Format Archives: Aside

Ben Watts’ Lens.

Got a new Hipstamatic lens: The Ben Watts lens. Looks cool, will play around with it more on the weekend.



Just great: Tucker & Dale vs Evil.

Quick recommendation of a little jewel: Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a fantastic and super funny horror comedy. My wife and I are big horror movie fans so we enjoyed the hell out of this one. It’s a great spoof / twist on the typical “college kids go camping” setup that so many horror films have. I give it 8 out of 10, highly recommended. Check out the trailer:

Tucker and Dale Versus Evil — Trailer von dreadcentral


Unhappy Emily.

Unhappy Emily.

The poor girl hit her head twice in the last days, and has a small fever since the last two days. She never cries hard, only wakes up at night screaming, but then she calms down quickly once she knows we are there for her. We also got a place for her in a pre-kindergarten club from June on, so her mother can finally work a bit, too. We’re really lucky, usually you have to wait for 6-12 months to get a place, but we’ll have to wait for only two.


Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen Shanghai: Digital Poster Outdoor Advertising.

A unique molecular gastro-lounge by prolific restaurateur Kelley Lee. Expect creative cocktails deconstructed, turned inside out, frozen with liquid nitrogen and garnished with vapors. There is also a menu of bar bites featuring some exotic snacks like crispy sweetbread and truffled oxtail sliders and popcorn pig brain with jalapeno-gribiche emulsion.
This video was directed, shot and edited by Jakob Montrasio for an outdoor advertising screen.


The Big Mango.

I’ve shot this video in the beginning of February for the travel website “Global Nanpa“. You may remember “The Big Durian” from last year, which was for the same site… It’s a video about Bangkok in all it’s glory and naughtiness and includes things of interest such as Sukhumvit Soi, Wat Arun, Pent Club, a helicopter flight from Bangkok to Pattaya, ladyboys and much more.

What I liked most about Thailand were the people and the food. The people are extremely nice and welcoming warm people, while the food… Well, you know Thai food, it’s absolutely fantastic, especially in Thailand itself!

Can’t wait to go back there on a private vacation with my wife and kid. It’s definitely worth a visit!


Going Home: So Long, and Thanks for All the Chickenfeet.

Jakob going homeStarting March 15th, I will be working as a video producer for a large advertising agency based out of Saarbrücken. It’s really a win / win situation, not only for me, but for us, my family, my friends… Not only will we be able to enjoy living in Germany and Europe, but we’ll also live near my parents and near my friends, they are in my hometown, and just an hour away. Also, I should be able to get back to Shanghai and Asia every once in a while for video jobs, as the agency wants me to keep doing those here.

So how do you sum up the experience of over five years of living in China in a blog entry? It’s nearly impossible, unless I make the longest entry ever written by me out of this. I would really like to go into detail and explain very clearly what is making me move out of China by remembering the past, but it’s just too much right now. There’s some unfinished business, we have to pack, deal with Shangdown: The Way Of The Spur and other things. I will only quickly mention the main reasons.

The first and biggest reason of them all is our sweet daughter Emily, she deserves a safe and peaceful childhood, and I can offer her that. Looking at her growing up here in Shanghai reminded me of my own childhood, and China simply stands no chance against Germany in many aspects: Sanitation, insurance, society, safety, honesty, weather, quality of living, education system, politics and much more. What disappointed me recently the most was the Expo 2010 and the fact that the slogan “Better City, Better Life” was nothing more than toxic hot air. Don’t get me wrong, Shanghai is a fantastic city in many other aspects, especially for young people and singles, but as soon as you hit the family road, you realize just how terrible it is to live here with children. There is barely any nature, at least nearby, most venues are not family friendly, people in the park spit all the time and ruin it one way or another, the roads are dirty and all that… So many reasons.

Another reason is the increase of cost in Shanghai. Our apartment price went up by almost 15% last year. This year, the landlord is raising it by another 20%! Food is getting more expensive. Services of any kind are. Everything is getting more expensive. But it’s hard to charge customers so much more to compensate, and there is more and more and cheaper competition. Less productions, more bargaining. I think we are at the point where China got on it’s feet, and now it wants to try walking by itself.

There will be many, almost countless things that I’m leaving behind happily, but there are also things I will miss a lot, friends, food, work… And so on. It will be quite a challenge for us to get back and used to the life in the western world, especially for my wife. But she wanted it, learned German B1 at the Göthe Institute in Xi’An and looks forward to moving to Germany. And on a professional level, I feel I have learned as much as possible here, and will develop more skills in Germany.

I look forward to our new home, and to keep revisiting the city that both formed and changed my life.

So long, Shanghai!


Italian seeks kung-fu stardom in Shanghai

SHANGHAI — At a Shanghai building site, a man in a black Stetson looks over his shoulder at two approaching thugs. Four others appear, fists raised. They lock eyes and the cowboy springs up in a whirlwind of kicks. The scene is from “Shangdown: The Way of the Spur”, an independent kung-fu spaghetti western, and the cowboy is Christian Bachini, a 25-year-old Italian actor who came to Shanghai to become an action star.

Bachini grew up in Prato, the Tuscan city that has become a symbol of globalisation after Chinese immigrants poured in to transform the traditional textile trade. But as a boy, he dreamed of going the other way to make movies. “People thought I was crazy,” Bachini told AFP at a Shanghai gym after a workout incorporating the tiger, praying mantis and drunken fist forms of kung-fu. Jackie Chan’s “Supercop” inspired Bachini to become an actor, and Prato’s vibrant Chinese community meant he could learn the Hong Kong star’s moves from real kung-fu masters. After 13 years of kung-fu training, five years of practicing gymnastic-style “tricking” stunts, five years of acting school and six months of Mandarin classes, Bachini left for China in 2009.

He saw little choice. Italy has no action film industry, and he says Hong Kong and Hollywood have abandoned genuine action actors, opting instead to use regular actors and special effects. But Bachini did not find the thriving scene in Shanghai he had imagined. “I was a little bit disappointed. It’s the homeland of kung-fu, but this seemed nothing like it,” he said. “When I made some contacts in the film industry, people were like ‘Huh? An actor from Italy who wants to become a martial arts action star here? Doing kung-fu? Unbelievable.'” Bachini’s dream is not so outlandish. A handful of Western martial arts experts have gone on to movie stardom including Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal and Jason Statham.

But in China, state censorship means action ingredients such as modern-day criminals are often out of bounds for local filmmakers, who focus instead on period dramas or contemporary love stories set in fictitious towns, he said. That left few roles for Bachini, aside from the occasional token foreign bad guy — who inevitably is not meant to know any kung-fu. Stunt teams he met were motivated more by money than passion, charging for every fall or blow. “One kick was 500 yuan ($75). It got me really disappointed because this was another aspect of Shanghai I wasn’t expecting,” Bachini said.

Despite the disappointments, he caught some breaks. A few months after arriving, a chance meeting with a movie producer at a Shanghai film fair led to a meeting with his hero, Chan. The producer asked for Bachini’s show reel. A week later, he invited him to Beijing for a weekend with Chan. Chan studied the show reel, which was filmed by Bachini’s father. He did not have any immediate job offers, but he encouraged the Italian not to give up. “Accept every small role they offer you and start building your career step by step,” Bachini recalled Chan telling him.

“But I don’t want to do this step-by-step stuff. I just want to go boom — do something big.” Word of the meeting with Chan buzzed through Shanghai’s independent film scene and Richard Chung, an American who was shooting short films in the city, proposed making one to showcase Bachini. The result was “Kang: The New Legend Begins”, a 12-minute fight scene in a Shanghai nightclub, that won the best short award at the 2010 Action on Film Festival in Pasadena, California.

“I was just blown away,” said the film’s German-Italian cinematographer, Jakob Montrasio, who was inspired to write the screenplay for “Shangdown”. “It’s Sergio Leone meets Bruce Lee,” said Montrasio, who directed the story of an Italian cowboy scouring the streets of Shanghai in search of his sister, a missing fashion model. The pair are confident the movie has the makings of a cult hit, including a villain played by Jon T. Benn, best known as the mob boss in the Bruce Lee classic “Way of the Dragon”. An online teaser for the film can be seen at:

Montrasio is finishing the final cut and plans to show it at the Cannes film market in May in hopes of attracting distributors and possibly investors willing to help build a kung-fu scene in Shanghai. “We have thousands of ideas we haven’t used,” Montrasio said. “If we just get a chance and the money for it, we’ll blow everyone away.”

By D’Arcy Doran (AFP)