The New York Asian Film Festival 2020 launches on August 28th and runs until September 12th and there are around 51 films programmed with 8 from Japan.
The festival, like many others, will deliver its to audiences films via the internet rather than through any physical screenings and the fest is only open to people in America. The method of watching the films is via an app called Smart Cinema which can be installed on smartphones and tablets. This means that people have the chance to watch the films safely in the comfort of their own homes.
As of writing, there is no indication of any Q&As or introductions but there are a LOT of films for people to enjoy. I will highlight the Japanese films and a range of other titles that I have covered at the Osaka Asian Film Festival (OAFF) so, hopefully, it can help you when you are making a choice about what to watch.
What are the films programmed?
Release Date: March 07th, 2020
Duration: 80 mins.
Director: Rae Red
Writer: Rae Red (Script),
Starring: Janine Gutierrez, Elijah Canlas, Felix Roco, JC Santos,
Rae Red was introduced to the world through co-writing Birdshot (2017) with her cousin Mikhail Red. Since then, she has quickly accrued projects, collaborating with Mikhail on the scripts for his features Neomanila (2017) and Eerie (2018). The Girl with the Gun is her solo directorial debut and it displays a distinctive style that marks her out as a director of immense talent and vision as she delivers a highly stylised and smart neo-noir/anatomy of a violent culture.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City is a place where the atmosphere reeks of squalor, poverty and danger. We follow the titular girl (Janine Gutierrez), whom we never get a name for, who has to endure financial hardship and harassment until, one day, she is assaulted. Humiliated and dejected, she is at her lowest ebb when she discovers a snub nosed pistol with a heart sticker discarded in the street following a shooting. A sudden transformation overtakes the girl. Fear morphs into righteous anger as the gun allows her to turn the tables on the men who harass her and the girl becomes like an avenging angel tackling the worst stereotypical masculine behaviour and then the film switches from the girl’s storyline to the history of the gun, from its creation and use by agents of the government against student activists in the 1980s before broadening out into a wider class-critique where the affects of violence are seen on young street kids who meet various, grisly fates.
宮本から君へ 「Miyamoto kara Kimi e」
Release Date: September 27th, 2019
Duration: 129 mins.
Director: Tetsuya Mariko
Writer: Tetsuya Mariko, Takehiko Minato (Screenplay), Hideki Arai (Manga)
Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Yu Aoi, Arata Iura, Kenichi Matsuyama, Tokio Emoto, Kanji Furutachi, Jiro Sato, Pierre Taki,
This is based on a manga by Hideki Arai which was published from 1990 to 1994. It was turned into a television show and now has this movie spin-off with a selection of great actors orbiting Yu Aoi whose strong acting is really attracting attention these days.
Here’s my review
Synopsis: Hiroshi Miyamoto (Sosuke Ikematsu) has a job at a stationery company as a salesman. He’s not very good since he is clumsy and has no idea what he wants to do with his life but he is also a nice guy with a sense of justice which is part of what attracts an older lady named Yasuko Nakano (Yu Aoi) to him. The two fall for each other but their romance will face challenges…
Release Date: November 08th, 2019
Duration: 123 mins.
Director: Kazuya Shiraishi
Writer: Izumi Takahashi (Screenplay),
Starring: Takeru Satoh, Ryohei Suzuki, Mayu Matsuoka, Yuko Tanaka, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Mariko Tsutsui, Hanae Kan, Megumi,
Here’s my review
Synopsis: Koharu (Yuko Tanaka), in an effort to free herself and her three children from their abusive father, murdered the man. It was an act that was supposed to set them free but it trapped them in a vicious circle of shame and self-loathing. 15 years later, the family reunites again, each bearing scars from their traumatic background that have made their dreams go sour. Yuji (Takeru Satoh) is a hack writer for a tabloid, Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki) struggles to be a family man while Sonoko (Mayu Matsuoka) couldn’t make it as a hairstylist and became a call-girl. Koharu and her family have to navigate this damaging history…
Release Date: February 14th, 2020
Duration: 134 mins.
