monks in America


A Lotus Film production in association with the Independent Television Service. Produced, directed by Mei-Juin Chen, Martha Burr. Screenplay, Burr.


Camera (color, digital video), Teodoro Maniaci; editor, Mei-Juin Chen; music, John Zorn. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (competing), June 26, 2002. Mandarin and English dialogue. Running time: 56 MIN.


Shi Guolin, Li Peng Zhang, Shi Xing Hao, Shi De Shan, Shi Xing Hong. Narrator: Beau Bridges.
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