London has always been home to various film festivals, from the prestigious BFI London Film Festival to the independent festivals like Raindance, the capital has never failed to entertain the public. Nevertheless, there aren’t many engaging events when it comes to Asian cinema, unless it focuses on one particular country. This year, however, a new and exciting festival is on its way: The London East Asia Film Festival, which will take place from 23 to 25 October 2015 at Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon Covent Garden, and Odeon Panton Street. The former Director of the London Korean Film Festival, Mrs Jeong Hye- jung along with Chris Fujiwara, the previous Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, have been working closely on organizing this unique and diverse film festival, which will include productions from Japan, South Korea, China, the Philippines and Hong Kong.
“This initial pre-launch of the new London East Asia Film Festival will offer a small and selective showcase of major titles” from aforementioned countries. The festival will open with the European premiere of Veteran by Ryoo Seung- wan, it is worth mentioning that the movie is currently the 3rd highest grossing film in Korean cinema history. The Opening Gala will welcome the director Ryoo Seung- wan and producer, Kang Hye- jung, who will introduce the film to the audience. SPL 2- A Time For Consequences, a Hong Kong/Chinese production, will close the LEAFF on Sunday, October 25th.
Apart from these two excellent productions, there will be a chance so see Kaili Blues, a Chinese movie by Bi Gan, Journey To The Shore, a Japanese romantic drama directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa; Violator, a contemporary psycho-horror from the Philippines; Office, a South Korean gripping thriller from Hong Won- chan and Chasuke’s Journey, a Japanese comedy directed by Sabu.
A couple of days ago, in the Corinthian Hotel in London, I had a chance to talk to Mrs Jeon Hye- jung about the LEAFF and her vision on what she would like to achieve through this festival.
I have always admired Mrs Jeon Hye- jung, as her passion for films and arts has no limits. She has always been ambitious to take on the difficult task of organising and coordinating film and art events to promote Korean culture. She is definitely one of the hardest working females I know of. I started off our conversation by asking Mrs Jeon Hye- jung about the LEAFF itself.
What prompted you to organize a new film festival?
As you know, I used to work for 9 years as the director of the London Korean Film Festival. This year, I made a plan that I really want to expand my knowledge about films, not only those from South Korea, but also different works from other Asian countries. It is valuable to broaden my knowledge about Asian films, and this would also allow me to expand my cultural awareness of the continent, and, through the art of film, I would like to share my knowledge with the audience.
You might be aware that there are few film festivals here in London, which screen Asian films, however, none of the festivals focus on it well enough. It might be difficult for the Western audience to understand Asian cinema if there are not enough movies out there. I want the LEAFF to deliver a better quality festival, where focusing on distinguished films from East Asia is the priority.
How long have you been working on this project for?
It’s been over 10 months, since January I have been thinking hard on how to organize the LEAFF. In February 2015, I travelled to the Berlin International Film Festival, where I met Chris Fuijwara. We had an interesting conversation while having lunch, I asked him just one question “shall we do an Asian film festival?” He immediately said yes, and that’s how it all started.
I also received precious advice from Roger Garcia, the Director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, Ji- seok Kim, a Chief Programmer at the Busan International Film Festival, and Simon Ward, the Deputy Director of the Independent Cinema Office. Having these three great minds advising me on my new project was, without a doubt, a great help. Unfortunately, this year we didn’t have enough time to make the LEAFF longer than three days, however, I am convinced that next year’s festival will be a lengthy one. We decided to present 7 films this year to give the audience a little bit of taste of what’s coming in 2016.
What will be the highlights of the LEAFF?
It is really hard to point out what the highlights will be, just because every film is unique in its own way. It is a very strong line up, I do hope that all the films would please the audience. We will have Veteran’s director attending the Opening Gala, and he will also participate in Q&A after the screening. As you can see it will be a very exciting evening for everyone.
What would you like for the audience to remember after attending the London East Asia Film Festival?
I hope the audience discover the distinction and individuality between different countries within East Asian when watching the films. I would like people to come to the festival, watch the films, and feel the stories. I’m certain that through the beauty of the films we could all learn how to understand each other’s cultures better.
We also talked about the current situation of the Korean and Chinese film industry and their mutual influence within the filmmaking business. South Korean films enjoyed a “Golden Age” during 1950s and 1960s. Since 2005 the country had become one of a few nations to watch more domestic than imported films in cinemas, but exporting their own films is another issue. Generally speaking the investments from mainland China, as well as collaborations “have been a win-win for both countries, but give the overheated expectation of the Chinese market, filmmakers from both sides of the border approach the future with caution”. I would love to write more about it, as it is a fascinating subject, however, it would have to be an essay.
With a heavy heart I had to end the interview with Mrs Hye -jung Jeon. We do hope everything goes well during the LEAFF and that the audience would enjoy this new and stirring film festival.
Tickets to the LEAFF are already on sale.
For more information on the festival, please visit http://www.leaff.org.uk/
Written by Maggie Gogler.
Edited by Roxy Simons.
Film posters courtesy of the films’ production companies.