Japan Cuts Announces Complete 2019 Lineup!

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New York’s Japan Cuts returns for its 13th edition in 2019, bringing with it another premium selection of the best in recent Japanese cinema. This year’s Japan Cuts Cut Above Award goes to veteran director Shinya Tsukamoto whose latest film, anti-jidaigeki Killing, is screening as the festival’s Centrepiece Gala.

The programme in full:

Dance With Me

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An ambitious office worker faces career crisis when she is hypnotised to break into song and dance every time she hears music in the latest from comedy maestro Shinobu Yaguchi (Waterboys, Swing Girls, Survival Family). Q&A with director Shinobu Yaguchi and star Ayaka Miyoshi. 

The Island of Cats

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The peaceful days of an old man and his cat are disrupted by the arrival of a pretty young woman from Tokyo (Kou Shibasaki) and her newly opened cafe in an adaptation of the manga by Nekomaki.

I Go Gaga, My Dear

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TV doc director Naoko Nobutomo follows her ageing parents as her mother’s Alzheimer’s-related dementia intensifies.

Being Natural

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An aimless middle-aged man’s peaceful existence is threatened when hipster Tokyoites rock up in his tiny rural village looking for the “natural life” only to insist on reforming it to their city bound images of idyllic country living in Tadashi Nagayama’s anarchic satire. Review. Q&A with director Tadashi Nagayama and stars Yota Kawase and Natsuki Mieda. 

Ten Years Japan

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Anthology film featuring five dystopian visions of near future Japan. Review.

Samurai Shifters

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Isshin Inudo takes a trip back to the samurai era as a nerdy librarian (Gen Hoshino) is unexpectedly named relocation officer when his clan is ordered to move to another domain.

A Step Forward

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Atsushi Kasezawa’s documentary follows a pastor who commits himself to saving the lives of suicidal individuals who find themselves drawn to a particular cliff in Wakayama. Q&A with director Atsushi Kasezawa. 

The Chaplain

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The late Ren Osugi stars as a prison chaplain ministering to those languishing on death row. (No. 10 on Kinema Junpo’s best of 2018 list)

The Kamagasaki Cauldron War

The Kamagasaki Cauldron War

When a yakuza clan’s precious cauldron is stolen a war breaks out in the Osakan working class district of Kamagasaki. Q&A with star Yota Kawase. 

Demolition Girl

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High school girl Cocoa has given up on her dreams because she has to support her gambling addict father and no good failed manzai comedian brother, but her fortunes change when she finds out her mother left her money and if she can just top it up a little she could escape her humble life by getting into a top university in Tokyo. Q&A with director Genta Matsugami and star Aya Kitai. 

And Your Bird Can Sing

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Three slackers struggle to accept love in present day Hakodate in Sho Miyake’s adaptation of the Yasushi Sato novel in which an apathetic bookstore employee (Tasuku Emoto) starts a halfhearted romance with a free spirited colleague (Shizuka Ishibashi) only to introduce her to his infatuated best friend (Shota Sometani). Review.

His Lost Name

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A small-town carpenter (Kaoru Kobayashi) takes in a drifter (Yuya Yagira) he finds unconscious on the side of the road but their growing paternal bond begins to place a strain on his relationships with his fiancée (Keiko Horiuchi) and employees in Nanako Hirose’s sensitive debut. Q&A with director Nanako Hirose.

Red Snow

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Mystery thriller starring Arata and Masatoshi Nagase in which a dogged journalist’s unearthing of a decades old child disappearance in a small rural town opens up old wounds.

Killing

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A samurai prefers not to raise his sword but finds himself tested by his times in Shinya Tsukamoto’s impassioned anti-violence jidaigeki. Review. Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto, with CUT ABOVE Award ceremony. 

Bullet Ballet

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An ad director becomes obsessed with the idea of finding a gun after his fiancée shoots herself in Tsukamoto’s 1998 classic. Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto. 

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Miyoko Asada stars as Satoko – a con artist whose gradual path to wealth through pyramid schemes and increasingly elaborate scams eventually leads her to reinvent herself in Thailand as a 38-year-old woman named Erica.

Jesus

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A young boy relocates from Tokyo to a sleepy mountain village where he has to bunk with grandma and attend catholic school. His days are eventually brightened through meeting a tiny Jesus who grants all his wishes until an inescapable tragedy colours his view of religion in Hiroshi Okuyama’s whimsical debut. ReviewQ&A with director Hiroshi Okuyama. 

Melancholic

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Kazuhiko graduated from Todai, but he’s now unemployed and living with mum and dad. A chance encounter with a pretty friend from school leads him to a job in a bathhouse but his fortunes change again when he realises the baths double as a yakuza killing ground after hours… Review.

The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan

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A shogi-loving child prodigy (Ryuhei Matsuda) is devastated when he hits the age limit for becoming a professional player but eventually finds amateur success and then the courage to challenge the system in Toshiaki Toyoda’s surprisingly inspirational drama. Review. Q&A with director Toshiaki Toyoda. 

Jeux de plage

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Rohmerian drama in which college friends Sayaka and Yui take a trip to the beach where they meet up with Yui’s old pal Momoko but find their dynamic disrupted by sleazy passersby and mutual awkwardness.

