After almost two years of not having proper film festivals in London, life in the capital is slowly coming back to normal, allowing many events to take place. Following the chaos caused by the pandemic, I have come to one conclusion: I can’t imagine my life without film festivals. Yes, it can get extremely busy at festivals, nevertheless, I enjoy the fact that film events create a space for people to show off their unique taste in films. However, the main reason that draws me to specific film festivals is that many unknown productions, such as documentaries and foreign films, might never get distribution or be shown in local cinemas.
Asian film festivals have always been on top of my list, and that includes the London East Asia Film Festival that will take place between the 21st to the 31st October. This year’s event will screen 34 films and although they are down from 60 films pre-pandemic times, the festival’s programme is still interesting and worth checking out.
Image (Raging Fire) © Courtesy of LEAFF
Raging Fire, by the late Benny Chan, will open the 6th edition of the festival at the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square. Screen titles include 18 UK Premiers, 5 European Premiers and 2 International Premiers from Hong Kong, Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea and many more. Other premieres will take place at ODEON Luxe West End, The Cinema at Selfridges and The Chiswick Cinema.
The London East Asia Film Festival will close with Spiritwalker, a South Korean body-swapping thriller directed by Yoon Jae-geun and starring Yoon Kye-sang. Recently, the film received the Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.
No cinema or movie club can provide the audience with an accumulation of cinematic goodness as much as film festivals do. Although the press doesn’t have to stress itself out when it comes to getting tickets to the screenings, I still developed an action strategy in advance, armed with the festival programme and a watch, I like to use the LEAFF time to the maximum.
Image (Spiritwalker) © Courtesy of LEAFF
The London East Asia Film Festival will present titles from Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s cultural drama Introduction as well as Chung Mong-Hong’s The Falls, an ancestral drama from Taiwan. The audience will also be able to see the most anticipated East Asian films, including Chen Yu-Hsun’s My Missing Valentine, a beautifully told story that will touch one’s heart. Zokki, a collaborative directorial debut of Japanese actors Takumi Saito, Naoto Takenaka and Takayuki Yamada, and Cho Jung-rae’s historical musical, The Singer, will also have their premiere at the festival.
LEAFF’s Competition strand is devoted to spotlighting up-and-coming talent from the East Asia region, all of whom have made three features or less. This year, 12 films will compete for the coveted LEAFF Awards in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor. They will be judged by a panel of jury members consisting of the former Art Director of the Edinburgh Festival, Hannah McGill, the established film critic, Damon Wise, and former editor of the Sight and Sound magazine, Nick James. This year’s competitors include Kōbe-born Yujiro Harumoto’s dramatic sophomore feature A Balance, Whether the Weather is Fine by Filipino filmmaker and editor Carlo Francisco Manatad, and Wan Chi-Man’s timely and touching story of Hong Kong’s par-athlete So Wa Wai, Zero to Hero.
Image (Sasaki In My Mind) © Courtesy of LEAFF
Hong Kong Focus consists of 10 films, including Alan Fung’s Elisa’s Day, Soi Cheang’s Limbo and Kin Long Chan’s heart-warming triad film Hand Rolled Cigarette. To those who prefer documentaries, Lim Chung-Man’s Keep Rolling, a deeply personal and touching dive into the mind of one of the leading figures of the Hong Kong New Wave, Ann Hui, might catch one’s interest. In addition, Ian Thomas Ash’s Ushiku, an exposé on Japanese immigration, depicts everything from staunch journalism to intimate portraits of its subjects.
Three classics from renowned auteurs are restored in the festival’s retrospective programme to form a cinematic triptych of East Asia, paying tribute to some of the world’s finest filmmaking. LEAFF will present A Moment of Romance (1990) by Benny Chan. Meanwhile, Youn Yuh-jung’s ground-breaking Oscar and BAFTA win this year will be celebrated through her breakthrough role in Kim Ki-young’s psychodrama Woman of Fire (1971). And to mark the 21st year of Edward Yang’s Best Director win at the Cannes Film Festival, LEAFF will show his New Wave classic Taipei Story, which completes the Retrospective strand.
As the Festival Director, Hyejung Jeon said “LEAFF’s mission has been to champion the vibrant creativity of East Asian cinema with our loyal audience. Navigating the pandemic, we are coming back stronger than ever with a vital and exciting line-up from directors new and established. After the past difficult year, our festival is a needed coming together for our diverse community and we are so excited to show such a moving, varied line programme for them to enjoy”.
For more information about the tickets and screenings go to the London East Asia Film Festival’s website.
Image (A Leg) © Courtesy of LEAFF
BACK TO THE WHARF (风平浪静) Dir. Xiaofeng Li
PISTOL (手枪) Dir. LV Huizhou
STARS AWAIT US (蓝色列车) Dir. Zhang Dalei
A MOMENT OF ROMANCE (天若有情) Dir. Benny Chan
ELISA’S DAY (滄海遺愛) Dir. Alan Fung
HAND ROLLED CIGARETTE (手捲煙) Dir. Chan Kin-long
JUST 1 DAY (給我1天) Dir. Erica Li
KEEP ROLLING (好好拍電影) Dir. Lim Chung-man
LIMBO (智齒) Dir. Soi Cheang
RAGING FIRE (怒火) Dir. Benny Chan
SUGAR STREET STUDIO (糖街製片廠) Dir. Sunny Lau
TIME (殺出個黃昏) Dir. Ricky Ko
ZERO TO HERO (媽媽的神奇小子) Dir. Chi-Man Wan
A BALANCE (由宇子的天秤) Dir. Yujiro Harumoto
SASAKI IN MY MIND (佐々木、イン、マイマイン) Dir. Uchiyama Takuya
USHIKU (牛久) Dir. Ian Thomas Ash
ZOKKI (ゾッキ) Dir. Takumi Saitoh, Naoto Takenaka, Takayuki Yamada
WHETHER THE WEATHER IS FINE (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon) Dir. Carlo Francisco Manatad
THE PRAYER (간호중) Dir. Min Kyu-dong
AREUM MARRIED (박강아름 결혼하다) Dir. Areum Parkkang
INTRODUCTION (인트로덕션) Dir. Hong Sang-soo
JIKIJI ROUTE ; TERRA INCOGNITA (직지루트; 테라 인코그니타) Dir. Woo Kwang-hoon
NOT OUT (낫아웃) Dir. Jung-gon Lee
THE SINGER (소리꾼) Dir. Cho Jung-rae
SPIRITWALKER (유체이탈자) Dir. Yoon Jae-keun
WOMAN OF FIRE (화녀) Dir. Kim Ki-young
A LEG (腿) Dir. Yao-sheng Chang
THE FALLS (瀑布) Dir. Chung Mong-Hong
MY MISSING VALENTINE (消失的情人節) Dir. Yu-Hsun Chen
THE SILENT FOREST (無聲) Dir. Chien-Nien Ko
TAIPEI STORY (青梅竹馬) Dir. Edward Yang
THE CON-HEARTIST (อ้าย..คนหล่อลวง) Dir. Mez Tharatorn
ROM (Ròm) Dir. Tran Thanh Huy
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