NYAFF’s Opening Night presentation will be the North American Premiere of Philip Yung’s Port of Call. The film centers on the brutal murder of a 16-year-old Hunan girl who moves to Hong Kong with her family and falls into prostitution. Winding through time and grounded by Christopher Doyle’s gauzy cinematography, the film follows both the story of the young girl’s descent into sex work and the grizzled detective (Aaron Kwok) who obsessively works to solve the murder. Kwok is astonishing here in a career-best performance, with all the tics and haggard body language of a man beaten down by the violence that threatens to drown him at every turn.
The Centerpiece Presentation will be the North American premiere of Sabu’s Chasuke’s Journey, which was in Competition at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. According to Variety, the film finds “Sabu in his most fun-loving element, stirring Okinawa’s magical folk art into a Capraesque yarn that flirts with ideas of fate and self-determination, but really just revels in a rich tapestry of human experience. [The film is also] full of whimsical twists and high-octane action.”
The lineup also includes the World Premiere of Fire Lee’s black comedy Robbery; the International Premiere of Anh Sang-hoon’s erotic period actioner Empire of Lust; the North American Premieres of Chen Jiabin’s directorial debut A Fool, Daihachi Yoshida’s fantasy-drama Pale Moon, Lau Ho-leung’s action-comedy Two Thumbs Up, and Nobuhiro Yamashita’s slacker/rock drama La La La at Rock Bottom (previously announced); and the U.S. premiere of Yee Chih-yen’s high-school noir Meeting Dr. Sun. Other exciting highlights include Kulikar Sotho’s gorgeous meditation on Cambodia’s tragic Khmer Rouge past and its impact on the present, The Last Reel; Ryuichi Hiroki’s ensemble love-and-sex drama Kabukicho Love Hotel; Boo Ji-young’s superb labor-rights underdog drama Cart; and Sion Sono’s berserk rap musical Tokyo Tribe.
The 14th edition of the NYAFF will feature five focus programs: “Hong Kong Panorama”; “New Cinema from Japan”; “Taiwan Cinema Now!”; the previously announced “Myung Films: Pioneers and Women Behind the Camera in Korean Film”; and “The Last Men in Japanese Film,” a joint tribute to Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara, both of whom passed away last November.
Though the festival is traditionally rooted in genre film and faithful to popular cinema, NYAFF 2015 continues to feature ambitious pieces of realistic storytelling that delineate themes that unite, rather than isolate, the nations and their cinemas by suggesting what they have in common. The design of this year’s program is to look in both directions: the present and the controversial past, with the inclusion of a number of movies that cast an unblinking eye on the wounds of history (the Khmer Rouge in The Last Reel or the Cultural Revolution in Red Amnesia). In an age when nationalism has taken firm root in many East Asian countries and political control has spread far and wide, denying cinema its freedom and jeopardizing the existence of some of the most established festivals, this year’s lineup also offers emotional morality tales (Little Big Master, Cart, Socialphobia) and films that speak truth to power (The Whistleblower, Solomon’s Perjury Part 1 & 2, A Fool).
Women come to the fore with both a program highlighting directors and producers currently working behind the scenes in the Korean peninsula, and films from Japan that offer superb female portraits: defiant, fierce… free. The festival also celebrates the beauty of Asian masculinity on screen, with a tribute to the two iconic Japanese actors who set the blueprint for Japanese manhood and cool, praised beyond the archipelago’s borders—Ken Takakura’s death was widely lamented on Weibo (China’s most popular social-media site) and even on state-run China Central Television (CCTV).
After eight successful years of partnership with Japan Society’s Japan Cuts: Festival of New Japanese Films, this year’s diverse selection of Japanese films have been fully integrated with the rest of the Festival’s program, and SVA Theatre’s Silas and Beatrice Theatres has been added to the list of venues. With three days of screenings at the SVA Theatre (June 9-11), we are able to bring downtown audiences the biggest and boldest of Asian cinema’s grand spectacles—sensory feasts that deserve to be experienced on the silver screen (such as Brotherhood of Blades, The Royal Tailor, The Taking of Tiger Mountain 3D, and Vengeance of an Assassin).
In addition, five bold focus programs highlight East Asia’s crucial role in today’s ever-changing world of film. And at a time when many major film festivals are more Eurocentric and West-dominated than ever, NYAFF continues to show that the life of cinema is out there.
HONG KONG PANORAMA
Hong Kong cinema’s renewed confidence of the past couple of years shows no signs of abating in 2015. While leading Hong Kong filmmakers continue to deliver blockbusters in Mainland China (such as Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain 3D), there’s now even more variety in Hong Kong–focused films, as they continue to look for inspiration in the heydey of 1980s and 1990s local cinema, as evidenced by the crime-thriller Port of Call, the pulpy action-comedy Two Thumbs Up, and the touching contemporary drama Little Big Master. The city of Hong Kong also remains a popular filming location, and is also providing inspiration to Asian-American filmmakers, as can be seen in Emily Ting’s romance It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. This focus will include Full Strike, Insanity, It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Little Big Master, Port of Call, Robbery, The Taking of Tiger Mountain 3D, Two Thumbs Up, and retro screenings of City on Fire, Full Alert and Cold War.