The Journalist

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Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung makes the first of two Japanese language performances included in the programme as an earnest Tokyo journalist haunted by her father’s suicide, playing opposite Tori Matsuzaka as a cynical bureaucrat who discovers evidence of coverup and conspiracy.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers

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Long forgotten, Macoto Tezka’s anarchic cult comedy debut has been lovingly rediscovered and restored by Third Window Films. A tale of fame, corruption, and destiny, Stardust Brothers is a whimsical piece of absurdist Showa-era nostalgia . Review. Q&A with director Macoto Tezka. 

Randen: The Comings and Goings on a Kyoto Tram

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Three stories of love occur along the the iconic Kyoto tram line as a writer from Kamakura searches for a ghost train while recalling memories of his wife, a local girl helps a Tokyo actor master the Kyoto accent, and a girl from Aomori falls for a trainspotter!

NIGHT CRUISING

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Makoto Sasaki’s documentary follows blind musician Hideyuki Kato as he works on a sci-fi short in which a non-sighted fighter and a telepath search for a mysterious ghost in the far future. Q&A with director Makoto Sasaki, producer Miyuki Tanaka and subject Hideyuki Kato. 

Orphan’s Blues

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A young woman suffering unexplained loss of memory goes in search of a childhood friend after rediscovering a drawing of an elephant in Riho Kudo’s award winning debut.

Blue Hour

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30-ish Sunada (Kaho) is becoming rapidly disillusioned with city life. She’s worked her way up to directing commercials but finds herself mostly dealing with workplace sexism and difficult stars while she is also carrying on an affair with a married colleague. Taking off on a road trip with her lively best friend mangaka (Korean actress Shim Eun-kyung in her second Japanese language role included in the programme), she is finally forced to reconnect with her rural childhood and rediscovers her sense of self in the process. Review.

Japan Cuts runs from 19th to 28th July 2019 at Japan Society New York. Full details for all the films along with ticketing links are available via the official website and you can also keep up with all the latest details by following the festival’s official Facebook page and Twitter account.

Udine Far East Film Festival Confirms Lineup for 21st Edition

47541986391_dbe90761ea_oThe Udine Far East Film Festival returns for its 21st edition on April 26! As usual, the festival has brought together some of the most highly anticipated East Asian cinema releases with 77 films included in this year’s programme including a retrospective strand dedicated to classic Korean cinema and sidebar on Korean indie comedy. This year’s guests of honour are veteran Hong Kong star Anthony Wong who will be receiving the festival’s Golden Mulberry Award, and Chinese superstar Yao Chen.

China

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  • A Cool Fish – comedy crime caper in which two losers, a woman in a wheelchair, and a dejected security guard get mixed up in a strange series of coincidences. Review.
  • Crossing the Border – heartwarming drama in which a grandpa goes on a tractor roadtrip with his 6-year-old grandson.
  • The Crossing – a teenage girl becomes a mobile phone mule in Bai’s sensitive coming of age drama. Review.
  • Dying to Survive – dark comedy drama in which an aphrodisiac seller becomes rich smuggling generic cancer medication.
  • Lost, Found – remake of the Korean film Missing in which a lawyer in the middle of a custody dispute discovers her nanny has disappeared with her daughter.
  • Pegasus – New Year comedy drama in which a disgraced middle-aged racing driver tries to make a comeback. Review.
  • The Rib – a trans woman tries to get the approval of her devoutly religious father.
  • When Love Blossoms – a Beijing delivery boy is inspired to pursue his secret crush on a real estate agent who is also his roommate.

Hong Kong

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  • Bodies at Rest – a pathologist and his assistant are suddenly accosted by crooks wanting access to a body in Renny Harlin’s action drama.
  • A Home with a View – Mr. Lo sinks all his savings and his father’s pension into buying a flat which has a view of the ocean that calms the rowdy family down, but one day their lovely view is suddenly blocked by an illegal billboard in a dark family comedy from Herman Yau.
  • Hotel Soul Good – comedy in which a hardbitten exec starts seeing ghosts and then forces them to open a hotel with her.
  • Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy – spin-off / sequel to Ip Man 3 starring Max Zhang and directed by Yuen Woo-ping.
  • Missbehavior – New Year rom-com from Pang Ho-cheung in which a secretary tries to replace a bottle of breast milk belonging to her boss after accidentally using it to make coffee for a client.
  • Project Gutenberg – twisty action drama from Felix Chong starring Aaron Kwok and Chow Yun Fat. Review.
  • Still Human – Intouchables-esque drama starring Anthony Wong as a man in a wheelchair who doesn’t immediately take to his Filipina carer.
  • Three Husbands – Fruit Chan satirises modern Hong Kong through the story of a sex worker with a high libido who lives on a boat with her three husbands.

Indonesia

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  • 212 Warrior – historical martial arts action comedy.

