My first impression when approaching the Odeon in Leicester Square last night was just how much bigger the London East Asian Film Festival has gotten since its beginnings a couple of years ago. I watched SPL 2 at the 0th incarnation of the festival alongside a 3/4-full cinema. It didn’t feel like much of an event – but then again, it wasn’t. It was a fledgling idea, surrounded by hopes that maybe this could be an annual deal.
The following year I went to the Opening Gala of the 1st LEAFF, and there was a lot of buzz and excitement around Kim Jee-woon’s film The Age of Shadows, and the subsequent Q&A. I also attended The Handmaiden, as part of their Park Chan-wook Retrospective, in a cinema crammed full of eager fans waiting to hear what the auteur had to say about his latest oeuvre.
This year, the organisers promise once again a wide selection of films old and new – even more than last year, with roughly 50 events over 11 days – as well as more moments with the cast, crew and people behind these films. There are countless Q&As, receptions and a breakfast with several actors which I unfortunately had to miss. LEAFF is really expanding, and the reaction from last night is hopefully proof that that it will keep getting bigger and bigger.
The Opening Gala showed us the intense, claustrophobic, Fortress by Hwang Dong-hyuk, and the Closing Gala will be of Takeshi Kitano’s latest in the Outrage series, Coda. I’ll be attending as much as I can over these next 11 days, and if the atmosphere from last night is something to go by, this year’s LEAFF is set to be another great year.