Written by: FFT Webmaster | June 27th, 2011
On the heels of an announcement in last week’s New York Times that Asians and Asian-Americans make up nearly 25% of New York City’s population (a staggering explosion in the past 20 years), the currency of a film festival devoted to Asian cinema could not be timelier. Asian voices, from both outside the U.S. and within our own borders, are now significant ones. As one than one pundit has declared, if the 20th century was the American century, then the 21st will certainly be the Asian century. Films from this vast and diverse region therefore are telltale messengers of the concerns, values and worldviews of the most influential body of humanity on the planet. In other words….look, listen and pay attention.
The 2011 New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) begins this Friday, July 1 in a unique collaboration between the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Subway Cinema and the Japan Society. For two weeks, the event will showcase 46 films from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Many are North American or U.S. Premieres, marking this as one of the first times they have been seen outside their country of origin. There are even a few World Premieres (always catnip for film professionals and diehard buffs), including cult director Takashi Miike’s NINJA KIDS!!! and Eiji Uchida’s 1960’s throwback THE LAST DAYS OF THE WORLD.
Opening the festivities on Friday evening is MILOCRORZE: A LOVE STORY by the Japanese “mad genius” Yoshimasa Ishibashi, which is making its North American Premiere. The film has been described in the press notes as a “bizarro musical/variety/samurai/love story”…..a description that certainly whets the appetite. The film stars popular actor Takayuki Yamada in three different roles as love-struck young men in hopeless infatuation with the title character. Both the director and the film’s triple-threat lead actor will attend the screening.
Centerpiece Presentations include Takashi Miike’s NINJA KIDS!!! and Benny Chan’s SHAOLIN. Making its world premiere, NINJA KIDS!!! is the big-screen adaptation of the long-running Japanese television show “Rantaro the Ninja Boy”. The film follows the adventures and countless battles with mutant ninjas, monsters and gangster hairdressers (you read that right) as a young aspiring ninja must prove himself after being sent to ninja school by his lower class parents. SHAOLIN, which is making its North American Premiere, is directed by Benny Chan, the brother of action superstar Jackie Chan, who also co-stars in the film along with favorites Andy Lau and Nic Tse. The Chinese martial-arts epic retells a classic story of the canon….with a ruthless warlord getting his comeuppance and calling upon the spiritual and physical prowess of kick-ass monks of the iconic Shaolin Temple. Expect lots of chopsocky action and gravity-defying leaps!!!
Closing the Festival on July 14 is THE YELLOW SEA, the latest film from award-winning Korean filmmaker Na Hong-Jin. The film reunites the director with is stars from the acclaimed THE CHASER (actors Ha Jung-Woo and Kim Yun-Seok) in a steamy policier about a gambling addicted cabbie who set up by a crime boss to take a big fall. The film comes to NYAFF straight from its Cannes Un Certain Regard screening. It will be released later this year by 20th Century Fox, a rarity for an Asian film and a certain indicator of the growing influence of the region.
Several special sidebars will accompany the main program, including a section on new and old classics wu xia fantasy swordplay genre, as part of the Festival’s tribute to Kong film legend Tsui Hark; Sea of Revenge: New Korean Thrillers, highlighting a series of twisty thrillers that blend intense action and Hitchcockian suspense; and a mini-retrospective of the prolific career of Taiwanese director Su Chao-pin, one of Asia’s most popular filmmakers. Since a festival is not complete without an award or two, NYAFF will present two prizes at this year’s event. The Star Asia Rising Star Award will be given to Takayuki Yamada, one of Japan’s most versatile young actors. The Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Hong Kong film legend Tsui Hark, the symbol of Hong Kong’s flying swordsmen genre.
Once again, the Film Society of Lincoln Center provides an invaluable berth for a range of films that will not find exposure through traditional distribution channels. To catch these films, in their premiere screenings at least, you need to be there or be square. For more information on the full schedule and to purchase tickets, visit: www.filmlinc.com. To keep up with the latest festival news, visit: www.subwaycinemanews.com