Japan

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  • Dare to Stop Us – drama directed by Kazuya Shiraishi set at Wakamatsu Productions in the early 1970s.
  • Every Day a Good Day – tea ceremony drama featuring one of the last screen performances by the late Kirin Kiki.
  • Fly Me to the Saitama – local humour comedy in which residents of Saitama have been relegated to second class citizens. Review.
  • HARD-CORE – robot comedy from Nobuhiro Yamashita.
  • Jam – absurdist comedy from SABU in which a singer is kidnapped by a crazed fan.
  • JK Rock – comedy in which a washed up rocker mentors a girl group.
  • Lying to Mom – black comedy in which a family keep up the pretence that their oldest son who committed suicide is alive and well in Argentina.
  • Melancholic – a dejected university graduate takes a job in a bathhouse but discovers it is used as a location for killing after hours.
  • Only the Cat Knows – a disappeared cat places a wedge between husband and wife.

Malaysia

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  • Fly by Night – taxi drivers running an extortion scam become embroiled in crime conspiracy
  • Motif – a policewoman investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl in a small town finds herself digging deep into family secrets.
  • Two Sisters – horror in which a woman is released from a psychiatric hospital and returns to live with her sister only to encounter dark family secrets.

The Philippines

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  • Eerie – a clairvoyant guidance counsellor investigates the deaths of a series of girls at a convent school in Mikhail Red’s supernatural drama.
  • Heaven’s Waiting – two old souls trapped in purgatory find each other in Dan Villegas’ supernatural romance.
  • Miss Granny – Filipino remake of the classic Korean musical comedy in which an old woman becomes young and gets to relive her youth.
  • Signal Rock – indie drama set in an island community where a brother determines to help bring his sister and her daughter home to the Philippines on learning that she is in an abusive relationship abroad.

South Korea

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  • Believer – Korean remake of Johnnie To’s Drug war. Review.
  • Birthday – melancholy family drama exploring the aftermath of the Sewol ferry tragedy.
  • Door Lock – remake of Spanish film Sleep Tight in which a woman living alone suspects a stranger has been breaking in to her home.
  • Default – drama exploring the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
  • Extreme Job – bumbling police officers go undercover running a chicken restaurant to catch drug dealers but the restaurant ends up taking off.
  • The Great Battle – historical drama centring on the siege of Ansi Fortress.
  • Innocent Witness – Jung Woo-Sung stars as a lawyer defending a housekeeper accused of murdering her boss who discovers the only witness to the crime is an autistic teenage girl.
  • Intimate Strangers – Korean remake of the Italian film Perfect Strangers in which dinner party guests unwisely agree to share all their incoming mobile messages.
  • The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale – comedy in which a family’s life is disrupted when dad gets bitten by a zombie.
  • Rampant – historical zombie action starring Hyun Bin.
  • Romang – romantic melodrama in which an elderly couple fall in love all over again while suffering with dementia.
  • Unstoppable – Ma Dong-seok stars as a former gangster hot on the trail of human traffickers who’ve made the mistake of kidnapping his wife.

Singapore

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  • Konpaku – A young man upset after his girlfriend leaves him ends up in a relationship with the sensuous Midori but is disturbed when strange things start happening to those close to him.

Taiwan

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  • The Devil Fish – spin-off/sequel to the Tagalong franchise this time revolving around an urban legend about a fish with a human face.
  • More than Blue – remake of the Korean romantic melodrama in which two young people try too hard to please each other. Review.
  • The Scoundrels – action drama in which a former basketball player gets mixed up in crime.

Thailand 

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  • Krasue: Inhuman Kiss – an innocent village girl discovers she is a victim of a strange curse in which her head detaches from her body to hunt for blood!
  • Reside – haunted house horror starring Ananda Everingham.

Vietnam

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  • Furie – some thugs make a very bad decision when they kidnap a former gangster’s daughter.

Documentaries

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  • BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry – Thamrongrattanarit Nawapol interviews members of the Thai idol group.
  • Kampai! Sake Sisters – documentary following three women in the historically male sake world.
  • People’s Republic of Desire – documentary exploring the growing Chinese online streaming industry. Review.
  • YI DAI YI LU – One Belt One Road – Italian documentary exploring the One Belt One Road initiative.

The Odd Couples

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  • The World of Suzie Wong – classic 1960 British/American HK drama in which an American artist falls for a sex worker.
  • My Name Ain’t Suzie – 1985 HK drama following a 1950s bar girl.
  • City on Fire – 1987 Ringo Lam classic starring Chow Yun-fat and Danny Lee in which an undercover cop infiltrates a gang of thieves only for the operation to go very wrong.
  • Reservoir Dogs – Tarantino’s 1992 crime drama.

100 Years of Korean Cinema:
I Choose Evil – Lawbreakers Under the Military Dictatorship 

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  • Black Hair – Lee Man-hee classic from 1964 in which a betrayed gangster’s moll mulls going straight thanks to the attentions of a cheerful cabbie. Review.
  • The Body Confession – Jo Keung-ha’s 1964 melodrama in which a woman turns to sex work to raise her three children.
  • A Day Off – Lee Man-hee’s bleak 1968 melodrama following an impoverished couple as they face an impossible situation. Review.
  • Promise of the Flesh – 1975 melodrama from Kim Ki-young in which a young woman on temporary release from prison meets man and promises to meet him two years later.
  • Jagko – Im Kwon-taek pioneers the division film in exploring the parallel fates of a partisan and the man who failed to catch him in the very different world of 1980. Review.
  • The Last Witness  – a detective’s investigation of a brewery owner’s murder takes him right into the dark heart of the recent past in Lee Doo-yong’s powerful drama. Review.
  • Ticket – 1985 Im Kwon-taek drama exploring the lives of five “coffee girls”.
  • Lovers in Woomukbaemi – Jang Sun-woo’s 1990 romantic melodrama stars Park Joong-hoon as a henpecked husband who begins an affair with a battered wife. Review.

