Jackie Chan…And Why Dubs Are A Necessary Evil…

Had a first world problem today.  The Viking, TIFF goddess and I were suppose to watch Drunken Master tonight; one of the first Jackie Chan movies which gained him recognition as a slapstick comedy, kung fu superstar.  Made in 1978, Jackie Chan plays a young and wild Wong Fei-Hung who painfully learns the technique of the Eight Drunken Gods and then has to protect his perpetually disapproving father from a hired assassin named Thunderleg.  Jackie Chan was booked to introduce the movie and would be doing a Q & A afterwards.

Ten minutes before I order my sandwich to go (to eat in theater due to lack of time between work and movie), TIFF goddess calls me to say that TIFF just emailed her, telling her that the movie will be the English dub version!  Argh!  Wrong reel had been sent – seriously, the man is in town and the audience can’t even listen to his voice on the movie.  Alas, both of us are film snobs, so we made the decision to not see the dubbed film and to just sneak in at the end to see Jackie Chan’s Q & A only (it turned out he wasn’t doing the intro).  The Viking was left out of the decision making process, but he was busy and not answering his phone.

When I was younger, I didn’t realize that the Japanese animation I was watching was dubbed into Cantonese.  Later on, as I watched more Japanese animation in Japanese, I started noticing the differences in the voice acting.  For animation, Japanese voices were always the best, as the actors had proper schooling and everything sounded genuine.  The Cantonese voices were ok, not too horrible.  The English voices were not that great as the voices never sounded like they were taking things seriously.  Over the course of the years, since spending time with English voice actors from Canada and US, the dubbing industry has changed and the bar is being set higher.  I have seen girls rip out their shirts for breast autographs, so there are super voice actor fans out there…However, in the end, I still prefer the original voices the best as there are some things that can’t be translated and they maintain artistic qualities best.

I do recognize that dubbing opens many markets to a different types of media and it is a a necessity for internationalization and globalization of the entertainment industry.  As audiences grow more sophisticated, the need for quality dubbing will continue to rise with higher production costs. The whole dubbing of foreign media started in the 1930s, so this has been around for a long time!  Dubs have no doubt exposed people to many stories and creations outside of their home countries.

Anyhow, after many beers, rabbit pasta and pizza; our party headed upstairs for the Jackie Chan Q & A.  We ended up watching the last 2 minutes of the dubbed film and the voices were awful!  It sounded very cheesy and the theater full of audience were laughing, so I think they were enjoying it.  The Viking told me it sounded torturous and was glad we skipped 109 minutes of it.  The credits didn’t start rolling surprisingly enough and with the snap of a switch, the lights came on and Jackie Chan entered the room.  Many people stood up while clapping and cheering.  He was wearing a white kung fu master outfit with white shoes, which the TIFF goddess pointed out was a very 70s style thing to do.  He spoke intelligently, as he explained how he was always thinking about how to keep his career afloat with different projects and changing all the time in order to learn new things.  A very physical person, he kept demonstrating graceful martial arts moves as he spoke.  Even though I sat far away, I could feel still his charisma and energy.  He made an interesting point on how people elevate others to a higher status through exaggerated stories.  He gave the example that perhaps in one hundred years time, Bruce Lee will have a shrine and will be a god, as more and more people believe in the super human stories of Bruce.  As masses believe in the idea, anyone opposing this god idea would face consequences.  Someone asked about his past promise about making e a movie about Cambodian land mines.  He said that although he was the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), when he was visiting Cambodia, the government tourism board suggested that he defer the project as they were afraid such a film would scare away visitors.  He said he would make it someday, but things take time.  Apparently when he writes a script, it may take 6-8 years.

Overall, it was inspiring to see a successful Asian person whom I’ve always admired live in and speaking impressively.  Also, the fact that he was always learning makes me think that maybe I’m not too crazy either for wanting to do different things all the time as well!

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