The lineup was released this week for the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which will take place from June 22 to July 5 at the Film Society and July 6 to 9 at the SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street).
The Opening Night gala will be the World Premiere of Kazuya Shiraishi’s wild crime epic Twisted Justice, based on Yoshiaki Inaba’s autobiography and starring Japan’s hottest actor (and Rising Star honoree) Go Ayano as his country’s most corrupt police detective. The Centerpiece Gala is the North American Premiere of Ralston Jover’s Hamog (Haze), an empowering, thrilling and impassioned tale of a gang of street kids, headlined by (Rising Star honoree) Teri Malvar.
Closing Night is the International Premiere of Adam Tsuei’s The Tenants Downstairs. Based on a screenplay and story by former NYAFF guest Giddens Ko (You Are the Apple of My Eye), the blackly comic, sexually explicit thriller features Simon Yam as a landlord spying on and manipulating the lives of his tenants.
Faithful to its Chinatown roots and central to its lineup, the festival will feature a Hong Kong Panorama, showcasing the most innovative films from the Special Administrative Region, with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York. From a coming-of-age drama about high-school girls who become involved in the sex trade (Lazy Hazy Crazy), to a feel-good baseball movie set within Hong Kong’s public-housing system (Weeds on Fire), to a hard-boiled gangster omnibus (the Johnnie To–produced Triviṣa), these films are revitalizing local genre staples with a fresh spin. The program also includes Nick Cheung’s Keeper of Darkness, Herman Yau’s The Mobfathers, and Adam Wong’s She Remembers, He Forgets.
The South Korean Cinema lineup includes a vibrant mix of thrillers (both supernatural and surreal) from first- and second-time directors that are daring twists on genre films (Alone, The Boys Who Cried Wolf, and The Priests), and insightful art-house dramas focusing on social issues from established directors (Jung Ji-woo’s Fourth Place about how much we demand from the next generation, and E J-yong’s The Bacchus Lady about the plight of the country’s abandoned elderly). In co-presentation with the Korean Movie Night New York Master Series, NYAFF will feature the two latest films by Lee Joon-ik, who will attend screenings of Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (with producer and screenwriter Shin Yeon-shick) and The Throne. Together with Lee Jong-pil’s The Sound of a Flower, the triptych examines the scars of South Korea’s troubled history.
NYAFF’s Taiwan Cinema Now! section defies genres with first films by new directors Adam Tsuei (The Tenants Downstairs), Vic Cheng (The Tag-Along), and Lee Chung (The Laundryman) that expand the horizons of the island’s genre cinema. The section, presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, is completed by two powerful dramas from established filmmakers Tom Lin (Zinnia Flower) and Cheng Wen-tang (Maverick) that explore loss and redemption.
Southeast Asian Cinema receives greater focus this year, reflecting how the region is making some of the world’s most innovative films. Highlights include the Tamil-language Jagat (Brutal) from Malaysia, the acutely observed Heart Attack from Thailand, and empowering youth noir Haze (Hamog) from the Philippines. Proving that stars from the region are just as glamorous and talented as their Northern neighbors, we are joined by John Lloyd Cruz, Teri Malvar, Sid Lucero, Gwen Zamora, and Annicka Dolonius (stars of the Philippines’ sensuous surfing drama Apocalypse Child), and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk (from the social-media slasher flick Grace).
Special screenings include a full day of films on July 4 from noon until midnight celebrating the indie spirit of Hong Kong cinema. The day will conclude with the hotly anticipated 10 Years, winner of Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards, which examines life in Hong Kong in an imaginary future when Cantonese is a second-class language and where the island has completely fallen under Mainland control. Special screenings also include a Founding Fathers Tribute, a focus on the favorite films of the festival’s programmers, from Michael Arias’s madcap animated feature Tekkonkinkreet to Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Pang Ho-cheung’s Love in the Buff starring Miriam Yeung, alongside a Surprise Screening of a contemporary classic that holds special significance to the founders of NYAFF.
The 2016 Star Asia Awards honorees are Hong Kong’s Miriam Yeung, the Philippines’ John Lloyd Cruz, and South Korea’s Lee Byung-hun, and all three box-office mega-stars will be in New York in person to discuss their newest films and their careers. Yeung, whose charismatic girl-next-door persona epitomizes the anything-is-possible spirit of Hong Kong, stars in in Adam Wong’s romantic drama She Remembers, He Forgets. The film is her return to the screen after headlining the biggest local hit of 2015, Little Big Master. Cruz, the Philippines’ most popular movie star, who broke box-office records in last year’s romantic drama Second Chance, transforms his image as a father who will do anything in festival selection Honor Thy Father,a powerful crime epic from Erik Matti. Lee, South Korean cinema’s leading man and one of the few to successfully cross over to Hollywood, stars in Inside Men, Woo Min-ho’s takedown of the corruption at the heart of South Korea’s institutions. Lee has been seen in multiple blockbuster action franchises (G.I. Joe, Red 2, Terminator Genisys), is best known for South Korean films The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I Saw the Devil, and Bittersweet Life (by Kim Jee-woon); as well as the tormented soldier in Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area and the lowlife-turned-king in Choo Chang-min’s Masquerade.
