Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021 Announces Opening/Closing Films

The key visual of OAFF 2021 is an original art by Vancouver-based cartoonist Marc Bell.

The Organisers of the Osaka Asian Film Festival have announced details of the 2021 edition. The top headlines are:

It is going ahead in two forms, one physical and one digital

  • On screen (OAFF 2021 programs in cinemas): March 5 – March 14
  • Online (Selected films from previous OAFF programs): February 28 – March 20

The screen programs will consist of the Competition, Indie Forum, and other sections and special programs dedicated to emerging trends in Asian cinema.

The Online Programs will have a rich selection of works that have been screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival in the past. These films will be available to rent for a limited time through VOD (video on demand) services via a streaming platform. The viewing period for these films is from February 28 to March 20 as “Osaka Asian Film Festival Online” and it will be available in Japan. The first title to bee announced for online screening is WHOLE, a drama about biracial people searching for their identity in Japan (here’s my review).

Due to the Coronavirus situation, there will be rules in place at cinemas to keep people safe and the festival’s program might change at short notice, so please keep an eye on the official site and also SNS: Twitter, Facebook etc.

Also announced were the OPENING and CLOSING films.

The opening film of the 16th Osaka Asian Film Festival will be Keep Rolling, an intimate documentary dedicated to Ann Hui, one of Hong Kong’s most iconic and idiosyncratic filmmakers. An informative, and fascinating work, this is the directorial debut of Man Lim-chung, a veteran art director and costume designer and one of Ann Hui’s frequent collaborators. It will have its Japanese Premiere on March 5 at Umeda Burg 7.

Keep Rolling 好好拍電影   

映画をつづける Eiga o tsuzukeru

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Man Lim-chung

Writer: N/A

Starring: Ann Hui, Andy Lau, Tsui Hark, Sylvia Chang,

Ann Hui is an important filmmaker who has recently rose to prominence, probably because she doesn’t specialise in a genre like her male peers and yet her importance to Hong Kong film is undeniable once you understand a little. This documentary is a brilliant insight into her life that provides that understanding. Last year she was awarded an honorary Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, so this documentary comes at the perfect time.

Synopsis: Keep Rolling is a deeply personal portrait of the celebrated filmmaker Ann Hui. It spans seven decades of her life and features a wealth of archive footage, photos, and interviews with friends, family, and major players in the international film industry. Acting as our guide is Ann Hui herself, an effervescent presence who delivers humorous and honest looks at her background, career, and private life as she takes in all of her artistic and commercial highs as well as the crushing lows and personal sacrifices she has experienced as part of her unwavering dedication to cinema and her continual exploration of Hong Kong life. Keep Rolling was one of five films named as a Film of Merit at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2020.

The festival will then close with the World Premiere screening of The Asian Angel, Yuya Ishii’s latest work, on March 14.

The Asian Angel

アジアの天使 Ajia no Tenshi

Release Date: March 14th, 2021

Duration: 128 mins.

Director: Yuya Ishii

Writer: Yuya Ishii (Script), 

Starring: Sosuke Ikematsu, Moon Choi, Joe Odagiri, Kim Min-Jae,

The Asian Angel is an original film by writer/director Yuya Ishii, a young talent who rose to prominence on the back of indie films like Sawako Decides (2010) and Mitsuko Delivers (2011) before he was catapulted into the mainstream with his hit 2013 film The Great Passage, a title which netted him a number of Best Director accolades, including one at the 2013 Japanese Academy Awards which made him the youngest winner in the event’s history. His global reputation rose further with The Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue for which he was given Best Director at the 2018 Asian Film Awards. Last year, he returned to his indie roots with All the Things We Never Said, a fine drama.

The Asian Angel looks like a return to his trailblazing form and was a big leap for the director. This is Ishii’s first international production as it was shot entirely in Korea, from February to March last year, and 95% of cast and crew were Korean. Ishii has commented on how they were able to miraculously complete the shoot safely despite the issues presented by the Coronavirus pandemic. For the cast, he has a couple of familiar players and one newbie in the lead roles.

Taking the lead is Japanese actor Sosuke Ikematsu, a young talent who has worked with influential directors like Hirokazu Kore-eda (After the Storm), Shinya Tsukamoto (Killing). Ikematsu has appeared in a number of Ishii’s films including The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue. The lead female role was taken by Korean star Moon Choi, a popular actress who came to prominence for her award-winning performance in Anarchist from Colony (2017: OAFF 2018 Opening Work), and Our Body (2018: screened at OAFF 2019). They are joined by veteran actor Joe Odagiri who appeared in The Great Passage and who has collaborated with Korean filmmakers such as Kim Ki-duk and Kang Je-kyu (My Way). These actors play characters who face various difficulties and various divisions between themselves, but, once together, they can share their pain in a drama that is expected to create a new type of “Asian Family Movie” that will illuminate a new era.

Synopsis: Following the death of his wife, young novelist Takeshi Aoki (Sosuke Ikematsu) has been raising his eight-year-old son Manabu alone. He quits Japan with his boy and travels to Seoul hoping to stay with his estranged older brother Toru (Joe Odagiri) but what he discovers is that his brother’s life is nothing like he was told as the man struggles to make a living importing dubious cosmetics. In a foreign land and barely able to speak the language, when Toru’s business partner disappears on him, Takeshi must step up and help his brother in another scheme somewhere in the countryside.

Meanwhile, a struggling singer named Choi Seol (Moon Choi) is embroiled in a relationship with the controlling president of her talent agency. With no parents to call on and an older brother and younger sister to support, Seol submits to the pressure her label puts her under to perform what they tell her but when she is dropped by them and dumped by her lover she loses her purpose in life. Cast adrift, she heads to her family home in the countryside and this is when she fatefully meets Takeshi…

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