Its been a couple of weeks and I've had some time to reflect on the madness that was the New York Asian Film Festival for this year. There was some good, very little bad, and some what the hell was that?
Film wise probably the best films I saw are the films that are in the process of getting entries this week through this Sunday. These are the cream of a really good crop. (Sundays post is a bunch of capsule reviews, however I need to point out that they are actually some of the best films of the year, I just don't have the words to really do them justice). My one complaint about the films this year is that there weren't more peaks and valleys, with very few exceptions everything I saw was really good so it was hard to pick out the truly great.
Since the films are the reviews I've been posting, I'd like to take this time to go off topic slightly and just mention some of the little things that I experienced at what continues to be the best programmed festival in New York. This is to contrast with the unhappiness and miserable experience that is Tribeca. What follows are some truly random moments, mostly not film related, that stayed with me from the festival:
For me the highlights started with seeing the four Buddhist monks and their guide with three different subway maps standing in Penn Station near the Long Island Railroad arguing and pointing about where to go.
My notes began with the statement: I'm kind of hoping to see Sammo (Hung) or Simon (Yam). Later in the day I would watch a wonderful Q&A with Sammo and have Simon Yam pause before getting on stage to introduce Echoes of the Rainbow to shake my hand and say hello. Little did I know that I would have another meeting with Simon Yam outside the Walter Reade which was friendly, spontaneous and made me certain he thought I was someone else (not that I mind)
The worst experience came during Bodyguards and Assassins when some thoughtless jerk spread out into everyone's lap. A close second was bouncing my camera at the train station off a garbage can, the cement platform and then a broken brick. It mostly works but I know the focus if messed up.
I was intrigued by the Q&A after 8000 Miles when a discussion started about the subtitles between someone who knew Japanese and the director about how much better the dialog was than the subtitles which was losing the power of the aqctual Japanese.
Before the second 8000 Miles film I met Dave and Shigeko who I have been conversing with online since last years festival. You'll be getting to know Dave down the line since I've been talking about having him as a contributor and because I quote from his blog post about Live Tape.
The Last Airbender premiere was held outside of the theater. As the film festival tweeted "Fake Asians outside, real Asians inside". It was a nightmare to get around.
Tian An Men was such a surprise. What a really good film that almost no one will ever see. Its about decorating the Tian An Men Gate and is the sort of film I wanted to highlight when I started this blog. I'm saddened more people didn't see it.
I met Kenta Maeno before Live Tape and found him charming (or as charming as two people who don't speak each other's language can find each other). I bought a bunch of his CD's, some for me, some for gifts.(Actually I was buying the CDs and I guess he saw me buy them and he started to talk to me and I was shocked because I had no idea who he was because he wasn't in his normal shades. Then suddenly it was "Hey this is you" I said and he smiled and said yes. It went from there) He was kind enough to sign them, and he asked to take a picture with me. Somewhere there is a picture of me and Kenta, a crazy American film fan and wonderful Japanese singer.(I wonder what he did with it). The film and the post concert performance were highlights and I really hated I couldn't go to his full performances because I had more movies to see.
At the Japan Society for the opening of Japan Cuts I got into an discussion with a woman, a film critic, who was bemoaning this years festival. Why were there so many Chinese films when they (Chinese films in general) aren't very good. She prefers Japanese and Korean films and thought they should make up a higher percentage of the films. I don't see the problem since to me a good film is a good film regardless of where its from. She was also unhappy because she had travel plans and couldn't see some of the films...she was comical more than anything. I'm kind of sad that snobs like that are the people reviewing films these days.
Unfortunately the seats killed my back and I had to sit on the aisle which was fine except the stair light distracted me.
July 2nd was a tough day. I broke my tooth and then had to recover from A Little Pond which was way too emotional a film for words. One of the best of the year, thoroughly depressing in a real world sort of way.
The Sushi Typhoon nonsense kept me on track since Pond basically derailed me. I'm not going to get into it but the films (Mutant Girl Squad and Aliens vs Ninjas which will be reviewed at the end of August) were mindless un-politically correct films high on blood and action. The show before, between and after the films was equally bizarre (you can You Tube it, but be warned its not work safe) involved ninjas, scantily clad actresses and men in Japanese lion clothes. There was also some games involving darts but the less said the better. It was profoundly tasteless and more fun than was legal.
After that the festival kind of wound down energy wise.
However there was the one more high point, the appearance of Bruce Leung before Gallants. Yea its a great film, but there was something about the man that impressed the hell out of everyone there. I said that it was the only real standing ovation in the festival and I stand by that. Yes Simon Yam and Sammo got ovations and so did other people, but they weren't spontaneous. I knew I would stand for them or after a great film, as did everyone around me, but with Bruce it was different it just happened, back to front and side to side as people, lots of single guys, just stood, they couldn't see the people around them standing they just kind of got up and applauded. It was real, it was magical, it was special. (And trust me I've seen enough standing ovations in my day to know whats real and whats not.)
After that it kind of wandered down to the wire, ending with two films that disappointed to differing degrees (Doman Seman and Blades of Blood). Everyone was tired by that point so it was understandable that after Grady said that there would be no voting on Blades of Blood because the director didn't come, they all went off to get drunk. I don't drink but I wanted to go to.
It was exhausting. It was a blast.
As I've said its the best festival in New York because its the only one that cares about the people and the films and the rest (air conditioning excepted) can all go away as long as real people go to the films.
I can't wait until next year.
(ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention the wonderful staff of the festival who actually help make it all fun. I mean this beyond Marc and Grady and the main faces, but the other people taking ballots, selling us t-shirts, answerinf stupid questions and hearding us into our seats. You're all wonderful)
great wrap up! i love all of the details surrounding the festival that were not exactly part of the screenings: the meeting with Maeno, the tweet about the last airbender propaganda, even the annoying critic type. when i read that part, someone came instantly to mind, perhaps i encountered the same person, or maybe just someone else who fit that type. you are right about whom the fest is really meant for, though!ReplyDelete
btw, you did get the news about the Castaway on the Moon screening in Queens out there on the livejournal. i don't even think subway cinema was up on that one.