NYAFF 2010: Hong Kong & China Line-Ups

Posted: under New York Asian Film Festival.

This year we’re working with the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office New York to do a special focus on Hong Kong and its new wave of old school action movies, so thank them (and Hong Kong’s film industry) for the biggest HK line-up we’ve had in years. In fact, let’s thank them right now!

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The Hong Kong Line-Up

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BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (2009, New York Premiere) – the story of a ragtag team of bodyguards who gave their lives to protect Dr. Sun Yat-sen on his trip to Hong Kong, it made a ton of loot at the box office, features an all-star cast (Donnie Yen! Simon Yam! Nic Tse! Tony Leung! Li Yuchun! Wang Xueqi! Leon Lai! Fan Bingbing!) and was nominated for more Hong Kong Film Awards than any other movie in history. Plus, Donnie Yen fights a horse. (watch the trailer)
***Actor Simon Yam will introduce the screening on Sunday, June 27. This is the screening to see. Not only will Simon Yam be there, but it’ll be preceded by the uncut, uncensored version of Hiroshi Fukazawa’s DEVELOPMENT HELL (approx. 50 minutes) which is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of B&A, the most cursed Hong Kong production of all time. Suicide, death, financial shenanigans and SARS!)

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DEVELOPMENT HELL (2010, North American Premiere) – B&A was first shot by Peter Chan’s dad back in the 70’s, but the film slipped into obscurity after a dispute with one of the investors. Peter Chan tried to remake it for years, but it finally began picking up steam in 1999 when Teddy Chen came on board. What followed were ten years of disasters that kept B&A off the screens. Originally made as a four-minute souvenir film after yet another failed attempt at making B&A, DEVELOPMENT HELL eventually turned into a full on documentary with its own curse: director Fukazawa was hit by a car while shooting it, and was later hospitalized for a mysterious lung condition.
(Development Hell will screen in conjunction with BODYGUARDS & ASSASSINS)

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EASTERN CONDORS (1987) – a once-in-a-lifetime screening of Sammo Hung’s Vietnam War blow-out. A true masterpiece, and one of his own personal favorite films. It will be screened on a 35mm print that was loaned to us by a private collector and my guess is that there will never be another chance to see it in theaters. (watch the trailer)
***Director, action choreographer and star Sammo Hung will be at the screening. It will be followed by an in-depth Q&A about his career.
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ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW (2010, North American Premiere) – a bittersweet eulogy to 1960’s Hong Kong, it won a special award at the Berlin International Film Festival, it saved the street on which it was shot from demolition, it heralds a return to filmmaking for 80’s New Wave filmmaker, Alex Law, and it won Simon Yam his first “Best Actor” trophy at the Hong Kong Film Awards. And that’s as it should be, because ECHOES OF THE RAINBOW is the Hong Kong movie in excelsis, a celebration of the city and its film industry and of the scrappy, no-nonsense, deeply nostalgic but ridiculously hardheaded people who turned Hong Kong from a fishing village into one of the world’s greatest metropolises. (watch the trailer)
***Actor Simon Yam will be at the screening.

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GALLANTS (2010, North American Premiere) – like COCOON but with kung fu, this rocking action comedy features a cast of martial arts legends from the 70’s, now in their 60’s including Chen Kuan-tai, Bruce Leung and Teddy Robin. These old timers own the screen and Teddy Robin even wrote the music for this film. When the directors were trying to raise the financing for their movie they were constantly told, “Who wants to see a bunch of washed-up has-beens onscreen?” We do! It’ll be released around June 5 in Hong Kong and it’s already being talked up as the surprise hit of the year – even people we know who only like Apichatpong Weerasethakul films love GALLANTS. (watch the trailer)
***The lengendary Bruce Leung will be at the screenings.

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IP MAN (2008) – starring Donnie Yen, it’s the first movie about Bruce Lee’s master and, minting money across Asia, it launched the “Ip Man wave” which now includes projects by Wong Kar-wai (GRANDMASTER IP MAN, coming in 2011), prequels (THE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN with Sammo Hung and Bruce Leung in summer 2010) and a sequel (IP MAN 2). We wanted to make sure that people who missed it had a chance to see IP MAN on the big screen because we are a kind and considerate film festival. (watch the trailer)

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IP MAN 2 (2010, North American Premiere) – this is the summer blockbuster you’ve been waiting for. Everything that was good about IP MAN, is better in IP MAN 2. Everything that was big, is bigger. It’s a career highlight for all three of the creative forces involved: star Donnie Yen, co-star and action choreographer, Sammo Hung, and director Wilson Yip. It’s a rousing Canto-fable, a Hong Kong empowerment movie, a return to old school martial arts filmmaking with AVATAR era production values, and on its opening weekend it beat IRON MAN 2 at the box office like a redheaded stepchild. (watch the trailer)
***Actor and action choreographer Sammo Hung will be at the screenings.
*** Well Go USA will release IP MAN 2 theatrically in February 2011.

