NYAFF: THE FIRST MOVIES FOR 2009!!!

Posted: under New York Asian Film Festival.

Look out! It’s the first half of the line-up for the New York Asian Film Festival 2009. We’ve still got between 10 and 20 more movies to announce, lots (we mean LOTS) of special guests and some movies that are going to blow your mind to come. But for now, here’re the first 19 films in this year’s line-up. We’re running from June 19 – July 5 and we’re at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, at West 4th Street) from June 19 – July 2 and at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues) from July 1 – 5.

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Keep watching this space for more details as we get them.

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CHINA
THE EQUATION OF LOVE AND DEATH (China, 2008, Cao Baoping) – a twisty Chinese thriller anchored by an award-winning performance from Zhou Xun as a chain-smoking, obsessive-compulsive cab driver desperate to find her missing boyfriend. It’s one of those movies that jumps backwards and forwards through time with the narrative folding over and over on itself until finally it vanishes in a puff of smoke, but Zhou Xun’s turn as a cab driver is one of the best acting jobs of 2008 – the kind of thing that sticks with you long after the movie has inverted itself out of existence.
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IF YOU ARE THE ONE (China, 2008, Feng Xiaogang) – it shouldn’t work, but it does. This is the romantic comedy to end all romantic comedies: a gorgeous, heartfelt, sharply-written romance between Shu Qi and Ge You, directed by China’s master of the blockbuster, Feng Xiaogang (ASSEMBLY). The second-highest grossing movie EVER released in China, it’s like something from MGM in the 1930’s, a throwback to a time when romances made you wish you could get up out of your seat and walk through the screen and into a better, funnier and far more passionate world. For all the talk in America of Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou and John Woo, no one is a more reliable hitmaker in China than Feng Xiaogang who directed THE BANQUET (historical action), ASSEMBLY (amazing war picture), BIG SHOT’S FUNERAL (anti-capitalism movie starring Donald Sutherland), WORLD WITHOUT THIEVES (a romantic “thieves on a train” movie) and a bunch more. He’s the first Chinese director whose films have grossed over 1 billion RMB.

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OLD FISH (China, 2007, Gao Qunshu) – call this one an anti-thriller. A long-in-the-tooth member of Harbin’s bomb squad takes on a mad bomber who’s leaving diabolical homemade explosives all over the city. Written and acted mostly by actual cops and bomb squad officers, the movie belongs to real life ex-cop and non-actor Ma Guowei, who plays the titular old fish in this gripping, ultra-realistic look at China’s bomb disposal procedures, which apparently include putting a ticking explosive device in your bicycle basket and pedaling like hell for the river.

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INDONESIA
THE FORBIDDEN DOOR (Indonesia, 2009, Joko Anwar) – the director of last year’s festival favorite, KALA, is back and boy is this one twisted. Like a 19th century gothic novel adapted by Alfred Hitchcock and directed by David Lynch, this movie about a sculptor and the horrible things he does to become successful is one of the sickest, slickest, kinkiest movies we’ve ever screened. Graceful, gliding, with a Saul Bass-inspired opening credits sequence and a Bernard Herrmann-esque score we feel confident when we say you’ve never seen evil look quite so beautiful.

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Three awesome posters from FORBIDDEN DOOR.

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JAPAN
20TH CENTURY BOYS (Japan, 2008, Yukihiko Tsutsumi)
20TH CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER TWO – THE LAST HOPE (Japan, 2009, Yukihiko Tsutsumi) – these two movies are our DEATH NOTE films for this year. Based on a best-selling manga series (now coming out in the US from Viz) which is titled after the T.Rex song “20th Century Boy” this is like Stephen King’s IT crossed with a giant robot movie. A bunch of kids form a club and write their own illustrated science fiction book about the end of the world at the hands of giant robots, unstoppable viruses and nuclear bombs. Fast forward years later and they’re all grown-up, disappointed adults who work in convenience stores and offices, and life holds no more joy for them. But the book they wrote as kids is suddenly coming true and they’re the only ones who can stop it. At times ridiculous, thrilling, silly and profound this is the kind of breakneck narrative that races forward without giving you a chance to catch your breath, capable of inspiring laughs and goosebumps simultaneously. Japan has perfected the art of these massive, multi-part, based-on-a-manga summer blockbusters. We’re only bummed that while we can show the first two parts of this trilogy, the third won’t bow in Japan until August 2009 so we can’t screen it.
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Meet Friend, the madman behind the scenes of

20th CENTURY BOYS.

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ALL AROUND US (Japan, 2008, Ryosuke Hashiguchi) – after a seven-year break, arthouse director Ryosuke Hashiguchi is back and the results are shattering. This movie observes eight years of a marriage, marking the passage of time with famous Japanese murder trials covered by the husband who’s a courtroom sketch artist. As his wife wrestles with depression and the two of them try to hold on to each other the movie becomes scalding water thrown on all of your emotional weak points. Actress Tae Kimura won “Best Actress” for her performance as the wife at the Japanese Academy Awards and she deserves it for her work in this amazing, sensitive film.

