Fresh from its Cannes premiere, Jung Byoung-gil’s The Villainess will close the 16th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival which returns to the city from 30th June to 16th July 2017. Thailand’s Bad Genius will open the festival while the Centrepiece Gala will showcase one of the best recent films from the Philippines, Mikhail Red’s Birdshot. Altogether there are 57 films included in this year’s lineup hailing from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The full lineup is as follows:
Thrillers dominate the Chinese slate beginning with:
- Battle of Memories – a sci-fi thriller in which a man erases memories of his failed marriage only for his soon to be ex-wife to order him to retrieve them, only he accidentally ends up with the memories of a serial killer instead.
- Blood of Youth – a youthful cyber thriller.
- Duckweed – Han Han’s time travel drama sees a son finally getting to know his petty gangster father.
- Extraordinary Mission – Alan Mak teams up with Anthony Pun for another undercover cop action fest.
- Someone to Talk to – Yulin Liu’s adaptation of her father’s novel examines the essential loneliness of Chinese society as reflected in the modern marriage. Review.
- Soul on a String – Zhang Yang returns with an existential epic taking place in the Tibetan deserts. Review.
Hong Kong Panorama
2017 marks 20 years since the Hong Kong handover and the New York Asian Film Festival not only showcases some of the best HK films from the past two decades but also includes a look forward with work from the most promising voices of tomorrow.
- Cold War 2 – Sequel to the original Cold War, Cold War 2 sees Aaron Kwok return as Hong Kong’s incorruptible police chief still dealing with the aftermath of uncovering mass corruption and with a team of missing policemen still held captive. Review.
- Dealer/Healer – Sean Lau and Gordon Lam co-star in a ’70s crime drama.
- Election – Jonnie To’s 2005 classic needs no introduction but stars Simon Yam in a tale of raw gangster ambition.
- Mad World – Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang star in a moving tale of a father trying to understand his son’s bipolar depression.
- Our Time Will Come – Ann Hui tells the story of legendary World War II resistance operative “Fang Gu”.
- Soul Mate – Derek Tsang’s moving melodrama is an ode to the power of female friendship. Review.
- The Taking of Tiger Mountain – Tsui Hark’s tale of civil war banditry.
- This is not what I Expected – Romantic comedy starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhou Dongyu
- Vampire Cleanup Department – A young man discovers his vampire hunter heritage at the same time as falling for a vampire in this retro horror comedy.
- With Prisoners – A young man gets into a fight and is sent to a notorious juvenile detention centre practicing extreme, hard-line “rehabilitative” techniques in Andrew Wong’s drama. Official competition.
- Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight – Two slackers decide to do their civic duty when the zombie apocalypse strikes.
A varied lineup from Japan features everything from the Roman Porno reboot to LGBT comedy, quirky sc-fi, and moving family drama.
- Aroused by Gymnopedies – Isao Yukisada’s entry into the Roman Porno reboot series stars Itsuji Itao as a penniless filmmaker who makes use of the various women in his life to try and improve his dismal circumstances.
- Close-Knit – less quirky than Ogigami’s other work, Close-Knit is a beautiful family drama in which a neglected little girl finds a family she can feel a part of with her uncle and his transgender girlfriend. Review.
- Dawn of the Felines – Directed by Koji Shiraishi, this Roman Porno reboot takes inspiration from Night of the Felines but casts its three heroines into a much darker world. Review.
- Destruction Babies – Tetsuya Mariko paints a grim picture of his nation’s youth in this hard-hitting, nihilistic drama. Review.
- A Double Life – This impressive debut feature from Yoshiyuki Kishi takes a long look at voyeurism and the damaging effects of obsession. Official Competition. Review.
- Happiness – Sabu’s indie leaning sci-fi drama is a meditation on guilt, memory, vengeance and the true nature of happiness. Review.
- Japanese Girls Never Die – Daigo Matsui adapts Mariko Yamauchi’s novel in which a young woman goes missing and prompts a citywide movement.
- The Long Excuse – Miwa Nishikawa adapts her own novel in which a self-centred former novelist turned B-list celebrity is forced to re-examine himself following his wife’s death. Review.
- Love and Other Cults – Eiji Uchida’s latest tells a depressing story of misused and misdirected love. Review.
- Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio – Takashi Miike and undercover cop Reiji are back with more improbably zany action.
- Rage – Lee Sang-il adapts another Shuichi Yoshida novel examining three interconnected stories of suspicion following a brutal Tokyo murder.
- Suffering of Ninko – A buddhist monk tries his best to remain celibate, but he’s just too pretty. Review.
