New York's MOMA to Pay Tribute to Fortissimo Films

Warriors of the Rainbow - Movie Still - H - 2011

The company gets a rare film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

HONG KONG – New York’s Museum of Modern Art will pay tribute to Hong Kong and Amsterdam-based production and distribution outfit Fortissimo Films in celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary.

The film exhibition, titled In Focus: Fortissimo Films, will take place from Nov. 10-21. 

Hailed by MoMA as “an early, visionary force in the global independent film movement,” Fortissimo Films has been instrumental in bringing Asian cinema to the world stage, being the first international distributor to represent Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang and Zhang Yuan, and Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai. The company has since also developed and presented projects by leading filmmakers in Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Korea, including the work of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Tsai Ming-liang, and Iwai Shunji.

Fortissimo is the exceptional honoree of a MoMA film exhibition, as the museum has previously held retrospectives of individual filmmakers such as Tim Burton, Roman Polanski, and Bernardo Bertolucci, or regional cinema including that of Asia or the Middle East, but rarely for a company.

“It’s been a momentous year; the MoMA exhibition is a tremendous honor,” Fortissimo chairman Michael Werner told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “We were thrilled when they approached us about the possibility and we thought it would be the crowning jewel of our year of celebration of this anniversary.”

The company was presented the special award for “The Promotion of Asian Cinema” by the 2011 Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong in March.

The November MoMa tribute, curated by MOMA's Jytte Jensen will specifically showcase Fortissimo’s projects in Asia, opening with the recent Taiwan hit Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale by Wei Te-Sheng, which grossed over NTD 600 milllion ($20 million) in Taiwan in a month, and features 10 other titles that include Wisit Sasanatieng’s Tears of the Black Tiger (2000), Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together (1997) which earned the helmer the best director award in Cannes, Jiang Wen’s Devils on the Doorstep (2000), and Zhang Yuan’s long-banned Beijing Bastards (1992). Director Wei will attend the opening premiere to present the film.

“MoMA is celebrating our contribution to world cinema, and in particular the role Fortissimo has played in highlighting Asian cinema in bringing it to the world,” Werner added.

Contribution to Asian cinema notwithstanding, Fortissimo has also been involved in the distribution documentaries including Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light on The Rolling Stone, Sydney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry, Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, American independent filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, Gregg Araki, and Todd Solondz, and Oscar-recognized indie gems such as Winter’s Bone (2010) starring Jennifer Lawrence, which was garnered four Academy Awards nominations. 

American independent cinema will continue to be one of the main focal points of company, noted Winnie Lau, Fortissimo sales and acquisitions senior VP. “We are continuing to do so, last year amongst others we had the award winning, Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone. Currently we are working on What Masie Knew by the critically acclaimed directors David Siegal and Scott McGhee."