It’s that time of year again when T-shirts start to get sticky, humidity makes the air thick and rays from the sunshine intensify the already palpable heat of New York’s concrete jungle. Luckily one of the most enjoyable ways to cool down is checking out the diverse slate of genre-bending films from the Far East at the annual New York Asian Film Festival. Co-produced with Lincoln Center and the Japan Society, who runs a simultaneous festival Japan Cuts that focuses solely on Japanese films, the eclectic blend of diverse oddities showcases fantastic talent often not appreciated outside of their native countries. This year’s line-up is no different, offering up a bevy of never-before-seen North American premieres along with a handful of treasured cult classics. Mixing the high-flying kicks of Hong Kong martial arts flicks with the melodramatic crime dramas from Korea and the over-the-top horror from Japan, NYAFF has a wealth of material to entertain you when the Hollywood blockbusters just aren’t cutting it.
The choice of films from all the different countries provides a unique glimpse into a style of filmmaking that the majority of American audiences are unaware of. The festival kicks off with the Chinese erotic satire Vulgaria, by Pang Ho-cheung, which looks to offer a harsh critique of the current state of Hong Kong cinema while also being deliriously comedic. There is the North American premiere of Ace Attorney, the video game adaption of the popular Nintendo franchise directed by festival staple Takashi Miike. The Ip Man himself Donnie Yen will be live in attendance for a retrospective of his work including Peter Chan’s Wu Xia premiere, a fantastic martial arts parable that is a mix of A History of Violence with a dose of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Two festival alumni the comedic TV personality Hitoshi Matsumoto (Symbol) and the blacklisted bad boy Toshiaki Toyoda (Blood of Rebirth) return with follow up films Scabbard Samurai and the Ted Kaczynski inspired Monster’s Club. Kim Ji-Woon (I Saw the Devil) known for his bravado and distinct style delivers an omnibus film Doomsday Book that has been six years in the making. One of the coolest throwback screenings will be Park Chan-Wook’s acclaimed cult hit Oldboy with the main man himself Min-Sik Choi in attendance for a retrospective on this and some of his earlier films like Crying Fist. Some promising animated offerings are in the program as well including the Japanse horror tale Asura, the surreal apocalyptic Gyo and the Korean bullying drama The King of Pigs. This is just scratching the surface of the diverse genres and many different types of film, both old and new, that you can find at this years fest.
So whether you are a seasoned cinephile or someone just looking for something bold and bizarre, the New York Asian Film Festival has tons of cinematic gems waiting to be discovered. NYAFF runs from June 29th to July 15th with screenings split between Lincoln Center and Japan Society. Stay up to date with our coverage of selected films from the festival.
Will you be attending the NYAFF this year? What are you seeing?
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