Director: Keishi Otomo
Writer: Shinsuke Numata (Story)
Starring: Gou Ayano, Ryuhei Matsuda, Mariko Tsutsui, Tomoya Nakamura, Ken Yasuda, Jun Kunimura,
Keishi Otomo has a 30-year career in TV and movies with NHK dramas on his filmography as well as being the director of big action films like the Rurouni Kenshin and Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno. This drama is based on the 2017 Akutagawa Prizewinner “Eiri,” and is set in the director’s hometown of Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, both before and after the 3/11 tragedy.
You can read more about it at a screening that took place at the Foreign Corespondents Club of Japan.
Here’s my review
Synopsis: Shuichi Konno (Gou Ayano) is transferred by his pharmaceutical company to Morioka in Iawate. He falls in with another 30-something guy named Norihiro Hiasa (Ryuhei Matsuda) and the two seemingly become best buds who do everything together, particularly fishing, but when Hiasa quits the job, the two drift apart and Hiasa disappears. Then, half a year, he shows up with an odd request for Konno to buy a policy before disappearing in the 3/11 disaster. Konno goes looking for him and discovers he didn’t really know his friend at all…
喜劇 愛妻物語 「Kigeki Aisai Monogatari」
Release Date: September 11th, 2020
Duration: 115 mins.
Director: Shin Adachi
Writer: Shin Adachi (Screenplay/Novel)
Starring: Gaku Hamada, Asami Mizukawa, Chise Niitsu, Eri Fuse, Kaho, Kayoko Ookubo, Ken Mitsuishi,
Shin Adachi is best known for his script for 100 Yen Love (2014) and has worked on other projects, including directing a warmly received comedy 14 That Night (2016). He adapts his autobiographical novel for his sophomore film as a director and it was produced by Aoi Pro, whose works include Shoplifters (2018) and The Long Excuse (2016). This won Best Screenplay at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Gota Yanagida (Gaku Hamada) is a scriptwriter with a family and a desperate need for a hit film. His wife of 10 years, Chika (Asami Mizukawa), is the family breadwinner and very unhappy about their lack of money. His daughter Aki (Chise Niitsu) is beginning to view him as a bit of a loser. His desperation for a break is finally answered when a film producer tasks Gota with writing a screenplay for his story of “a high school girl who makes udon noodles at a tremendous speed”. Gota has a chance to travel to Kagawa Prefecture to write a screenplay and so he persuades Chika and Aki to go with him, but when he arrives he discovers a different film project has already been decided…
太陽の家 「Taiyou no Ie」
Release Date: January 17th, 2020
Duration: 123 mins.
Director: Hajime Gonno
Writer: Itaru Era (Script)
Starring: Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi, Naoko Iijima, Mayu Yamaguchi, Yunho, Shinya Ueda, Eita Nagayama, Ryoko Hirosue,
Hajime Gonno has made a career as a director of bad boy movies like Gachiban and Aragure. He teams up with singer-songwriter-actor-poet-human-rights advocate Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi (Wikipedia page).
Synopsis: He make look rough but Shingo Kawasaki (Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi) is a skilled carpenter and skilled in understanding people. He takes an interest in an insurance company saleswoman named Mei Ikeda (Ryoko Hirosue). She is a single mother living with her son Ryusei (Yunho). Kawasaki figures he can be something of a father figure and support Mei by building a house for them but when Mei’s ex appears…
ダンシング・マリー 「Danshingu Mari-」
Release Date: N/A
Duration: 105 mins.
Writer: SABU (Script)
Starring: EXILE NAOTO, Aina Yamada, Ryo Ishibashi
Following on from jam (2018), SABU continues his collaboration with LDH production, the parent company of which manages the Gekidan EXILE group, whereby members from that group take roles in the films made. This one features EXILE Naoto, model-turned-actress Aina Yamada and musician-turned-actor Ryo Ishibashi (he who picked the wrong girl in Audition) in a love fantasy film with some yakuza action. It is based on an original script and was filmed in Kitakyushu, Tokyo and Taiwan.
