Bambini Montessori Academy

NYAFF 2018


Announce Full Lineup for


June 29 – July 15, 2018

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema announce the 17th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), June 29 – July 15, 2018.

From vicious, life-destroying phone scams to balletic battles between equally corruptcops and yakuza, NYAFF offers films that reflect on contemporary society while offering extreme genre pleasures. There are self-referential takes on cinematic zombies, existential date nights, and teens finding their own corners of the world despite familial and societal expectations.After last year’s Sweet Sixteen, this year’s program is dubbed the Savage Seventeenth edition with four world premieres, three international premieres, 21 North American premieres, three U.S. premieres, and twelve New York premieres, showcasing the most exciting comedies, dramas, thrillers, romances, horrors and arthouse films from East Asia.

Savage Seventeen: The festival has a rich history of presenting films that deal with the social issue ofteenage bullying. Many of these have proven to be launching pads for some of Asia’s biggest stars, and the subject is at the root of such modern classics as All About Lily Chou-Chou, Whispering Corridors, and Confessions. In a year when youths in the U.S. are standing their ground and demanding political change, NYAFF presents the North American premieres of three films about teenagers who just won’t take it anymore: Kim Ui-seok’s After My Death, Ogata Takaomi’s The Hungry Lion, and Naito Eisuke’scompetition title Liverleaf.

More than ever, the festival aims to show that Asia is a beacon of cinematic excitement, its films as rich in provocative artistry and as emotionally compelling as those of its Western counterpart. In the age of algorithm-dictated curation and Eurocentrism, NYAFF holds two convictions: that taste in films cannot be deduced or reduced to one’s browser history; and that the best in new cinema is rising from the East.

Opening Night is the North American premiere of Tominaga Masanori’s Dynamite Graffiti, an unorthodox and sprightly drama based on the life and times of Japanese porn magazine king Suei Akira, who cultivated future artists such as Araki Nobuyoshi and Moriyama Daido. This spirited tale of sexual exploitation is an ode to free expression, proving that the so-called “smut” of today might very well become the art of tomorrow. The film is a metaphor for the humble origins of the festival as a Chinatown-born grindhouse showcase introducing the works of Johnnie To and several of the modern masters of Korean cinema.

Closing Night is the world premiere of Erik Matti’s BuyBust from the Philippines. On the surface, it is structured like an action film in the vein of The Raid, with superstar Anne Curtis and MMA worldchampion Brandon Vera as narcs taking down a drug kingpin against insurmountable odds over one unrelenting rainy night. The film employed 309 stuntmen and features a wildly ambitious three-minute, one-cutaction scene. Being a Matti film, it also offers a searing perspective on the ongoing drug war and broader issues of political corruption. The director and stars will attend the screening.

The Centerpiece is the world premiere of Sunny Chan’s Men on the Dragon, starring Francis Ng and Jennifer Yu. Always central to the festival’s DNA, Hong Kong cinema demonstrates the resiliency of an industry whose identity is easily blurred with Mainland China, but on which it also exerts a considerable influence and provides storytelling expertise and craftsmanship. The film is a quintessential underdog story about a group of blue-collar workers who reluctantly join their company’s dragon boat team. A directorial debut of a veteran Hong Kong screenwriter, Chan’s film is being presented one year after NYAFF had a special focus on first-time directors from the territory. Chan and actress Jennifer Yu will be among the attending guests.

Seven films will battle in the second edition of the festival’s re-launched

Main Competition now dubbed the Tiger Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film: Shiraishi Kazuya’s Blood of Wolves (Japan), Nam Ron’s Crossroads: One Two Jaga (Malaysia), Naito Eisuke’s Liverleaf (Japan), Dong Yue’s The Looming Storm (China), Sunny Chan’s Men on the Dragon (Hong Kong), Jeon Go-woon’s Microhabitat (South Korea), and Treb Monteras’s Respeto (Philippines). Six of the seven films are receiving their North American premieres at NYAFF, with one world premiere. Four of the competition titles are debut films, reflecting the festival’s ongoing support for new directors.

The festival honors its tradition of presenting awards to recognize outstanding talent and filmmakers from Asia that are still under the radar in the West.

Hong Kong’s Dante Lam has been at the creative forefront of the action genre for ten years, when his psycho-thriller Beast Stalker became an instant modern classic. The festival celebrates his career by awarding him the Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema and a special 10th anniversary screening of Beast Stalker on 35mm, together with his MMA drama Unbeatable and his latest film Operation Red Sea. The latter made over half a billion dollars in China to become the second highest-grossing Chinese-language film of all time, and Asia’s biggest hit of 2018. Lam attends our opening weekend to discuss his films with long-term producer Candy Leung.