Info Screenings 

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  • A First Farewell – A muslim boy in Xinjiang prepares to say goodbye to his deaf/mute mother when his father decides to put her into a nursing home.
  • Ten Years Japan – omnibus film featuring five visions of near future Japan. Review.
  • Ten Years Taiwan – omnibus film featuring five visions of near future Taiwan.
  • Ten Years Thailand – omnibus film featuring five visions of near future Thailand.

Korean Independent Comedies

Coffee Noir

  • Coffee Noir: Black Brown – prohibition-themed comedy as a barista turns her coffee shop into a speakeasy following the outlawing of the beverage.
  • Passing Summer – A couple running a Jeju hotel are stunned when a pair of faces from the past turn up as guests.
  • Saem – a man goes to Seoul to look for his first love but has a rare condition in which he is unable to recognise faces.

Restored Classics 

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  • A Speck in the Water – 1976 Philippine fishing village drama from Ishmael Bernal
  • The Wheel of Life – Omnibus film featuring three tales directed by King Hu, Li Hsing, and Pai Ching-jui in which the same two actors play lovers across different ages.

The 21st Udine Far East Film Festival runs from 26th April to 4th May 2019. Full details for each of the films will be available shortly via the official website where you will also be able to find the daily screening schedule. Screenings take place both at the Teatro Nuovo and Cinema Centrale. You can keep up with all the latest festival news via the festival’s Facebook PageInstagram and YouTube channels, Twitter account, and Tumblr.

Asian Pop-Up Cinema Returns for Season Eight

High Flash still 2Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema returns for its eighth season from March 12 to April 24 with 16 films screening at AMC River East 21 and various venues around the city.

March 12, 7pm: Fly Me To The Saitama

Introduction and Q&A with director Hideki Takeuchi

Fly Me to Saitama bannerFumi Nikaido stars as the cosseted son of a corrupt Tokyo Governor alongside pop star Gackt as a “mysterious transfer student” in Hideki Takeuchi’s adaptation of the popular ’80s manga.

March 13, 7pm: Ten Years Japan

Introduction and Q&A with segment director Akiyo Fujimura

10 Years Japan still 1Five young directors provide their visions of a near future Japan in an omnibus movie inspired by the Hong Kong original and produced by Hirokazu Koreeda. Review.

March 16, 2pm: The Ito Sisters

Introduction and Q&A with director Antonia Grace Glenn and lead scholar Evelyn Nakano Glenn 

ito sistersDocumentary exploring the experiences of early Japanese migrants along with their American-born children.

March 19, 7pm: Out Of Paradise

Introduction and Q&A with director Batbayar Chogsom

Out of Paradise still 1A man and his heavily pregnant wife make a perilous journey to the Mongolian capital in order to get a caesarian section but once there discover they are unable to cover the medical fees.

March 20, 7pm: A Land Imagined

Introduction and Q&A with director Yeo Siew-hua.

land imagined still 1Singaporean police officer Lok investigates the disappearance of migrant worker Wang in Yeo Siew-hua’s Locarno prize winning crime drama.

March 21, 6.30pm: Funan

Funan still 1French/Cambodian animated co-production set during the Khmer Rouge revolution of 1975 in which a young mother searches for her four-year-old son who was taken away by the regime.

March 26, 7pm: Show Me Your Love

Introduction and Q&A with actress Nina Paw Hee-ching

Show me Your Love still 1A young man making a rare visit home to Malaysia on the death of an aunt is forced to reconnect with his estranged mother whom he left behind when he went to university in Hong Kong. Actress Nina Paw Hee-Ching will be present at the screening for an introduction and Q&A as well as to collect the Career Achievement Award.

March 27, 7pm: Sen Sen

Introduction and Q&A with director An Bon & actress Nina Paw Hee-ching

Sen Sen still 1A young man whose brother has recently passed away makes a surprising discovery on the cell phone he left behind – the live streams of an elderly cab driver known as Granny.

March 28, 7pm: High Flash

Introduction and Q&A with director Chuang Ching-shen & Actor Chen Chia-kuei

High Flash still 1A medical examiner investigating the death of a fisherman who self immolated to protest corporate giant TL Petrochemical uncovers a major conspiracy in Chuang Ching-shen’s crime thriller.

April 6, 2pm: Up the Mountain

up the mountain still 1Documentary by Zhang Yang focussing on the studio of artist Shen Jian-hua in a remote village in Yunnan Province.

April 7, 2pm: Four Springs

Introduction and Q&A with director Lu Qingyi moderated by Shelly Kraicer

four springgs still 1Director Lu Qingyi follows the everyday lives of his parents over four years in the remote town of Dushan in southwest China.

April 12, 6.30pm: Circle of Steel

Introduction and Q&A with director/producer Gillian McKercher and main cast Chantelle Han.

Circle of SteelCanadian chemical engineer Wendy Fong ponders her future in the face of industry layoffs in this special presentation in collaboration with the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago.

