The New York Asian Film Festival runs from June 27 – July 15 this year. I usually try to go to a few of the offerings. I generally like their program as it focuses more on popular films coming out of Asia and doesn’t limit itself to whatever broad critical acclaim brings us film festival tedium. The Asian films that European critics Love are seldom the ones that keep me engaged. One criticism I have of the festival is that “Asia” is narrowly defined as Japan, Korea and the China zone. Sure that covers 1.5 billion people, but there are other countries with robust film industries that are worth a peek. But for what it does, it usually has a line up of films that are worth seeking out.
Because of work commitments and travel this year, I won’t be able to get down for as many as I would like to. After reviewing the schedule for what I can see after work or on weekends, these are the three I plan to go see.
Aim High in Creation (Australia: 2013)
The only Australian entry in the festival is Anna Broinowski’s light documentary about North Korean propaganda. Using Kim Il-Jong’s film directives from 1987 as a guide, she travels to North Korea to learn the tricks of that country’s film techniques to make her own film aimed at stopping a pipeline. It probably offers more humorous premise than critique of the effects of propaganda, but that premise alone is enough to get me interested.
Maruyama, the Middle Schooler (Japan: 2013)
I don’t know why I haven’t seen this one yet, but goodness, Kankuro Kudo is offering a coming of age comedy about auto-fellatio and murder in the suburbs of Tokyo? Well I guess that fits into this blogs focus on youth oriented films for the coming months. I’m game.
The Eternal Zero (Japan: 2013)
Takashi Yamazaki’s drama about a young man trying to uncover the truth about his grandfather, a kamikaze pilot during the World War II drew in big crowds. Usually, Japanese audiences are right about what is worth seeing, so we’re on our way to cover a different side of the war from what we’re accustomed to.
We’ll have to catch these on DVD someday.
- Wood Job (Japan: 2014)
- Silent Witness (China: 2013)
- Monsterz (Japan 2014)
- R100 (Japan: 2013)
I’ve only seen four of the offerings this year previously, but can recommend them all. I’ve previously reviewed three of the four.
- The Great Passage (Japan: 2013): When I reviewed it, I noted that I could see this film about creating the last paper-based dictionary becoming a cherished treasure. It may be too slow for some, and a silent lead isn’t for everyone, but the light drama is an homage to a type of workplace that’s slowly disappearing.**** of 5 stars.
- Kano (Taiwan: 2014): I thought the drama of a multi-ethnic baseball team in pre-war Taiwan lacked depth. We never get to know any of the team members well enough to find out how they were able to overcome their animosities. However, the cinematography in this one is stunning. I agree with the consensus that this may be one of the best baseball films from a technical standpoint ever. ***1/2 of 5 stars.
- Why Don’t You Play in Hell (Japan: 2014): Sion Sono’s comedy about guerrilla filmmakers shooting a deadly yakuza film freely uses blood, but kept but is never boring. **** of 5 stars.
- The Face Reader (Korea: 2014) At the time, I thought this detective story about court intrigue could serve as a good initiation into the Korean historic drama genre **** of 5