This year, the festival presents two Star Asia Awards:

South Korea’s Kim Yun-seok is best known to North American audiences for his role as the grizzled ex-cop in 2008 serial killer thriller The Chaser. A decade on, he stands firmly in the top tier of his country’s leading men. Like his contemporaries Song Kang-ho and Choi Min-shik, he came late to movies after a background in theater. Jang Joon-hwan’s powerful drama 1987: When the Day Comes screens, in which Kim plays the frightening head of South Korea’s anti-communist bureau, hellbent on holding back the country’s democracy movement.

Chinese filmmaker Jiang Wu’s career has bridged independent cinema and mainstream success for 25 years. Two decades ago, he was at the forefront of a new populist independent cinema about big city life that transformed modern Chinese cinema with Zhang Yang’s Shower. He has worked with Zhang Yimou (To Live), Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly), Jia Zhangke (A Touch of Sin), and Herman Yau (Shock Wave). Xin Yukun’s part noir, part western Wrath of Silence will screen in tribute, in which his terrifying nouveau riche mining magnate falls into a trap of his own design.

The Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Japan’s Harada Masato, a former U.S.-based film critic. He is most recognizable to Western viewers for his role as the villain Mr. Omura opposite Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Since his debut in 1979, he has positioned himself as one of Japan’s most unique and important directors. While he has worked in nearly every genre, he is best known for tackling societal issues such as teenage prostitution, illegal immigrants, and the role of the media. Screening in the festival are his dark classic gem Kamikaze Taxi on 35mm, the recent Kakekomi (2016), a period piece about female empowerment, and his most recent historical epic Sekigahara, about the one-day battle in 1600 that defined modern Japan.

The Screen International Rising Star Asia Award recipient will be announced at a later date.

The Hong Kong Panorama, backbone of the festival’s programming, returns with nine features, including two world premieres: Sunny Chan’s debut Men of the Dragon and Antony Chan’s comeback House of the Rising Sons. Antony Chan is an original member of The Wynners, the popular teen-idol band of the 1970s that launched the careers of mega-stars Alan Tam and Kenny Bee. Chan, the band’s drummer, returns to the director’s chair after 26 years to present a vibrant biopic that avoids hagiography. Highlighting the miracles of motion and irresistible kinetic force that are the signature of Hong Kong cinema, is a three-film Dante Lam tribute, and an action-packed thriller run on July 4: Jonathan Li’s debut The Brink, Oxide Pang’s The Big Call, and Wilson Yip’s Paradox. Also screening is Chapman To’s family drama set in the world of karate, The Empty Hands starring Stephy Tang.

The China section continues to take a more central role. One year ago, NYAFF committed to supporting the new generation of first-time directors emerging in Asia with the Young Blood series, focusing on Hong Kong; this year the festival shifts to Mainland China. Once again, the films are heady and diverse in subject matter, including Hunan-set, rain-drenched serial-killer thriller The Looming Storm, Inner Mongolia-set sexagenarian drama Old Beast (produced by Chinese auteur Wang Xiaoshuai), and the razor-sharp Northeastern comedy Looking for Lucky, which revolves around a man, his father, and a missing dog. The Chinese film industry is changing fast, and trends are best reflected in where new directors are taking it. We also present films about the shifting rules of romance: Dude’s Manual and The Ex-Files 3: The Return of the Exes.

The New Cinema from Japan lineup is represented by one of the festival’s largest contingents of directors yet. In addition to NYAFF’s tribute to veteran director Harada Masato, the festival is bringing a group that could be described as defining a “new wave” of Japanese cinema: Naito Eisuke with his circle-of-revenge drama Liverleaf, Ogata Takaomi with experimental youth drama The Hungry Lion, Takeshita Masao with slow-burn drama The Midnight Bus, and Kanata Wolf with his slacker debut Smokin’ on the Moon. Also attending is actor Emoto Tasuku who brings his mischievous charm to the protagonist of porn publishing odyssey Dynamite Graffiti. Other highlights include Sato Shinsuke’s cross-generational superhero showdown Inuyashiki, Ueda Shinichiro’s meta zombie film homage One Cut of the Dead, and Yukisada Isao’s brutal youth drama River’s Edge.

There are ten films in the South Korean Cinema section. This year, female-directed titles represent almost half of the NYAFF selection. They include Jeon Go-woon’s competition title Microhabitat, Yim Soon-rye’s Little Forest, and Jeong Ga-young’s Hit the Night. Actress and director Jeong’s positioning of herself as a female Hong Sang-soo—she recently starred in and directed Bitch on the Beach—is itself a critique of the macho posturing of much of South Korean cinema.

The festival selected five films showcasing the uniqueness of Taiwan cinema and the strength of both its arthouse productions and its genre output. Of note is the North American premiere of gangster film


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