April 16, 7pm: The Pension

Introduction and Q&A with segment director Junghuh Deok-jae 

The Pension still 1Omnibus film set in a small hotel which becomes home to parents attempting to come to terms with the loss of their child, a couple trying to rekindle their marriage, a woman who insists on staying in her preferred room, and the substitute manager who invites his girlfriend over for the evening.

April 17, 7pm: Memories of a Dead End

Introduction and Q&A with director Choi Hyun-young

memories of a dead end still 1A young woman in a long distance relationship with a man from Nagoya decides to visit him when he drops out of contact only to discover he is engaged to someone else.

April 23, 7pm: Memories of My Body

Memories of my body still 1A Lengger dancer looks back on his life as a tale of growing acceptance of sensuality lived against a turbulent political backdrop.

April 24, 7pm – Tracey

Tracey still 1A 51-year-old married father begins to reconsider his life choices after the death of a friend, eventually coming to an acceptance of a transgender identity.

Asian Pop-up Cinema Season 8 runs March 12 to April 24. Full details for all the films are available via the festival’s official website. You can also keep up with all the latest news by following Asian Pop-up Cinema on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

New York Asian Film Festival Launches First Ever Winter Showcase

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A regular summer fixture in the New York film calendar, the New York Asian Film Festival is launching its first ever winter showcase set to run Feb. 1 – 3 & 8 – 10 at SVA Theatre. Running under the title “Crazy Broke Asians” the festival will present 15 films showcasing the lives of ordinary people from across the region.

Miss Baek 

Han Ji-min will be in attendance for a Q&A following the film.

Miss Baek still 1Han Ji-min stars as a salty, aloof ex-con who struggles to move past childhood trauma until she makes the fateful decision to save a neglected little girl who reminds her so much of herself. Review.

Fly By Night

fly by night still 1The debut feature from Zahir Omar, Fly By Night takes place in the Kuala Lumpur underworld where a gang of taxi drivers has clubbed together to extort well off passengers they pick up from the airport.

Mee Pok Man 

Cinema still: Mee Pok Man starring Michelle Goh and Joe Ng##########x##########A Singaporean classic, Eric Khoo’s debut follows the awkward proprietor of a noodle shop with a crush on one of his customers, a sex worker who dreams of escaping her pimp and the city itself.

Have a Nice Day

MUBI Have A Nice Day_Still_1© 2017 Nezha Bros Pictures Company Limited, Le-joy Animation StudioLiu Jian’s indie animation puts the modern China under the spotlight as a missing bag of money brings a collection of desperate souls together in the search for a way out of a dead end wasteland. Review.

After this Our Exile

after this our exileAaron Kwok stars as a deadbeat dad whose wife eventually leaves him alone with their young son. When loansharks come in pursuit of gambling debts, father and son are forced on the run and into a life of dubious moralities.

Crying Fist

crying fist bannerRyoo Seung-wan’s boxing drama stars Choi Min-sik as a former olympic silver medalist who now makes ends meet getting beaten up for money on the streets of Seoul. Meanwhile, a troubled young man (played by Ryoo Seung-Bum) who learned to box inside is also looking for a way out. The pair meet in the ring where a more than cash is at stake.

Breathless

breathless still 1Actor turned director Yang Ik-June stars as a brutal gangster whose sentimental heart is restarted by a high school girl with a difficult home life only to discover life’s essential tragedies.

100 Yen Love

100 yen love still 1Sakura Ando stars as a 32-year-old slacker still living at home with her parents. A part-time job in a 100 yen store gives her new purpose when she strikes up a relationship with an amateur boxer and winds up entering the ring herself. Review.

7 Grandmasters

7 grandmasters still 1Jack Lung stars as a veteran kung-fu master about to retire when a young buck begs to become his disciple so that he can learn the skills to avenge his father.

The Mystery of Chess Boxing

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7 Grandmasters’ Li Yi-min returns as another youngster seeking revenge! Originally the kung-fu school’s dunce he gets his game on when the chef teaches him how to fight, eventually teaming up with the inventor of chess kung fu to take down the mysterious Ghost Face Killer.

The Swordsman of All Swordsman

swordsmen of all swordsmenA top swordsman out for revenge against the bandits that killed his father runs into sword enthusiasts Black Dragon and Flying Swallow who may be enemies or allies.

Secret Screening

nyaff secretThe clue is in the name…

King of Beggars

king of beggars 1Stephen Chow stars in Gordon Chan’s loose retelling of the life of 19th century martial artist So Chan who finds himself joining the Beggars’ Sect after being caught cheating on his imperial exams and causing his family to be stripped of all their wealth.

Merantau

merantau still 1Indonesian action star Iko Uwais stars in Gareth Huw Evans early cult hit in which a young man embarks on his “merantau” – a coming of age ritual in which he must leave his village for the city where he rescues a brother and sister from a gang and finds himself at war.

The Raid Redemption

the raid redemptionThe sequel to Gareth Huw Evans phenomenally successful The Raid once again stars Iko Uwais as an intrepid SWAT member who finds himself having to fight his way out when a raid goes wrong.

Lunar New Year Party

nyaff lunarA party to close out the event taking place right after the final screening.

