The London East Asia Film Festival returns for its sixth edition on October 21st. I take a look at everything that’s on offer.
After such a turbulent couple of years, the reopening of cinemas has been one of the biggest signs that things are returning to a semblance of normality. At least for me. Last we saw the return of a few of our favourite film festivals, although many of them were online-only, which did little to alleviate the dread we’d all been feeling. The London East Asian Film Festival, on the other hand, was able to bypass this and screen its entire (albeit limited) programme during the brief period of time when public places were open. This year, however, they’re back with a massive collection of films – 34 to be precise – and showing them in cinemas all over London.
Once again, the festival is divided into strands, not including its two galas. Opening the festival will be the Benny Chan-helmed action film Raging Fire (October 24), a crime drama starring Donnie Yen. Chan unfortunately passed away last year and as a tribute to one of Hong Kong’s most accomplished directors the festival will be also airing his first feature A Moment of Romance (October 24).
The Official Selection is the festival’s signature strand, and features titles by respected filmmakers as well as some of the biggest Asian hits of the last year. There’s a lot to watch out for, including the Taiwanese fantasy rom-com My Missing Valentine (October 27), Korean historical drama The Singer (October 24), and the wonderfully-titled Thai romantic comedy The Con-Heartist (October 25). Taiwan makes a few more appearances in the strand, with drama The Falls (October 23) and horror The Silent Forest (October 31), fittingly screening on Halloween. Japan has two titles in the Official Selection: comedy-drama Zokki (October 24) and Sasaki in my Mind (October 22). Rounding off this are two more films from Korea: the black-and-white drama Introduction (October 23) and sci-fi The Prayer (October 22).
Spotlighting the up-and-comers of the industry is the festival’s Competition strand, which this year features twelve movies: Japanese drama A Balance (October 23); sports biopic Zero to Hero (October 23), crime thriller Time (October 23) and drama Just 1 Day (October 24), all from Hong Kong; Chinese dramas Pistol (October 23), Stars Await Us (October 27), and Back to the Wharf (October 28); the Taiwanese amputation-themed comedy A Leg (October 30); South Korean sports drama Not Out (October 24), and we get some releases from lesser-spotlighted countries such as Vietnam, with the drama Ròm (October 24), and the Philippines with Whether the Weather is Fine (October 28).
There are three specialist strands this year: Retrospective, which looks at early(ish) films of beloved filmmakers: the aforementioned A Moment of Romance, but also Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (October 26), and Kim Ki-young’s Women of Fire (October 29), a murder mystery drama and the second in the director’s Housemaid trilogy. The second specialist selection is Hong Kong Focus, which will screen four films showcasing Hong Kong’s diverse cinema. These movies are crime drama Elisa’s Day (October 30), thriller Limbo (October 23), comedy Sugar Street Studio (October 25) and noir drama Hand Rolled Cigarette. Lastly is the ever-present Documentary strand, which will feature four films, each with a wildly different subject matter. South Korea’s Areum Married (October 23) is a slice of life story detailing filmmaker and artist Areum Parkkang’s recent life, and Jikji Route: Terra Incognita (October 28) will delve into the history of printing and printmaking – and is sure to be a more interesting movie than the synopsis suggests. Hong Kong’s Keep Rolling (October 24) sees legendary director Ann Hui in front of the camera for once, and Japan’s Ushiku (October 24) looks at the lives of refugees, and of the Ushiku immigration centre.
Last of all is the closing gala, which will feature the Korean body-swap sci-fi thriller Spirit Walker. This one’s also set to play on Halloween, though I don’t really see why. With any luck, I’ll be checking out as many as I can: I’ve been a big fan of this festival since it opened its doors back in 2015, and am glad to see it back in full swing. You can check out everything I just mentioned here, purchase passes here, and check out their restaurant experience Taste of Asia (yeah, I know) here.