Under the leadership of its first president Robert Blum (1953-1962), The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based private non-profit organization which was established in 1951, was actively involved in the motion picture industries in Asia since its first feature film project The People Win Through, based on a play written by a Burmese Prime Minister U Nu, came out in 1953. The Asia Foundation had clandestinely supported anti-Communist motion picture industry personnel, ranging from producers, directors, and technicians to critics and writers in Japan, Hong Kong, Burma, South Korea, as well as American and British motion picture producers in Malaysia and Thailand through covert activities. Nagata Masaichi-initiated Federation of Motion Picture Producers in Southeast Asia (FPA) and its annual Southeast Asian Film Festival had been the Foundation’s core venture and other motion picture operations in Asia, Chang Kuo-sin’s Asia Pictures in Hong Kong and Kim Kwan-soo’s Korean Motion Picture Cultural Association (KMPCA) in South Korea, were more or less related outcomes of the FPA.
What The Asia Foundation’s motion picture project had hoped for was the construction of the alliance of anti-Communist motion picture producers in Asia in order to win the psychological war against communism. Although It was, in the end, a failed project, it should be noted that The Asia Foundation had played a significant role in the formation of the first postwar inter-Asian motion picture industry network in Asia, which had ultimately redrawn the imaginary and geo-political map of Asia. Drawing archival materials from Asia Foundation Records and Robert Blum Papers, this presentation is primarily concerned with the origins of the Foundation’s motion picture project in Hong Kong and Korea, with a view to explore the ways in which US government-led cold war cultural policies had influenced the regional film industry.
Sangjoon Lee is Assistant Professor of Asian Cinema at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Lee is the editor of Hallyu 2.0: The Korean Wave in the Age of Social Media (University of Michigan Press, 2015) and is currently editing Rediscovering Korean Cinema for University of Michigan Press (forthcoming 2020). His writing has appeared in such journals as Film History, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, Journal of Korean Studies, Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, and Transnational Cinemas. He is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled The Asian Cinema Network: The Asian Film Festival and the Cultural Cold War in Asia.