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CHILDREN OF THE DARK (Japan, 2008, Junji Sakamoto) – a Japanese movie shot in Thailand about trafficking in kids, both for sex and for their spare organs. You’d expect this to be a finger-wagging, censorious, preachy movie but you’d be wrong. A go-for-broke, disgusting and wildly upsetting plunge into the deepest pits of human hell, this is the kind of film that basically takes a flamethrower to society and then screams while everything burns. It was banned in Thailand for its “negative portrayal of Thailand and Thai people” but this movie has plenty of hate for everyone, specifically the Westerners and Japanese who travel to Thailand to feast on its exploited children. If you wanted to brush this subject under the carpet and forget about it, this movie drags it back out and shakes it in your face.

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CLIMBER’S HIGH (Japan, 2008, Masato Harada) – Masato Harada, director of last year’s SHADOW SPIRIT, gets his Howard Hawks on again with this gripping ensemble drama about a group of newspapermen covering the real-life tragedy of a 1985 plane crash in the mountains of central Japan. Headlined by Shinichi Tsutsumi from the ALWAYS movies, who plays a mountaineer-turned-reporter, the story concentrates less on the disaster and more on the moral responsibility of the men assigned to tell the story of the tragedy, and how the event nearly destroyed their lives and relationships.

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THE CLONE RETURNS HOME (Japan, 2008, Kanji Nakajima) – it’s been compared to Tarkovsky’s SOLARIS, and they ain’t all wrong. Executive produced by Wim Wenders and debuting at the Sundance Film Festival this quietly shimmering science fiction movie starts as hard sci fi and then morphs into a surreal space opera set on earth. An astronaut dies in an accident while in orbit, but surprise! The Japanese Space Agency cloned him before he went up into space and so now his wife gets the clone as a consolation prize. But life can be hard when you’re the clone of a dead man, and soon this photocopied human is lost in the labyrinth of his own artificial memories.
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K-20: LEGEND OF THE MASK (Japan, 2008, Shimako Sato) – set in an alternate future Japan full of airships and antique cars, this is the kind of superhero movie you’d get if the world was stuck at the turn of the century. K-20 is a thief and master of disguise who has Tokyo in the palm of his hand. Then circus acrobat (the apparently ageless Takeshi Kaneshiro from CHUNGKING EXPRESS and more) gets mistaken for the shadowy villain and the chase is on. Big budget summer fun, it’s an old-school, running-and-jumping, steampunk action adventure in the grand tradition of silent serials and swashbuckling Errol Flynn movies. And, oddly enough for a Japanese film, it’s got a female director at the helm.
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LOVE EXPOSURE (Japan, 2008, Sion Sono) – this debuted at the very end of 2008 and if you count it as a movie from last year then it is, hands down, the motion picture achievement of the year. Director Sion Sono made the slick horror film EXTE as well as the low budget movies about suicide and cults, NORIKO’S DINNER TABLE, and SUICIDE CLUB but he’s out-done himself with LOVE EXPOSURE. A four hour (FOUR HOUR!!!!!) film about Catholicism, religion, bad dads, absent moms, love cults, pornography, kung fu, girl gangs, upskirt photography, incest, cross-dressing and sexual identity it is by turns hilarious, heart-breaking, insufferable and accomplished. This is the kind of flick where you come out feeling clean, refreshed and horny. There’s just nothing else like it out there.
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MONSTER X STRIKES BACK: ATTACK THE G8 SUMMIT (Japan, 2008, Minoru Kawasaki)
Preceded by – GEHARA: THE LONG-HAIRED GIANT MONSTER (Japan, 2009, Kiyotaka Taguchi, short film) – preceded by a lovingly made short film about giant monsters, MONSTER X is from Minoru Kawasaki (CALAMARI WRESTLER and EXECUTIVE KOALA) and it’s a remake/sequel to 1967’s THE X FROM OUTER SPACE featuring the hideous space chicken, Guilala. Here, in a tribute to classic giant monster films, Kawasaki turns the “stupid” dial up to 11 and loads the film with old school special effects as Guilala attacks the G-8 summit and the world’s leaders have to kick its kaiju butt. Also featuring: Takeshi Kitano as “Takemajin” the savior of Japan. Between these two films you’ll get more monster love than you’ve had all year.
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SNAKES AND EARRINGS (Japan, 2008, Yukio Ninagawa) – based on the best-selling novel about a woman who decides that her goal in life is to have her tongue split, this is the body modification opus you’ve been waiting for. Bored of her daily life, she starts with tattoos, moves on to piercing, and finally wants the full bifurcated tongue. Yuriko Yoshitaka gives an incredibly raw, totally exposed performance that’s cleaning up the awards and it’s the anchor of this sensitive, emotional, erotic, disturing and beautiful movie for anyone who ever looked at a pierced tongue and thought, “Well, maybe…”

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MALAYSIA
WHEN THE FULL MOON RISES (Malaysia, 2008, Mamat Khalid) – the best way to describe this movie is Guy Maddin taking on the history of Malaysian cinema. Most of the older Malaysian movies have been destroyed by the ravages of time, so director Mamat Khalid makes a “lost” black-and-white thriller from the 60’s, that’s part loving homage and part sharp-eyed send-up. Full of secret communist cults, werewolves, were-tigers, ghosts, private eyes, midgets and eerie secrets it’s so deadpan you don’t know if you should be laughing or crying. An epic homemade achievement of brain-boiling strangeness and charm.

