Legend would have been 70 this year

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The Tokyo Film Festival’s Winds of Asia section usually presents the artier side of the region’s output, both old and new, but this year it’s adopted a more populist slant with a sidebar devoted to Bruce Lee and Asian helmers influenced by his pioneering chopsocky pics.

The occasion is Lee’s 70th birthday — 37 years after his untimely death in 1973 — but Winds of Asia programmer Koji Ishizaka also has a more personal reason for honoring the actor.

“I was a huge fan of his films in junior high school, as were all my friends,” Ishizaka says. “I even joined the school karate club, but there were so many members some had to be cut — and I was one of them.”

In addition to the Lee classics “Enter the Dragon” and “Game of Death” — the latter in a rarely seen print specially edited for Japanese release — the section will present Hong Kong helmers Derek Kwok and Clement Cheng’s “Gallant” and Vietnamese helmer Luu Huynh’s “The Legend Is Alive” — both martial arts epics in the Lee tradition, as well as Wilson Yip’s two “Ip Man” pics based on the life and exploits of Lee’s first martial arts teacher.

Another sidebar is devoted to four Asian helmers influenced by Akira Kurosawa, whose birth centennial is being celebrated this year. One is Palestinian helmer Rashid Masharawi, whose 1996 “Haifa” is a remake of Kurosawa’s 1970 film “Dodes’ka-den,” set in a Palestinian camp, while the other three helmers remade “Seven Samurai” for local auds.

“Kurosawa was influenced by Hollywood, and a lot of directors, including those from Asia, were in turn influenced by him,” comments Ishizaka.

“In that way, he was a kind of cinematic middle man.”

In addition to its usual lineup of new Asian pics, Winds of Asia will feature a sidebar devoted to new Taiwanese helmers and a retro of films by Turkish helmer Reha Erdem.

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