The New York Asian Film Festival Winter Showcase runs February 1 – 3 & 8 -10 at SVA Theatre. Tickets and passes are currently on sale via Eventbrite where you can also find full details for all the films along with screening times. You can also keep up with all the latest news including the upcoming summer season via the festival’s official website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

One Cut of the Dead Triumphs at 61st Blue Ribbon Awards

One Cut of the DeadAhead of the official ceremony on 6th February, the Blue Ribbon Awards has released its list of winners for the 61st edition which honours films released in 2018. Runaway box office hit One Cut of the Dead (released on 28th January in the UK courtesy of Third Window Films) has taken the top spot while Kazuya Shirashi, who took last year’s prize for Birds Without Names, has retained the Best Director award for the three films he released last year – The Blood of Wolves, Dare to Stop Us, and Sunny (not to be confused with the remake of the Korean film by the same name which also makes it into the top 10).

Individual Awards

Best Film: One Cut of the Dead

Best Actor: Hiroshi Tachi (Life in Overtime)

Best Actress: Mugi Kadowaki (Dare to Stop Us)

Best Supporting Actor: Tori Matsuzaka (The Blood of Wolves)

Best Supporting Actress: Mayu Matsuoka (Shoplifters / Chihayafuru Part 3)

Best Newcomer: Sara Minami (Shino Can’t Say Her Name)

Best Director: Kazuya Shiraishi (The Blood of Wolves / Dare to Stop Us / Sunny)

Top 10

In addition to naming individual prizes, the Blue Ribbon Awards also reveals its “Best 10” films of the year which are presented in no particular order.

One Cut of the Dead (カメラを止めるな!)

One Cut of the Dead still 1One Cut of the Dead has already devoured the Japanese box office and now finds itself the winner of the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award for best film. Opening with a 40 minute single take of zombie mayhem, this hilarious horror comedy begins with a film crew trying to make a zombie movie in an abandoned water filtration plant with a dark past only for some uninvited guests to turn up and join the fun…

Released in the UK by Third Window Films on 28th January.

The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine (菊とギロチン)

chysanthemum and the guillotine still 1The recently prolific Takahisa Zeze retreats to the Taisho era for a tale of sumo and revolution as a band of anarchists known as the Guillotine Society find themselves fascinated by an itinerant troupe of female sumo wrestlers shortly after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

The Blood of Wolves (孤狼の血)

blood of wolves still 1Kazuya Shirashi, winner of this year’s best director award, pays tribute to the world of Battles Without Honour in an ’80-style neo-noir in which a straight-laced rookie is partnered with a veteran rogue cop who leads him straight into the heart of darkness. Review.

Sunny: Tsuyoi Kimochi Tsuyoi Ai (SUNNY 強い気持ち・強い愛)

sunny japan bannerNot to be confused with Kazuya’s Shiraishi’s Sunny, Hitoshi Ohne’s Sunny: Tsuyoi Kimochi Tsuyoi Ai is a remake of the classic 2011 Korean film by Kang Hyeong-cheol in which a dying 40-year-old woman reunites with her high school friends from 1990 to relive her memories of a bubble-era adolescence.

Recall (空飛ぶタイヤ)

recall bannerA CEO discovers dark secrets about his own company when a tire comes off one of their trucks and kills a young mother.

Dare to Stop Us (止められるか、俺たちを)

dare to stop us still 1Another of three films released this year by Best Director winner Kazuya Shiraishi, Dare To Stop Us revolves around the legendary figure of Koji Wakamatsu – a hugely influential director of pink film who sadly passed away in 2012 following a traffic accident. Set at Wakamatsu Productions between 1969 and 1972, the film is told from the point of view of female crew member Megumi Yoshizumi, played by Best Actress winner Mugi Kadowaki.

Every Day a Good Day (日日是好日)

every day a good day still 1Starring the legendary Kirin Kiki in one of her final performances, Every Day a Good Day is inspired by the writings of Noriko Morishita and revolves around the serene elegance of the traditional tea ceremony.

Asako 1 & 2 (寝ても覚めても)

Aasako 1 & IIA conflicted young woman struggling to move on from lost love falls for a guy who looks just like her ex but can’t decide whether to embrace the fantasy of unresolved romance or the security of a steady relationship in Hamaguchi’s complex yet playful comedy drama adapted from the novel by Tomoka Shibasaki. Review.

Shoplifters (万引き家族)

Shoplifters still 2This year’s Palme d’Or winner, Shoplifters earns Hirokazu Koreeda another spot in the top 10 with a hard hitting tale of marginal lives and manufactured families which continues the long line of Japanese films asking what exactly family means in an increasingly disconnected society. Review.

Yakiniku Dragon (焼肉ドラゴン)

yakiniku dragon bannerDirected by third generation Zainichi director Wishing Chong, Yakiniku Dragon revolves around a Korean-Japanese family in the early ’70s who run a yakiniku restaurant on the outskirts of Osaka.

Source: Eiga Natalie

Early Korean Cinema: Lost Films from the Japanese Colonial Period

hurrah-for-freedom-poster.jpgClassic Korean cinema is making a long awaited return to the BFI this February with a fantastic season of rarely screened (and sadly just rare) films produced during the Japanese colonial period.

