Monday, May 30, 2011

The Year in Asian Cinema So Far

What movie festival tells its audience, the day before announcing its lineup, which movies are NOT going to be shown? What movie festival tells us who’s given them the brush-off, and who they have given the brush off to? The New York Asian Film Festival, of course. As Subway Cinema, the collective that puts it all together, lets it all hang out on its twitter feed , I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the Asian film activity that’s gone down in New York City this year so far on this “NYAFF line-up announcement eve.”

It hasn’t been a good year for Asian Cinema here in the Empire City , it’s been a great year! There have been numerous events highlighting exciting movies from the far East, which NYAFF’s rise in prominence is surely more than a little responsible for. Some of them have even been co-presented by This only increases the pressure on the Subway Cinema crew to deliver a spectacular festival this summer as they celebrate their tenth anniversary fest, their second one held at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.

Events are listed below, as close to chronological order as I could get, with a few highlights from each.

1. Korean Movie Night @ Tribeca Cinemas (ongoing)

This almost biweekly free screening of rare films from Korea is in its second year, and occupies a small room at Tribeca Cinemas. Currently, they arein the middle of a run of independent movies, the next of which is Vegetarian on June 7.

Highlights: A Barefoot Dream (w/ director q & a), Take Off, Yobi the Five Tailed Fox

2. Run, Salaryman, Run! (Sabu Retrospective) @ Japan Society

A showcase of this hardworking Japanese director's films, which have rarely been screened in the US, was shown.

Highlights: Monday (w/ director q & a), Drive.

3. Hardest Men in Town (Yakuza films) @ Japan Society

Several films focusing on Yakuza gangster stories were shown at the Japan Society. Many were rare and from long ago.

Highlights: Outrage dir. by Kitano Takeshi, q & a w/ Jake Adlestein, author of the book Tokyo Vice.

4. Children's International Film Festival

This event featured two hard hitting anime features from Japan.
Highlights Welcome to the Spaceshow, Time of Eve

5. Film Comment Selects @ Walter Reade Theater

This is an annual event that features an inernational selection of unique and independent films, past and present. This year, three new Asian films were shown as a co-presentation from Subway Cinema.

Highlights: Cold Fish dir. by Sono Sion , I Saw The Devil dir. by Kim Ji-woon

6. Severely Damaged (Kim Ji Woon retrospective) @ BAM
Six of the highly regarded Korean director's films were shown, including I Saw the Devil, which the director introduced and answered questions about. I Saw The Devil went on to be screened in a few small nyc theaters for about a month.

Highlights: I Saw the Devil w/ dir. q & a, Host w/ dir. q & a, The Foul King

7. 13 From Takashi Miike (Takashi Miike restrospective) @ Walter Reade Theater
Several of the prolific Japanese director's films were shown, including the premiere of his latest film 13 Assassins. Plans for him to appear were cancelled due to the tragic earthquake that struck Japan. He spoke to audience of some of the films, however, via skype.

Highlights: 13 Assassins premieire w/ dir. q & Audition, Graveyard of Honor

8. Tribeca Film Festival

A few movies in this festival's (also in its tenth year) massive slate were from Asia. These include two big release from China. Their Cinemania program of more off beat independent films included a Japanese Pinku Yokai monster comedy.

Highlights: Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame dir. by Tsui Hark), Let the Bullets Fly dir. by Wen Jiang, Underwater Love dir. by Shinji Imaoka

9. Blissfully Thai @ Asia Society

A retrospective of dramas and experimental films from Thailand which started in May and continues until June 17. It kicked off with Ploy, a little seen film by Pen-ek Ratanaruang, director of the acclaimed Last Life in the Universe.

Highlights: Ploy w/ dir.q & a, conversation with Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Uncle Boomee, Who Can Recall his past Lives), Tears of the Black Tiger

Not bad, not bad at all, considering past years have had long stretches of several months where I had found no Asian cinema to write about at all! I’m sure that’s not everything, so do leave a shout if you’ve got something I’ve left out.

Now, let’s get ready for Subway Cinema and NYAFF to deliver the goods.

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