Here’s my review
Synopsis: Kenji (EXILE Naoto) is a civil servant taking part in the creation of a gigantic shopping centre. When Kenji is assigned the task of overseeing the demolition of an old dance hall he discovers his job becomes impossible because some mysterious force stops every attempt. Turns out that the place is cursed so Kenji turns to a young woman who is a medium who can grant him access to the spirit world of spirits. But ghosts may be the least of his problems because the local yakuza clan gets involved…
許された子どもたち「Yurusa reta kodomotachi」
Release Date: June 01st, 2020
Duration: 131 mins.
Director: Eisuke Naito
Writer: Eisuke Naito, Tetsuo Yamagata (Script),
Starring: Yu Uemura, Yoshi Kuroiwa, Takuya Abe, Akana Ikeda, Yukino Nagura,
Eisuke Naito has come a long way from Puzzle (which also stars Kaho) with a filmography full of titles looking at delinquent kids like Liverleaf and this one looks pretty bleak as he looks at the death of a child from the perspective of children, their parents and the mediastorm around them.
Synopsis: Kira Ichikawa is the leader of a group of high school delinquents who take their bullying of their classmate Isuki Kuramochi too far when they accidentally kill the boy with a crossbow. The case is a nationwide scandal but due to a lack of evidence, Kira gets off with the crime. A backlash ensues that swallows up both the children and the adults…
ある船頭の話 「Aru sendou no hanashi」
Release Date: September 13th, 2019
Duration: 137 mins.
Director: Joe Odagiri
Writer: Joe Odagiri (Screenplay),
Starring: Akira Emoto, Ririka Kawashima, Nijiro Murakami, Masatoshi Nagase, Haruomi Hosono, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mitsuko Kusabue, Isao Hashizume,
This is Joe (Mushishi, Adrift in Tokyo) Odagiri’s sophomore feature film as a director and he has hired a good team in getting Christopher Doyle – Wong Kar-Wai’s frequent collaborator – working cinematography and Emi Wada designing costumes – she won an Oscar for her costuming on Akira Kurosawa’s epic Ran and is responsible for costumes in lush historical dramas such as Samurai Marathon 1855, Hero, Gohatto, and House of Flying Daggers.
Synopsis: Toichi is a boatman who ferries people across a river. Despite ferrying people across, the only person he really communicates with is his young neighbour Genzo. When a large bridge is begins to be constructed to help people cross the river it looks like Toichi will be made redundant but then he meets a mysterious young girl who appears to be an orphan. Toichi takes her in and from that moment, his life begins to change…
Films From Elsewhere
Release Date: 2020
Duration: 108 mins.
Director: Teddy Chin
Writer: Ryan Tu (Script),
Starring: Lee Lee-zen, Ruby Lin, Jack Tan, Keshap Suria, Tou Kyzer,
Miss Andy is a film about unrelenting hope in circumstances filled with loneliness and despair as a transgender person seeks some understanding and companionship in an ignorant and unforgiving world. A Malaysian-Taiwanese co-production, it was directed by Teddy Chin, a director, actor and screenwriter. He turns in a handsomely lensed film with some melodrama.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Set in modern-day Malaysia, Evon (Lee Lee-zen), formerly known as Andy, is struggling through a desperate period in her life as she is ostracised by others, including her own family, and her best friend dies in violent circumstances. Alone in the world she makes a connection with people in even more desperate circumstances, a Vietnamese illegal immigrant who goes by the name of Sophia (Ruby Lin) and her cute boy named Kang (Tou Kyzer). The two are fleeing a violent relationship and haven’t got a place to stay, food to eat or any citizenship papers which means they are desperate for Evon’s help and he is eager to help.
Release Date: June 30th, 2019
Duration: 90 mins.
Director: Hsieh Pei-ju
Writer: Hsieh Pei-ju (Script),
Starring: Tsai Jia-Yin, Samantha Ko, Yao Chang, Chang En-Wei, Lai Lene, Hsieh Tsu-wu,
One woman’s battle to lose fat forms the basis of this heavy drama that comes as a shock as it is wrapped with some light comedy. It deals with the weight of societal expectations on the physical appearance of people and doesn’t shy away from showing had badly hurt people feel. Lead actress Tsai Jia-yin gives a really compelling and heartfelt performance.