Crossroads of Youth + season introduction

crossroads of youthThe oldest extant Korean film, Crossroads of Youth follows the adventures of a young man who travels to the city to find work after his arranged marriage falls through only to fall for a girl who is about to be sold to a money lender in payment for a debt.

The screening will be preceded by an illustrated lecture from the Korean Film Archive’s Chung Chong-hwa. As at the screening at the Barbican back in 2012, the silent film will be screened in the original fashion with live music and performances and narrated by a byeonsa.

Sweet Dream + Fisherman’s Fire

 The Korean Film Archive’s Chung Chong-hwa will introduce the films at the Friday 15th screening.

sweet dream still 1Acclaimed film editor Yang Ju-nam made his directorial debut with 1936’s Sweet Dream – a melodrama revolving around a vain housewife who abandons her daughter and moves in with a lover at a hotel after her husband throws her out.

fisherman's fire still 1Co-produced by Shochiku and supervised by Yasujiro Shimazu, Ahn Cheol-young’s Fisherman’s Fire follows the melancholy fate of fisherman’s daughter In-soon who is faced with being sold in payment of a debt but escapes to Seoul only to wind up being forced to become bar girl.

Military Train + Volunteer + intro by Baek Moonim, Yonsei University

military train still 1The only film directed by Suh Kwang-je, Military Train is also accounted as the first pro-Japanese government film, which is a fairly unfortunate legacy whichever way you look at it. Intended to boost recruitment, the film follows two best friends and roommates whose lives are disrupted when one is approached by resistance agents seeking info about the military train.

volunteer still 1Another recruiting film, Anh Seok-young’s Volunteer follows a poor farm boy who is thrown off his land and resents his meagre prospects. He sees entry to the Japanese army, which has recently relaxed regulations to allow Korean men to join, as a path to making something of himself…

Tuition

tuition largeOne of the many films inspired by a child’s essay Tuition is a mildly subversive propaganda melodrama about a little boy struggling to pay his school fees who goes on a perilous adventure when his grandma is taken ill. Full review.

Spring of the Korean Peninsula + discussion

spring of the korean peninsula still 1The directorial debut of Lee Byung-il (The Love Marriage), Spring on the Korean Peninsula (adapted from Kim Seong-min’s award winning 1936 novel Artists of the Peninsula) follows a young film director struggling to film a new version of the Chun-hyang story. When he loses his lead actress, he hires his friend’s little sister but then makes a disastrous choice to facilitate his artistic dreams.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Korean film scholars Baek Moonim (Yonsei University), Lee Hwa-jin (Inha University) and Chung Chong-hwa (Korean Film Archive), and chaired by season co-curator Kate Taylor-Jones.

Hurrah! For Freedom

hurrah freedom still 1Sadly incomplete and, ironically enough, a victim of censorship in the Park Chung-hee era, Hurrah! for Freedom (also known as Viva Freedom!) is the appropriately titled first film to have been released after the liberation and follows a betrayed resistance fighter who escapes from Japanese capture and hides out in a nurse’s apartment while covertly continuing his resistance activities.

Early Korean Cinema: Lost Films from the Japanese Colonial Period runs at the BFI Southbank from 7th February. Tickets are currently on sale to members with public sales beginning on 15th January.

People Still Call It Love -The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019

her love boils bathwater still 2The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme is back for 2019 with another handpicked selection of recent (and not so recent) Japanese cinema. This year’s theme is “love” and there is certainly an array on offer from the familial to the romantic and everything in between.

My Friend ‘A’

My Friend A still 1Toma Ikuta stars as a failed journalist working in a small factory who befriends an introverted co-worker (Eita) only to begin to suspect that he may be connected to a series of child murders 17 years previously. One of two films released by Takahisa Zeze (The 8-Year Engagement) in 2018.

Destiny: The Tale of Kamakura

Destiny Kamakura horizontalCharming fantasy adventure from Takashi Yamazaki adapting the popular 80s manga by Ryohei Saigan in which a newlywed eccentric author finds himself travelling to the underworld to retrieve his wife who has been taken there as a result of a bizarre clerical error (and a little yokai interference). Review.

Thicker Than Water

Ken-en bannerComedy drama from Hime-anole‘s Keisuke Yoshida in which two pairs of mismatched siblings go head to head. Masataka Kubota stars as a hard working salesman whose conventional existence is threatened by the return of his rowdy ex-con brother (Hirofumi Arai). Meanwhile, Yuria (Keiko Enoue) runs the family business and takes care of her bedridden grandfather while her younger, prettier sister (Miwako Kakei) is an out of work actress with a tendency to flirt with just about everyone she meets.

Pumpkin and Mayonnaise

Pumpkin and Mayonnaise still 1Tsuchida (Asami Usuda) has decided to financially support her singer-songwriter boyfriend Seiichi (Taiga) but he doesn’t know she’s supplementing her income with a part-time job at hostess bar to make ends meet. Meanwhile, her head is turned by an old flame (Joe Odagiri) in Masanori Tominaga’s adaptation of the popular manga by Kiriko Nananan. Review.

Tremble All You Want

tremble all you want still 1Intensely shy and socially awkward, 24-year-old Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) lives in a fantasy world and spends her free time engaging in her favourite hobby of looking up extinct animals on the internet. Harbouring a long standing crush on a middle-school classmate she nicknames “Ichi” (no. 1), her existence is shaken by the unexpected attention of a colleague she refers to as “Ni” (no. 2). An ultimately uplifting yet sometimes heartbreaking tale of learning to forget about anxiety and just live anyway from genre veteran Akiko Ohku. Review.

Dear Etranger

Dear Etranger still 2Tadanobu Asano stars as a man who’s taken the unusual decision to prioritise family life over career but finds himself conflicted when his second wife reveals she is pregnant with their first child in Yukiko Mishima’s empathic family drama. Review.

Yurigokoro

Yurigokoro bannerRyosuke’s life is pretty great. He’s about to open his own restaurant and marry his beautiful fiancée Misako, but his happiness is soon ended when his father is diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer. Going through his belongings, Ryosuke finds a worrying entry in his father’s diary which implies he may have committed a murder. To make matters worse, Misako suddenly disappears without trace. Naoto Kumazawa adapts the bestselling novel by Mahokaru Numata.

Dad’s Lunch Box

Dad's Bento bannerInspired by a viral news story, Masakazu Fukatsu’s cheerful drama stars former hip hop idol Toshimi Watanabe in a role somewhat echoing his own life seeing as he too published a best selling book filled with pictures of the bento he lovingly crafted for his teenage son. Here he plays a divorced dad doing his best to master the traditionally female art of homemade lunch boxes.

Her Love Boils Bathwater

her love boils bathwater stillCapturing Dad’s Ryota Nakano turns his attention mum! Rie Miyazawa stars as a struggling recently single mother whose husband has run off with another woman that he supposedly got pregnant during a drunken one night stand. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she sets herself to repairing her fractured family while also resurrecting the family bathhouse in the process. Review.

Blindly In Love

Blindly in loveKentaro, 30-something and single, lives a solitary and isolated life, showing little sign of finding a wife and settling down while his career continues to stagnate. Fearing he will be alone all his life, his parents decide to go to a support group for the similarly afflicted hoping to find a candidate for an arranged marriage. They find only one – Naoko, the daughter of a high ranking salaryman. Naoko’s parents do not disclose the fact that their daughter is blind and also disapprove of Kentaro whom they regard as socially inferior. Nevertheless the pair meet and fall in love but can they overcome the various obstacles to their romance?

The Scythian Lamb

scythian Lamb still 1A small town decides to join a scheme to rehome ex-cons in order to combat rural depopulation but fearing that the local community might not accept the new arrivals if they knew where they came from, the authorities decide to keep it a secret. Prejudice and pragmatism go head to head in Daihachi Yoshida’s adaptation of the manga by Yamagami Tatsuhiko and Igarashi Mikio. Review.

Born Bone Born

Born Bone Born still 1Unmarried pregnant daughter Yuko scandalises her community when she returns home to participate in the bone washing ritual in the second feature from Okinawan comedian Toshiyuki Teruya.

Tonight, at the Movies

Tonight at the movie bannerHaruka Ayase and Kentaro Sakaguchi star in a glitzy tribute to the world of golden age cinema! Sakaguchi plays a struggling assistant director failing to make it in the rapidly declining ’60s film industry while dreaming black and white dreams of a more glamorous era. Then, to his surprise, his favourite leading lady steps out of the silver screen and into his technicolor world…

Where Chimneys Are Seen

vlcsnap-2016-07-07-01h01m06s792Classic from Heinosuke Gosho centring on a collection of people living in a shared house and attempting to survive in the complicated post-war landscape. Ogata (Ken Uehara) is happily married to Hiroko (Kinuyo Tanaka) but begins to doubt her when he learns that she has secretly taken a job at the bicycle races to supplement the family income while the unexpected arrival of an abandoned baby raises another series of questions. Review.

Good Stripes

Good stripes still 1Midori and Masao are 28 years old and they’ve been a couple for four years. With the fire going out of their relationship they consider breaking up but then Midori discovers she is pregnant. Shotgun wedding in the offing, impending parenthood begins to bring them closer together as they finally take the time to get to know each other in the second feature from Yukiko Sode.

Three Stories of Love

Three stories of love bannerThe most recent film from Ryosuke Hashiguchi (Hush!, All Around Us), Three Stories of Love presents a triptych of modern alienation in the stories of a neglected wife, a grief-stricken widower struggling to come to terms with his wife’s murder, and a gay lawyer whose arrogance eventually leads to his downfall and a reunion with a schoolfriend he once loved. 

Penguin Highway

Penguin highway bannerA hyperrational 10-year-old is puzzled by the sudden appearance of a bunch of random penguins in the middle of a hot Japanese summer and tries to solve the mystery all while nursing an adolescent crush on a pretty dental receptionist in Hiroyasu Ishida’s adaptation of the Tomihiko Morimi novel. Review.

Of Love & Law

Of love and law still 1Love Hotel’s Hikaru Toda reunites with Fumi and Kazu who run a law firm in Japan specialising in minority issues and particularly those of the LGBT community. Review.

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2019 runs at London’s ICA from 2nd to 10th February before touring to:

Full details for all the films are available on the official Touring Film Programme website. You can also keep up to date with all the year round events organised by Japan Foundation London via their main site, Facebook page, and Twitter account.