Kung Fu Film Festival to explode onto Edinburgh screens

ReelScotland 19 July, 2019 0

Kung Fu Film Festival programmer Tom Forster looks at what fans can expect at the new Summerhall event.

Martial Arts are a powerful cultural phenomenon that have transcended continents through popular culture since the 1970s, with Kung Fu leading the way. As a genre it stands apart – combining action, physical comedy and high-drama to create something uniquely its own – and we’re celebrating that with Scotland’s first Kung Fu Film Festival.

My background is actually as a theatre programmer for Summerhall, so turning to film programming for this festival allowed me to tap into a sense of childlike excitement of discovering something new for the first time. This is why audiences come to Summerhall: to find something new.

Having only seen one or two Kung Fu films despite their vast, rich history (from this selection Kung Fu Hustle) that seemed like a good enough excuse for Hero, Enter the Dragon and Drunken Master – to figure out where this genre came from. It seemed wrong of me to have not seen those movies, so I applied that principle with an open mind to any potential audiences who, like myself, had missed the opportunity.

Kung Fu Hustle is one of my favourite movies, which I rented from Blockbuster after school with my dad in 2005. It has that perfect nuance of side-splitting comedy vs drama and action, but is so unique. I’m properly terrified for the sequel announced by director Stephen Chow in February 2019.

When I mention Kung Fu Hustle to anyone who knows it, their eyes light up, and like an ipecac reaction they respond “Have you seen Shaolin Soccer?!” So that was movie number five decided, and two opportunities to lighten the mood, modernise and diversify from what is otherwise a very well defined formula.

Finally there’s Wolf Warrior 2 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; the two most successful Chinese movies ever, both Kung Fu in ideology and yet at opposite ends of the possibilities within this genre. If there is a categorisation between “movie” and “film”, this personifies that difference not just in genre, but also in time and current affairs. What was China saying to the rest of the planet in 2000, and now nearly two decades later.

Edinburgh has quietly become a hub of small-scale cult cinema. Cinemattic, Brass Monkey, French Film Festival and Edinburgh Short Film Festival are all a testament to a hunger in the city for foreign and arthouse movies. We’re happy that Summerhall is now a part of that community too, and are excited to welcome audiences into the Red Lecture Theatre within that scope.
We want to introduce some of these films to Scottish audiences, but also, cater to Edinburgh’s vast South-East Asian community.

There are over 3000 Masters students from South East Asia at the University of Edinburgh, and an even larger number of Undergraduates. With our festival, Kung Fu functions as a figurehead and communication tool that showcases a successful crossing of culture, and explores the longer term chances of better understandings, integrity, and friendship for diverse audiences. Using that intercultural dialogue as our core message, we aim to highlight how east meeting west was, in the 1970s, and is today still a fascinating experience and Edinburgh is best placed to explore it.

Enter the Dragon, Drunken Master and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will also have Q&As afterwards, discussing the art and science of Kung Fu; its historical origins, the physical impact it has on the human body, as well as how culture has translated this art form.

Physical fitness and psychological wellbeing are essential factors to a powerful martial art, and are perhaps the most challenging element against accessing this art form. To tackle this and close the festival, Kami Newton, master of White Crane Martial Arts School in Edinburgh, has agreed to bring about a series of introductory classes free to festival attendees, and Aileen Vincent of the Summerhall Security Team will run “Suffrajitsu”, a series of self-defence classes for women.

Finally, we worked closely on the programme with our audience development consultant, June Xu. Originally from China, June is studying for her PhD in intercultural studies at the University of Edinburgh, and her contribution underscored why a Kung Fu Film Festival in Scotland is overdue. “The Scottish are known as being brave and strong in eastern cultures, and the active spirit behind Scottish culture as seen from the east shares a great similarity with the spirit of Kung Fu. Therefore, Kung Fu in Edinburgh would not seem out of place to a foreign audience, and its international reach as a city stands to reinforce that relevance for local audiences.”


  • Monday 16th September 2019 @19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Enter the Dragon, Q&A: Art and Science of Kung Fu
  • Tuesday 17th September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Shaolin Soccer
  • Wednesday 18th September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Hero
  • Thursday 19th September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Kung Fu Hustle
  • Friday 20th September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Wolf Warrior 2
  • Saturday 21st September 2019 @ 14:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Drunken Master
  • Saturday 21st September 2019 @ 12:00 – 18:00 Old Lab: White Crane Scotland – Introductory Martial Arts Class
  • Saturday 21st September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Drunken Master – Q&A: Art and Science of Kung Fu
  • Sunday 22nd September 2019 @ 14:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Sunday 22nd September 2019 @ 12:00 – 18:00 Old Lab: Suffrajitsu: Self-Defense for women
  • Sunday 22nd September 2019 @ 19:00 Red Lecture Theatre: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Q&A: Art and Science of Kung Fu

The Kung Fu Film Festival runs from 16-22 September 2019, visit the Summerhall website for full details.

Artwork credit: Ryoko Tamura