It was directed by Hsieh Pei-ju who earned her MFA in film directing at Columbia University and was one of the directors selected for Ten Years Taiwan. Her feature debut, Heavy Craving won Best New Talent at the Taipei Film Awards and the Audience Choice Award at Taipei Film Festival’s International New Talent Competition.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Ying-juan (Tsai Jia-yin) is a slightly larger lady who struggles with how she looks and feels about herself. She lives and works with her athletic, high-achieving mother (Samantha Ko) who runs the day care centre Ying-juan is the cook for. Brow-beaten and shamed into joining a weight-loss programme, she gains some impetus to do her best when she meets a handsome deliveryman named Wu (Chang Yao-jen) but the difficulty in losing weight and the constant shaming wear her down until she can take it no more…
Release Date: November 17th, 2019
Duration: 92 mins.
Director: Norris Wong
Writer: Norris Wong (Script),
Starring: Stephy Tang, Chu Pak-hon, Jin Kaijie, Paw Hee-ching , Hailey Chan, Eman Lam, Hui So-Ying, Creamy Yick,
My Prince Edward is largely set in Golden Plaza, a Hong Kong shopping mall best known for bridal shops and cheap wedding supplies. It turns out it becomes an ironic setting for a film where a feckless woman who has spent her life reacting or being passive to the whims of others is forced to take responsibility for herself when her boyfriend and mother-in-law try to maneuver her into a wedding she is not entirely sold on.
Norris Wong received an MFA in Film Production from Hong Kong Baptist University in 2012 and went on to write and direct Fall, which was screened at the Far East Film Festival and won Best Script at the 2013 Hong Kong Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival. My Prince Edward is her feature debut and it earned three Golden Horse nominations, including best new director and best leading actor.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Cheung Lei-fong (Stephy Tang) works as a clerk at one of the bridal shops run by her best friend’s mother, while her boyfriend Edward (Chu Pak-hon) is the owner of a wedding photography shop. Their relationship has lasted seven years but seems to be one of convenience for Lei-fong, allowing her to live independently of her controlling family back home. This indifference has turned into a trap as Edward is possessive and his mother is interfering. Lei-fong’s situation is about to get more restrictive when Edward pops the question in front of everyone. His proposal poses two problems for her:
- She is already married because she took part in a scam to get a guy from mainland China documentation to stay in Hong Kong,
- She doesn’t know if she wants to get married
Lei-fong searches for the mainlander to get a divorce whilst wrestling with her indecision over marriage.
찬실이는 복도 많지 「Chan-sil-i-neun Bok-do-man-ji」
Release Date: October 04th, 2019
Duration: 96 mins.
Director: Kim Cho-hee
Writer: Kim Cho-hee (Script),
Starring: Kang Mal-geum, Youn Yuh-jung, Kim Young-min, Yoon Seung-ah, Bae Yu-ram,
Director Kim Cho-hee has led an interesting life. After majoring in French literature in her undergraduate studies and film theory at Université de Paris, Panthéon Sorbonne for her master’s, from 2008 to 2015, she worked as producer for Hong Sang-soo on ten of his films. Lucky Chan-sil is her feature debut and it is a somewhat autobiographical movie based on her life experiences. It won both the KBS Independent Film and CGV Arthouse Award at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.
I really loved this movie. It’s full of wry comedy and existential angst with a charming performance from lead actress Kang Mal-geum.
Here’s my review.
Synopsis: Lee Chan-sil (Kang Mal-geum) is a forty-year-old indie movie producer who works with an auteur famous for a particular brand of cinema. When he dies suddenly during a party, this leaves Chan-sil unemployed and seemingly unemployable due to her narrow range of experience and this causes her to enter an existential crisis as she is forced to retreat to living in a cheap room run by a grumpy old woman (Youn Yuh-jung) and working as a cleaning lady for an irrepressibly cheerful actress named Susie (Yoon Seung-ah). However, a possible romance with a younger guy who is a part-time French teacher and indie film director offers her encouragement. As Chan-sil reorients herself, she works through her angst by looking back on her past while struggling to see into the future by cautiously taking on new opportunities which leads to some gentle comedy.
Past coverage of the festival: