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Shaolin Ulysses: Kungfu Monks in America (2003)

Beau Bridges , Shi Guolin , Martha Burr , Mei-Juin Chen  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Beau Bridges, Shi Guolin, Peng Zhang, Shi Xing Hao, Shi Deshan
  • Directors: Martha Burr, Mei-Juin Chen
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Dolby
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: June 29, 2004
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002235H6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #184,067 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

  • 40 minutes of bonus kung fu footage
  • Animated short on the Shaolin temple
  • Filmmakers biographies
  • Filmmakers statement

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

If you get a kick out of kungfu you don't want to miss this exhilarating film tracing the journey of five kungfu monks in search of the American dream. Hailng from China's legendary Shaolin Temple these men are not only accomplished Zen masters but famous kungfu stars with huge followings. Now they've left it all behind to forge a new future in America--Shaolin style--and bring their special brand of Martial Arts to the west. As they display their best kungfu moves for the camera the monks share with us their stories ambitions and visions of building American temples doing Las Vegas shows and producing Olympic sport champions. Bridging the vast divide between East and West they present a vivid contemporary portrait of the immigrant experience as each goes in search of their own meeting place between Shaolin kungfu Zen Buddhism and Western culture. Interspersed throughout the film is footage highlighting the history of China's famous temple as our monks close in on the answer to the ultimate question: will Shaolin change America or will America change Shaolin? DVD Features: 40 Minutes of Bonus Kungfu Footage; Animated Short on the Shaolin Temple; Filmmakers Biographies; Filmmakers Statement; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection (4:3 aspect ratio)

The whirling kicks and swift punches of Shaolin kung fu have been used to dazzling, choreographic effect in hundreds of Hong Kong action movies. The fascinating documentary Shaolin Ulysses: Kung Fu Monks in America looks at some real-world practitioners, monks who have chosen to bring kung fu and Zen Buddhism to America. The resulting juxtapositions are surreal. As a monk and his American disciple are interviewed in a Las Vegas Hooter's, the disciple throws an arm around one of the busty waitresses and declares this to be his temple; the monk looks on quizzically. Another monk has married a Catholic woman from Brooklyn; another talks about trading martial arts classes for guitar lessons on a Lollapalooza tour; another teaches kung fu to stocky police officers in Houston, Texas. These culture clashes are constantly surprising, but the monks' devotion to their craft is even more deeply engaging. --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Documentary - highly entertaining December 26, 2004
This excellently crafted documentary shows the ways in which five Shaolin monks have bridged the divide between East and West -- influencing Americans with their martial arts in ways that are surprising, and often heart warming. From Brooklyn, to Texas, to California, these diverse monks bring their individual immigrant stories in the pursuit of the American Dream. Excellent production quality, editing and story telling by the film makers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Info... January 8, 2006
By Larry L
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I maybe a bit biased due to the fact that Li Peng Zhang is my Sifu, but this is a great documentary. The information provided is accurate and presented in a manner that is captivating. If you are studying or want to study authentic Shaolin Kung Fu, this is one of the top three documentaries to watch. (The other two ar myths and Logic of shaolin Kung Fu and Secrets of the warriors power)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five Monks quest to spread Zen Buddhism August 1, 2006
The five monks seemed excited to establish Zen Buddhism temples in America and teach the Shaolin art. Each Monk demonstrates his special discipline and skills. The monks seemed excited for cultural exchange. Many of them toured various cities of America. One master maintains a connection with the Shaolin Temple in China and each year sends students to China.

The Shaolin movements are very evasive, attacking from various angles and retreating backwards. The Shaolin movements including jumping kicks, split kicks (round and reversed), high crescent kicks landing and the ability to sideways on the ground, low horse stances, large and small circular closed fist and open hand strikes, movements left and right, and low twisting stances into punches advancing forward and backward. The movements are complex and often predict which way they will move. To one fight a Shaolin he will seem to be moving one ways then suddenly change and move another way, a strike and move pattern. By adding weapons to the techniques the Shaolin seems to fly around the floor with amazing acrobatic flips, spins, and twists.

Included in the film is a Tai Chi sword demonstration. This was wonder to see. I like the iron shirt demonstration which made the master seemingly imprevious to an hard strikes from a large wood oar and a crushing blow as four men used a railroad tie to ram into the body of the master. The two man tiger forms demonstrated Chinese chess piece training. Who could believe the impossible feat of break a steel bar over a masters head. The monkey form demonstration very interesting consider this form is rarely made public. The amazon leopard form allowed the artist too move smoothly from leaps into hand techniques and stances. One of the more agile forms.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring and encouraging! May 25, 2008
By Seeker
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This DVD shows the possibility of harnessing the tremendous potential that lies in each one of us. With the dedicated practice of these methods under a master such as these venerable monks from Shaolin, one can tap into the source of much energy. One need not be a Kung Fu fighter to derive the benefits that the practice of such an art brings. The mere practice of it brings one's breath under control and thereby gives one greater control of one's thoughts.

As the documentary traces the source of the teachings of Shaolin to Bodhidharma, the great Buddhist Indian sage from the 5th century AD, it is only natural that the foundations of Kung Fu, Qi Gong, Tai Chi etc are common to the practice of yoga. If one practices any of these arts with devotion for several hours a day, the energy that builds up in the body is beyond description! One has to develop it in order to realize what is possible.

As one of the monks in the DVD stated that at Shaolin they would practice for 8 hours a day, which reveals their dedication. It is no wonder the Shaolin monks are famous around the world! If one practices with such dedication one will always have a strong body and a peaceful mind. The kind of super human feats they perform on the DVD are only possible with a dedicated practice and mastery of the breath.

If one truly wants peace, happiness and health, the way to these is in these Eastern practices! I have followed the Western way for 50 years of my life, only to have found health, peace and happiness after taking up yoga! These practices have a powerful effect on ALL the facets of the pratitioner's life! One has to earnestly practice these arts and experience the benefits to realize the truth of my claim.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shaolin Monks in America December 6, 2010
By Mantis
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This documentary film was an official selection of the Los Angeles International Film Festival and the Denver International Film Festival. It tells the story of five Shaolin Temple monks who recently migrated to the United States to spread Buddhism and share their unique knowledge of kung fu. The film follows their adjustments to their new homes in New York, Houston and Las Vegas. Their martial arts skills are outstanding but the filmmakers decided to place the emphasis on their biographical details and cultural transitions.

At times I became frustrated with camera closeups. The viewer cannot see some of the footwork in the difficult forms. Other times, the film speed was not fast enough to capture their quick movements (a typical problem with filming martial artists). Some of the best martial arts moments were the Leopard Fist style and sword work sequences.

What is amazing to me are the 40 minutes of bonus kung fu footage. I purchased this DVD for the extras, especially two minutes of "Little Luo Han Fist" performed by the children on the grounds of Shaolin Temple:

Shaolin Kungfu
Little Luo Han Fist (2:00)
Youth Kungfu (7:02)
Iron Shirt, Golden Bell
Whip Chain
Luo Han Fist
Eagle Fist
Monk Xing Hao (1:48) (sword demonstration)
Huen Yuen
Monkey and Tiger
Julie Zhang
Shaolin Festival

The film includes an interactive menu and a brief history of the Shaolin Temple.
Many scenes have spoken Chinese with English subtitles. No other language options are available.
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