In addition to the Star Asia Awards, previously announced award recipients include:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Iwai Shunji. The first Japanese recipient of the award, he will present his three cinematic epics—Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001), and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016), also starring Ayano—during the festival’s opening weekend. Iwai has proven himself one of Asia’s most influential filmmakers since his mid-1990s Undo, Picnic, and Love Letter. He is recognized for capturing the spirit of the times, and stretching the cinematic language of Asian cinema. Despite his early successes, he has continued to reinvent himself, recently directing his first animated feature.
Screen International Rising Star Asia Awards – China’s Jelly Lin, Japan’s Ayano Go, and the Philippines’ Teri Malvar. Lin made a powerful debut this year, showcasing her natural comedic skills in Stephen Chow’s fish-out-of-water tale (China’s highest-grossing film) The Mermaid; 15-year-old Malvar has already proven herself one of Asia’s most naturally gifted actresses, and stars in festival selection Hamog (Haze), in which her violent street kid character is kidnapped into a twisted household to work as its maid; and Ayano, Japan’s hottest actor of 2016 is being recognized for his chameleon-like range, stars in two of the festival’s key films, Twisted Justice and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle.
Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema – Yue Song. The Chinese actor, director, and stunt choreographer will be honored for his old-school, balls-to-the-wall instant-classic kung-fu flick The Bodyguard. Yue found fame online by uploading action-packed training videos and short films that became cult hits in China, before making his first feature King of the Street. His new film has found a natural home in our anniversary edition.
FULL LINEUP (51):
The Bodyguard (dir. Yue Song, 2016)*
Mr. Six (dir. Guan Hu, 2015)
Saving Mr. Wu (dir. Ding Sheng, 2015)
What’s in the Darkness (dir. Wang Yichun, 2016)*
HONG KONG PANORAMA (9):
The Bodyguard (dir. Sammo Hung, 2016)
Keeper of Darkness (dir. Nick Cheung, 2015)
Lazy Hazy Crazy (dir. Luk Yee-sum, 2015)
Love in the Buff (dir. Pang Ho-cheung, 2012)
The Mermaid (dir. Stephen Chow, 2016)*
The Mobfathers (dir. Herman Yau, 2016) w/short Killer and Undercover (dir. Lau Ho-Leung, 2016)
She Remembers, He Forgets (dir. Adam Wong, 2015)*
Triviṣa (dirs. Frank Hui, Jevons Au & Vicky Wong, 2016) *
Weeds on Fire (dir. Chan Chi-fat, 2016)
HONG KONG SPECIAL SCREENING (1):
10 Years (dirs. Kwok Zune, Chow Kwun-wai, Jevons Au, Ng Ka-leung & Wong Fei-pang, 2015)*
All About Lily Chou-Chou (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2001)*
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (dir. Iwai Shunji, 2016)*
Creepy (dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016)
Hentai Kamen 2: The Abnormal Crisis (dir. Yuichi Fukuda, 2016)
Kiyamachi Daruma (dir. Hideo Sakaki, 2015)
Miss Hokusai (dir. Keiichi Hara, 2015)
Swallowtail Butterfly (dir. Iwai Shunji, 1996)*
Tekkonkinkreet (dir. Michael Arias, 2006)*
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
Twisted Justice (dir. Kazuya Shiraishi, 2016)
What a Wonderful Family! (Yoji Yamada, 2016)
SOUTH KOREA (11):
Alone (dir. Park Hong-min, 2015)
The Bacchus Lady (dir. E J-yong, 2016)
The Boys Who Cried Wolf (dir. Kim Jin-hwang, 2015)*
Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet (dir. Lee Joon-ik, 2016)*
Fourth Place (dir. Jung Ji-woo, 2015)
Inside Men (dir. Woo Min-ho, 2015)*
The Priests (dir. Jang Jae-hyun, 2015)
Seoul Station (dir. Yeon Sang-ho, 2015)
The Sound of a Flower (dir. Lee Jong-pil, 2015)
The Throne (dir. Lee Joon-ik, 2015)*
A Violent Prosecutor (dir. Lee Il-hyeong, 2016)
SOUTHEAST ASIA (7)
Apocalypse Child (dir. Mario Cornejo, 2015)*
Grace (dirs. Ornusa Donsawai & Pun Homchuen, 2016)*
Hamog (Haze) (dir. Ralston Jover, 2015)*
Heart Attack (dir. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 2015)
Honor Thy Father (dir. Erik Matti, 2015)*
Jagat (Brutal) (dir. Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, 2015)*
Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (dir. Victor Vu, 2015)
The Laundryman (dir. Lee Chung, 2015)
Maverick (dir. Cheng Wen-tang, 2015)
The Tag-Along (dir. Cheng Wei-hao, 2015)
The Tenants Downstairs (dir. Adam Tsuei, 2016)*
Zinnia Flower (dir. Tom Lin, 2015)