Searching for Hwang Jang Lee
I was really surprised with this news, because I am a huge fan of this martial artist and was thinking what is he up to today, but I am not alone, the film-maker Jon-James Hodson is working on The Anonymous King, the documentary film follows the search for Hwang Jang Lee, the man known as ‘King of the Leg Fighters’ in the martial arts world. During the nineteen seventies and early eighties he was heralded as one of the true greats of kung fu cinema. His life is a fascinating story full of genuine heartbreak and triumph.
Probably last time when fans have seen Hwang Jang Lee is Mike Leeder‘s interview, which I believe conducted in Jeju Island sometime around 2001-2002. But Korean fans were more lucky and saw him in local tv series in 2009.
Plot of The Anonymous King: HJR is a Korean actor who first rose to fame for his extraordinary martial arts prowess in Hong Kong movies during the 1970s.
The film opens with shots of central Seoul, the fifth most densely populated city on the planet, showing how South Korea is amongst the developed elite. Architecturally challenging skyscrapers and contemporary office buildings frame the bustle of the city streets at ground level. Taxis speed by and the flurry of human traffic on all sides clearly enforces how the search begins in the heart of a frenetic metropolis. Starting with only a picture and a name, Jon-James canvasses the streets, attempting to find someone with any knowledge of HJR’s career. This serves to highlight how in a country like Korea, that deifies its citizens who have managed to enter the global mainstream, people know little of the man, known around the world as the ‘Silver Fox’.
The initial fruitless searches and interviews establish the title’s intimation that the international star is an unknown in his own country. As the search intensifies Jon-James visits ‘Kukkiwon’, the World Tae Kwon Do Headquarters, where senior members and students are asked to comment both on HJR’s as a role model and as an ambassador of the sport. From the interviews conducted there, further contacts are made in both sporting and cinematic circles. Former movie stars still active in the business, but now working behind the camera, such as Casanova Wong, give insight into the challenges people had to face in HJR’s time and how Koreans were able to establish themselves in Hong Kong features.
Business cards are exchanged and friendships are formed with native Koreans, leading to the discovery of HJR’s Korean fan base. A meeting with the fan club president provides the number of HJR’s agent, who in turn agrees to set up a meeting with his client. Jon-James also enquires whether HJR’s son would be available for interview and gets a contact number in Hong Kong.
A phone call is made and HJR’s son, Jason, is met in Hong Kong. His interview portrays what it was like for a small boy to grow up with a parent of such stature. Questions regarding the evil on-screen persona contrasting with the father at home, the effect HJR’s immense physical prowess had on Jason’s formative years and whether he tried to imitate his father, all portray a fresh perspective of a man that to many, epitomized the pinnacle of martial art practice, whether in the characters he played or in his own technical ability.
The final stage sees the search come to its conclusion, as HJR agrees to be interviewed and the story comes to a fitting climax. All bones are laid bare as HJR recounts his childhood, his time served in the military and his position as official instructor to the Korean army, his acting career and his time spent in Hong Kong, Tae Kwon Do and the role he plays within the sport today as one of its leading international ambassadors, his future projects and finally, his legacy for years to come.
Watch the first trailer for The Anonymous King documentary that tracks him down and finds out the truth behind the legend.
source: kungfucinema, kickstarter