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SOUTH KOREA
BREATHLESS (South Korea, 2009, Lee Hwan & Yang Ik-june) – winner of the top award at this year’s Rotterdam Film Festival this movie is labor of love by Yang Ik-Joon who wrote, directed and stars. Playing one of the most unrepentant thugs ever to grace the silver screen, he’s a debt collector who’s in it purely for the violence. But when he meets a high school girl who’s as unrelenting and tough as he is he begins to come unraveled and soon the movie’s less about his behavior, than the behavior of men everywhere who would rather punch a woman in the face than expose their feelings. From its first shouted obscenity to its last bloody beat-down this is an uncompromising dissection of male violence that’ll leave you bruised and violated.

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DACHIMAWA LEE (South Korea, 2008, Ryu Seung-wan) – in the 70’s and 80’s Korea was turning out dozens of anti-Communist and anti-Japanese action movies. Watched today they’re pretty funny relics of their era, but now Korea’s action ace, Ryu Seung-Wan (CITY OF VIOLENCE), makes this film which is a send-up of those flicks. You don’t need to know the history to get the endless stream of one-liners, sight gags and surreal jokes including a 15 minute tribute to Tsui Hark’s THE BLADE, random cutaways to two old guys exchanging over-the-top anti-communist invective while standing beside the Han River, dubbed maniacal laughter, completely unhandsome leading men, and more ace martial arts and stunts than you can shake a stick at.
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DREAM (South Korea, 2008, Kim Ki-duk) – from Korea’s number one cinematic transgressor comes this surreal, dark fantasy about two people who find that their dreams are connected. Being a Kim Ki-Duk film this leads to all kinds of emotional outrageousness. Starring Japan’s Joe Odagiri and Korea’s Lee Na-Young, it’s the best film from director Kim in years, full of in-your-face physicality and scenes that don’t just go over the line but set the line on fire. Ultimately Kim Ki-Duk is chasing bigger philosophical fish, however, wondering if dreams are a product of reality or if reality is a product of our dreams. It’s a return to form by a master director.

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ROUGH CUT (South Korea, 2008, Jang Hun) – a high concept action comedy given an intimate, arthouse flavor by the director’s intense focus on his two main characters. A spoiled, pampered and destructive actor known for playing gangsters winds up starring in his latest movie with a real life gangster, hired at the last minute. Plenty of fights and action if you’re here for that sort of thing, but of far more interest is the slowly evolving, ever-unfolding nature of the two lead actors whose journey from star to wreck and from gangster to diva are chronicled in intense close-up. This is one of those movies that under-promises and over-delivers.
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Taiwan
CAPE NO. 7 (Taiwan, 2008, Wei Te-sheng) – the highest grossing movie ever released in Taiwan, CAPE NO. 7 is less of a movie than a phenomenon. Things kick off when a pop star decides to hold a concert in a tiny seaside town and the civic booster mayor vows to form a local band to be the opening act as an act of self-promotion. Think of it as THE FULL MONTY only with Mando-pop instead of stripping and you’ve got the idea. The director started out his career working for Edward Yang (YI YI) and then became a waiter, making short films in his spare time. His first feature never got a commercial release, and so he tried to raise money for his dream project, an ambitious period piece called SEEDIQ BALE. He shot a lush trailer for the project but couldn’t raise the US$10 million he needed. Finally, he mortgaged his house and borrowed money from friends to make CAPE NO. 7and it’s so carefully observed, seamless and crowd-pleasing that it’s amazing that it’s his first film to get a theatrical release.

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6 Comments

  1. Buma Says:

    Hong Kong ?
    I’m sure it’s in the second half of your lineup…right ?!!!

  2. Al Santo Says:

    Looking Good jotting this down for web news/coverage!

  3. Al Santo Says:

    Page is online as yearly and you guys ROCK check out Kyonsi.com sitemap for the link or see this: http://www.kyonsi.com/nyaff2009.htm

  4. Aaron Mannino Says:

    This line-up looks to be about the best and most varied the NYAFF has ever had… and its only half done!!!! That NYAFF has the guts to show LOVE EXPOSURE is a true testament to its quality and audacity as a festival. The same goes for Kim Ki Duk’s DREAM. I was heartbroken when his film BREATH wasn’t shown last lear, but this more than makes up for it! Gotta say though, without the name Johnny To in this line-up, it just doesn’t feel like a film festival.

  5. elpak Says:

    Congrats. to NYAFF 2009 & good choice & meetings to such actors, actresses & directors as So Ji Sub, Lee Na-Young, Kim Ki Duk & Lee Hwan

  6. Watch Movies Says:

    Twirp twirp! Can I find you on Twitter?



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