The first time I ever considered purchasing a bootleg DVD was for Chan-wook Park's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. The film was listed as Harry Knowles' favorite film of 2002 on the Aint It Cool News website, his enthusiastic description stating:
I watched the final 30 minutes in complete and utter shock…agog at the story work, character work, film work and how completely tragic it is that this movie hasn’t been mentioned by a single other critic in the United States – simply because they didn’t seek to find it...there’s so much in this movie that I’ve never seen in anything before – the film goes further than I would have imagined...it is perfect.
But torrents were not yet popular, and the film could not yet be found on e-bay. Instead, I opted for another title I ran across - Battle Royale. This had gained a massive cult following in 2001 thanks to film website coverage, but would not get a proper U.S. release until ten years later. In the meantime, the bootleg became so popular that it was even carried on Amazon.

The film distribution landscape in the early 2000s largely ignored Asian obscurities, so the chances of ever seeing these titles legally seemed impossible. So I hunted down the early works of Takashi Miike and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, many of which still remain unavailable. An illegal copy of Mamoru Oshii's Avalon also seemed a necessity, as the official U.S. release not only made an American dub with added voice-over, but used this script for subtitles instead of the original version. And through reading reviews on the Midnight Eye website, even more films and filmmakers were taken note of that could only be found in cardboard cases and see-through sleeves.

I suppose I could have bought an all-region DVD player, figured out the logistics of ordering foreign titles from their home countries, and spending the extra money for accessibility. But I told myself that I respected the profession of bootlegging - it must have taken a lot of effort to translate, even when the words were wrong - though really, I was just cheap. And love the look of bootlegs.

Then torrents happened, and physical bootlegs slowly faded, and it just wasn't the same. Now even digital files are hard to find, as Asian torrent sites focus mainly on anime and television shows. Granted, more Asian films do eventually make it to the U.S., but they are largely sporadic and don't appear for years after initial release. The landscape remains frustrating.

I miss the old excitement of License to Live and Bird People of China and Durian, Durian and Sabu's Drive and Clan of the White Lotus and Eli Eli Lema Sabachtani? and Distance and Angel's Egg and Ocean Waves and Heart Beating in the Dark and Vibrator and Stereo Future and Survive Style 5+ and Resurrection of Little Match Girl.

I miss bootlegs.