- Survival Family – When the power suddenly goes off one ordinary family takes to the road but finds it much harder than they expected in Shinobu Yaguchi’s absurd comedy. Review.
- Traces of Sin – Kei Ishikawa’s dark crime drama stars Satoshi Tsumabuki as a depressed reporter tying to avoid his sister’s incarceration for child neglect by investigating the brutal murder of the ideal family. Review.
- Wet Woman in the Wind – a writer retreats to the country only to run into a nymphomaniac waitress in Akihiro Shiota’s Roman Porno reboot.
Cyber crime, fantasy, and gentle whimsy mingle in an eclectic selection from Korea.
- Fabricated City – A young man is framed for a brutal murder in this impressively designed cyber thriller. Review.
- Fantasy of the Girls – Romantic confusion plagues a production of Romeo and Juliet in this high school drama.
- Jane – A hit in Busan, Jane follows a transgender woman who takes in homeless kids. Official Competition.
- Ordinary Person – Kim Bong-han’s drama stars Son Hyun-joo as a hardworking policeman who gets caught up in a conspiracy.
- A Quiet Dream – Zhang Lu’s gently ephemeral meditation on dislocation. Review.
- A Single Rider – Lee Byung-hun stars as a bankrupt fund manager discovering some uncomfortable secrets when making an impromptu visit to his wife and son in Australia.
- Split – Drama in which an autistic boy’s talent for bowling is exploited by an unscrupulous couple who later come to care for him.
- The Tooth and the Nail – A man is accused of murdering his chauffeur in this post-war mystery.
- The Truth Beneath – a politician’s daughter goes missing during a campaign and her mother will stop at nothing to find out what happened. Review.
- Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned – Uhm Tae-hwa’s time slip drama is a beautifully designed tribute to childhood friendship. Review.
- The Villainess – Fresh from its Cannes premiere, Jung Byung-gil’s The Villainess will close the festival and follows an undercover assassin torn between two men from her past.
Casting the net wider the festival will also showcase some of the best recent hits from underrepresented areas of Asia:
- Bad Genius – The opening night gala, Bad Genius sees a group of super smart students earning extra money by cheating on tests set off on a mission to Australia to get the answers to the big exam and send them back to Thailand before their friends sit it. Official Competition.
- Birdshot – A series of horrifying crimes are revealed when a Philippine Eagle is shot by mistake in Mikhail Red’s mystery drama. Official Competition.
- Kfc – Vietnamese body horror from Le Binh Giang. Official Competition.
- Mrs. K – A former assassin attempts to save her husband and daughter from the legacy of her own past in this Malaysian action drama starring Kara Hui.
- Saving Sally – Unusual romantic comedy from the Philippines mixing live action and animation.
- Town in a Lake – The secrets of a small town are exposed when a young girl is murdered in Jet Leyco’s Philippine drama.
Pick your poison – monsters, gangsters and love dominate the entries from Taiwan.
- Eternal Summer – LGBT drama in which the intense friendship between two boys is thrown into confusion when a girl arrives from the city.
- The Gangster’s Daughter – Unusual family drama in which a gangster resumes custody of his estranged daughter and brings her to the city from her rural home. Official Competition.
- Godspeed – Black comedy in which a drug dealer gets derailed by a well-meaning taxi driver.
- Mon Mon Mon Monsters – Horrible kids catch a strange creature and then torture it before hastening the apocalypse in Ko Gidden’s provocative teen horror/comedy.
- Road to Mandalay – Two migrants fall in love on the way to Bangkok but find their romance frustrated by the difficulties of city life in Midi Z’s indie drama.
- The Village of No Return – New Year action comedy which takes place in an isolated village where the population has had its memory wiped so the people can live “happily”.
Only two documentaries on offer this year, both from Korea:
- Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno – Jung Yoon-suk’s second documentary centres on the titular Korean punk bank but uses them as a springboard to explore youthful resistance in modern Korean society.
- Mrs. B., A North Korean Woman – Jero Yun’s documentary follows its protagonist over three years as she tries to build a life for herself after being (unintentionally) trafficked out of North Korea.
The 16th New York Asian Film Festival runs from 30th June to 16th July 2017 at Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater and SVA Theatre, and will also welcome a number of high-profile guests including veteran HK actor Tony Leung Ka-fai who will receive the 2017 Star Asia NYAFF Lifetime Achievement Award, Korean actor Gang Dong-won who will receive the Star Asia Award, and Thai actress Chutimon “Aokbab” Chuengcharoensukying who will receive the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award. Tickets for the festival will be available to the public from 15th June but members of Film Society or Subway Cinema are entitled to priority booking from June 13.