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KUNG FU CHEFS (2009, North American Premiere) – Sammo Hung likes to do two things: cook food and kick ass. Finally, here’s a movie that lets him do both. The kind of cracked, casual B-movie classic that Hong Kong used to crank out in the early 90’s, full of butt-kicking action and mouth-watering cooking. The script feels like it was written by drunk monkeys and the comedy is bizarre (to say the least) but with action choreography by the Yuen Clan (MIRACLE FIGHTERS), beatdowns between Sammo Hung, Bruce Leung and Fan Siu-wong and even a long scene in which Sammo beats up his real-life son, this is the kind of guilty summertime pleasure that we need more of. Come hungry. (watch the trailer)
***Actor Sammo Hung will be present.

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LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010, New York Premiere) – Jackie’s back! His best movie since DRUNKEN MASTER II from way back in 1994, LITTLE BIG SOLDIER is a sly send-up of the endless stream of period epics that are pouring out of China. Jackie plays a conscripted farmer during the Warring States period who has survived every battle with one unbeatable tactic: the fighting begins and he lies down and plays dead. But now he’s taken a wounded enemy general prisoner (Wang Lee-hom) and all he has to do is get him across hundreds of miles of wilderness to turn him in to his king and finally retire. It’s the performance of his career and this flick deserves a place in any list of his top ten films. Rejecting the crutch of large scale stunts in favor of actual acting and close-up acrobatics, it’s a movie whose message is “Change or die.” Fortunately for us, at 56 years old, Jackie has chosen “change.” (watch the trailer)

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RED CLIFF UNCUT (2008/2009) – when John Woo’s massive, thundering return to form, RED CLIFF, was originally released it came out as two massive movies, each running well over two hours. Everywhere but in the US of A, that is. Here in the land of the free, the two movies were cut into a two-and-a-half hour Franken-film. But now, on the Fourth of July, the day when we celebrate our freedom, we liberate RED CLIFF from motion picture bondage and present it to you the way God – and John Woo – intended: as one massive, uncut five-hour motion picture experience. God bless America! (watch the trailer)

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THE STORM WARRIORS (2009, US Premiere) – this is the closest cinema has ever come to putting Chinese martial arts comic books, with all of their surreal techniques and freaky superpowers, on the big screen. From the very first frame the choirs are wailing like a death metal concept album times infinity, and every shot is a blast-beat drum solo, every edit is a power chord and when the characters fight it’s like two planets smashing into each another. It’s a special effects extravaganza that is either a sequel to the first STORM RIDERS, a standalone adaptation of Ma Wing-shing’s 90’s comic book or the ultimate power fantasy for teenage boys and the girls who love them, where swords are so powerful they cut the weather in half and ultimate weapons are made from the spinal columns of dead gods. (watch the trailer)
***Main bad guy Simon Yam will be at the screening.

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The Mainland China Line-Up

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COW (2009, North American Premiere) – hick farmer, Huang Bo, tries to survive WW II with his best buddy: a cow. Funny, tragic, gorgeous and, in the end, deeply moving, COW took ten million in its opening weekend and a wagon load of Golden Horse Awards in its mammoth jaws, including “Best Actor” for Huang Bo, whose lead performance is a tragicomic high-wire act. But he’s upstaged by the cow itself, who is one of cinema’s great natural actors. By the end of this movie, you’ll believe a cow can cry. (watch the trailer)
*** Actor Huang Bo will be at the screening.

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CRAZY RACER (2009, New York Premiere) – Ning Hao (CRAZY STONE) has made a movie that’s like a Warner Brothers cartoon on crystal meth. After rocketing to the top with their comedy CRAZY STONE, Ning Hao and Huang Bo reunite to make a faster, funnier, more visually freaky, 5000 horse power speed demon of a film. Huang Bo plays a disgraced Olympic bicyclist reduced to being a delivery man, and director Ning Hao sends him scrambling after his dignity in a modern-day China full of con men, creeps, hustlers, scam artists, assassins, gangsters, drug dealers, murder-for-hire morons and all the other joys of modern day capitalism. (watch the trailer)
*** Actor Huang Bo will be at the screening.

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SOPHIE’S REVENGE (2009, New York Premiere) – Zhang Ziyi stars in this madcap romantic comedy with Mainland diva, Fan Bingbing, and Korean stud muffin, So Ji-Sub. A kind of Beijing Jones’ Diary jazzed up with animated interludes, ridiculous hallucinations, dreams, fantasies, low brow slapstick and high brow verbal sparring. This is the first movie produced by Zhang Ziyi, and there aren’t many producers who would allow themselves to spend so much screen time throwing up, getting peed on, tumbling down stairs, falling out windows, getting drunk and generally making a complete ass of themselves. It’s equally unlikely that another romantic comedy this light, this fizzy and this fast on its feet is going to come along anytime soon, from Hollywood, from China or from anywhere else. (watch the trailer)

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TIAN AN MEN (2009, International Premiere) – 2009 marked the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, and the film industry released a slew of celebratory films. The best known was FOUNDING OF THE REPUBLIC, featuring every Hong Kong and Chinese star alive, but it’s the lower profile special effects extravaganza, TIAN AN MEN, that’s actually worth watching. Set in 1949, it’s an earnest, unironic epic motion picture that immortalizes the struggles and sacrifices of the men and women who…cleaned up and re-decorated Tiananmen Square? A lavish special effects spectacle that recreates 1949 Beijing in crazy detail, it’s like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition done Communist style.

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