Firecracker

Now let’s head back to the mid-2000s and take a look at Firecracker, who for a few years during that time kept the flag flying for Asian films in London with their amazing film festival and free magazine.

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Firecracker was pure class from start to finish, from the superbly stylish magazine, packed with Asian film news and reviews, to their impeccably programmed festival, everything was put together to create a coherent and impressive look and feel to their organisation. Run by Erica & Nick, Firecracker launched as an online magazine first and then moved into film screenings with their festival before launching the free physical magazine which was distributed around cinemas in London.

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What really made Firecracker so strong though was their great film programing, they weren’t afraid to take chance and screen films and genres that didn’t really get an attention elsewhere. From a retrospective of the Grace Chang film from Cathay studios, to a season covering the Bollywood crime films of director Ram Gopal Varma and dedicated strands looking at cinema from the Philippines and beyond, Firecracker did a great job of championing films that just didn’t pop up at any other festivals.

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A far as I can remember the final Firecracker event took place in May 2007, a free double bill of films directed by Bobby SuarezOne Armed Executioner and They Call Her Cleopatra Wong. Sponsored by Tiger Beer it was a great night with a huge turnout and served as a fitting final event for a great organisation.

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Eastern Heroes

Yesterday we took a look at Jet Li’s London appearance from all the way back in 1996, now today we’ll take a look at the people that put that amazing day together: Eastern Heroes. It’s a thing that’s often said, about how the internet has changed everything in the last decade, and it’s very true. Right now you can pretty much find out anything you want about a film straight away, you can watch it digitally, buy a DVD, read about it being filmed, find out who’s been cast in it and more with just a few keystrokes.  But back in the 1990s? Forget it!

And that’s why Eastern Heroes were so important to films back then; they were like a one-stop organisation to get everything you needed about Asian action cinema. Now this feature is by no way a history of them, I really don’t know enough, but what I want to do here is try to highlight how great they were at bringing that world of amazing cinema to life during those pre-internet days.

Firstly you had these amazing series of screening which ran at The Scala from the late 1980s through until the cinemas sad closure in 1993, in fact the final screening there was the Eastern Heroes Chow Yun Fat weekend, which saw the great man himself grace the cinemas stage for two amazing days of films. You can see the event programme and videos from the weekend here:

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Here’s a great example of the sort of screenings that they’d regularly organise at The Scala:

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Then you had their long running magazine which filled you in on recent Asian cinema releases, let you know what was coming up and had great interviews with actors and directors that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I only have a few of their magazines left, but taking another browse through them now really brings back how much of an eye opener they were at the time.

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Then there’s also the two Eastern Heroes stores which were a great focus point for film fans back then. The first store opened up in Camden and was followed by a second store located right in Chinatown on Shaftsbury Avenue. Both were stocked wall-to-wall with VHS, VCDS, Laserdiscs, magazines, posters and much more. The stores were really great and were an essential stop for any film fans in London. Here’s a great video which takes you inside the Chinatown store, along with a selection of store adverts:

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But as we always say, nothing lasts forever, times changed and eventually Eastern Heroes closed down operations at some point in the late 1990s. But we’re happy to report that recently Eastern Heroes have re-launched, with Rick Baker still in charge, there are plans afoot to launch a new magazine, they also put on a recent screening in Chinatown, showing two brand new martial arts documentaries. So it’s great to have them back and let’s hope 2014 sees Eastern Heroes go from strength to strength.  Thanks for all the great times from us at The Duke!

Find out more about the relaunched Eastern Heroes right here!