10th Annual New York Asian Film Festival Preview


For ten years, Subway Cinema has been presenting the best of Asian cinema for two weeks of mayhem to some of the rowdiest moviegoing crowds in New York City, and for the 10th Anniversary of the New York Asian Film Festival (aka NYAFF), they’re pulling out all the stops with one of their biggest programs ever, showcasing 46 film from all over the Far East. Once again, the festival will be pulling double duties with screenings at the Film Society of Lincoln Center‘s Walter Reade Theater followed by screenings in partnership with the Japan Society‘s “Japan Cuts” program.

This year’s festival kicks off on Friday night, July 1, with the Opening Night Selection, Yoshimasa Ishibashi’s Milocrorze: A Love Story, dubbed a “bizarro musical/variety/ samurai/love story” with actor Takayuki Yamada playing three roles, two of them involved with the title character who breaks the hearts of all the men she meets. Both Ishibashi and Ms. Yamada will be in attendance, which is par for the course for a festival that’s responsible for bringing some of Asia’s top creators to New York every year.

The big news is that this year’s festival will hold the World Premiere of Takashi Miike’s latest movie Ninja Kids!!!, which is another big budget kids’ film in the vein of The Great Yokai War, which played at the New York Asian Film Festival a few years back. Miike’s most recent film 13 Assassins will also be screening as a special “Director’s Cut” with 20 extra minutes that hasn’t been seen theatrically at least in this hemisphere.

Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Nicolas Tse–all NYAFF veterans–star in Benny Chan’s Shaolin, telling a story set within the 1,500 year old martial arts training shrine has produced fighting monks seen in dozens of martial arts films over the years. It will have its North American Premiere on Saturday night before its theatrical release in early September.

Anime fans will probably want to check out Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha: The Great Departure, the latest adaptation of the works of “The Godfather of Anime” and creator of the likes of Astro Boy. This is the first of a trilogy adapting Tezuka’s 8-volume manga based on the life of Buddha, produced by his production company, and it’s sure to be one of this year’s “can’t miss” movies as it makes its North American Premiere.

Hong Kong director Tsui Hark is at the center of a mini-retrospective of his earlier films including Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain from 1983, 1992’s Dragon Inn, and 1995’s The Blade, presumably all with new prints. In September, his new movie Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame will be getting a theatrical release fresh off its presence at the Tribeca Film Festival. It stars Andy Lau as the title character investigating a series at murders surrounding the coronation of a new empress.

Mainland China doesn’t have a lot of offerings this year, but they do have Ocean Heaven, which reteams Jet Li with Hero cinematographer Christopher Doyle for a dramatic film in which Li plays the father of a grown-up autistic son. We’ve also heard good things about Li Yu’s Buddha Mountain about three slackers who answer an ad for a prudish Peking Opera star (Sylvia Chang).

South Korea is being showcased again this year with a lot of great new movies, and there probably will be quite a bit of excitement for the festival’s Closing Night Selection, The Yellow Sea, the latest movie from Na Hong-Jin, director of The Chaser (which will also screen during the festival.) The filmmaker reunited with the stars of that classic action thriller for his new movie about a gambling cabbie who is framed to take a fall, and he’ll be coming to New York to answer questions about both movies. Likewise, director Ryoo Seung-Wan will be there in person to present his latest film The Unjust as well as his 2005 action movie City of Violence, as well as appearing as the producer of Kwon Hyeok-Jae’s Troubleshooter, a fantastic action-thriller that’s one of the few movies we’ve already seen.

The New York Asian Film Festival is also one of the year’s best showcases for what we can only dub “weird @$$ sh*t” which it has a-plenty with everything from Karate-Robo Zaborgar to Jun Tsugita’s Horny House of Horror, something called Foxy Festival to BTS: Better than Sex, the first two are from Japan, and the latter two are from Korea and Taiwan, respectively. You’ll have to read the descriptions to see if any of these three are for you.

The festival favorite documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed! from the filmmakers behind Not Quite Hollywood focuses on the Filipino exploitation movie scene with one of those movies 1982’s Raw Force screening as part of a double feature on Saturday night, July 2.

Being the 10th Anniversary, you also can expect a lot of great movies from past years with repertory screenings of Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus and Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, two of Japan’s best loved genre films.

If you’re in New York City for the 4th of July weekend or over the next two weeks, there’s a lot worse things you can do than to check out what this year’s New York Asian Film Festival has to offer as it runs from July 1 to 14. We know that we’ll be trying to get up to the Walter Reade as much as possible, so we hope to see some of you there. You can see the full line-up of movies here and get tickets on FilmLinc and at the Japan Society.