Presented with the support of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York.
MYUNG FILMS: PIONEERS AND WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA IN KOREAN FILM
Korean cinema has been known internationally primarily through the works of a small group of male directors (Hong Sangsoo, Kim Ki-duk, Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, and others), but one of its key film production companies, Myung Films, is led by a woman: producer Shim Jae-myung. Myung Films has spearheaded the transformation of the Korean film culture and industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s by establishing new genres and discovering new talent. We are proud to showcase a couple of their recent productions (Cart and Revivre), as well as some of their masterworks (The President’s Last Bang, The Isle, and Waikiki Brothers) as part of a greater focus on women who work behind the scenes. Shim Jae-myung will be in attendance and will be joined by top female directors Yim Soon-rye (The Whistleblower) and Boo Ji-young (Cart), who are known for their uncompromising films dealing with issues of social justice. For these women behind the camera, it’s not just about standing up against patriarchy, oppression, or power but about telling stories of real people and real lives—struggling, folding and sometimes collapsing—perhaps showing that the human condition might be best expressed by women.
Presented with the support of the Korean Cultural Service New York.
Co-presented with The Korea Society.
NEW CINEMA FROM JAPAN
Japanese cinema continues to surprise with its consistent range and quality of adult stories and excels in its portrayals of female characters. This is certainly true of the works of award-winning filmmaker Daihachi Yoshida (Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers!, Pale Moon, Permanent Nobara). The imaginative genre exercises are also represented, and resplendently so with Sion Sono delivering the wild fun in spades with the hip-hop musical Tokyo Tribes, and the two-part crime mystery Solomon’s Perjury. This focus will consist of Chasuke’s Journey, Kabukicho Love Hotel, La La La at Rock Bottom, Solomon’s Perjury Part 1: Suspicion, Solomon’s Perjury Part 2: Judgement, Taksu, Tokyo Tribe, and a special spotlight on the award-winning filmmaker Daihachi Yoshida, consisting of Funuke, Show Some Love You Losers!, Pale Moon, and Permanent Nobara.
Presented with the support of Japan Foundation New York.
TAIWAN CINEMA NOW!
While Taiwan’s domestic film market is relatively small when compared to those of Mainland China, Japan, and South Korea, Taiwan’s creative talent continues to play a vital role in the context of Asian cinema by continuing to deliver smaller quirky local films with distinct Taiwanese flavor and strong appeal to local audiences and the international festival circuit, the latter of which will be highlighted in this focus. The films will include Café. Waiting. Love, Meeting Dr. Sun, Partners in Crime, and Second Chance.
Presented with the support of the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York.
THE LAST MEN IN JAPANESE FILM – A Ken Takakura/Bunta Sugawara Tribute
Japanese film legends Ken Takakura and Bunta Sugawara, both of whom passed away last November, will be the subject of the first joint tribute outside of Japan, which will feature the brand-new 2K remaster of Kinji Fukasaku’s 1973 classic Battles Without Honor and Humanity, screened for the first time in North America. Other titles will include Abashiri Prison, Cops vs. Thugs, The Man Who Stole the Sun, Nihon Kyokaku-den (Tales of Chivalry in Japan), and Wolves, Pigs and Men—all made with honor and humor by civilized craftsmen, in sharp contrast to prefabricated conveyor-belts products that have conquered Japanese screens.
In the same way that the archetype of American masculinity was defined by the post–World War II generation of tough-guy actors (James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood), “Ken-san” and “Bun-chan” have set the blueprint for what it meant to be a man in defeated postwar Japan. Their performances invented Japanese cool, decades before the government figured “cool” was a marketable concept for its soft power ambitions.
Presented with the support of Japan Foundation New York.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity co-presented with Arrow Video.
The 2015 New York Asian Film Festival Award Honorees
Previously announced NYAFF award recipients include Hong Kong’s legendary director Ringo Lam (Lifetime Achievement Award), Hong Kong superstar actor-singer Aaron Kwok (Star Asia Award), and Japanese actor Shota Sometani (Screen International Rising Star Award).
We’re deeply grateful for the support of our festival partners: the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York, the Korean Cultural Service New York, the Taipei Cultural Center of TECO in New York, The Korea Society, and Japan Foundation New York.
Subway Cinema receives generous year-round support from Kenneth A. Cowin Foundation.
We would also like to thank our sponsors: The Kitano Hotel, Hotel Beacon, Møsefund Farm, Manhattan Portage, Well Go USA Entertainment, Arrow Video, China Lion Film Distribution, Flaskingtree Marketing Group, Epic Proportions, Kirin, and Mizu Shochu; and our media partners: Screen International and Chopsticks NY.
Keep up with the latest festival news at: www.facebook.com/NYAFF, www.subwaycinema.com, twitter: @subwaycinema (#NYAFF15)
Tickets will go on sale on June 9 for Film Society Members and June 11 for general public, both at the box office and online. Discounts are available for Film Society members.