My fingers are crossed this year as I’m seriously hoping to be able to partake in this year’s New York Asian Film Festival. The line-up just began rolling out on Thursday with a first wave of highlights and titles of interest are already stacking.
Singaporean crime thriller Geylang, as well as Thai action comedy Kitty The Killer and Soi Cheang’s Mad Fate are among some of the selects I have in mind. I’m also curious about the opening premiere of Killing Romance with Lee Sun-kyun and Patrick Tam’s Nomad which is getting a 4K restored screening.
There’s also Shinichi Fujita’s Mayhem Girls, as well as Vital Signs starring Louis Koo who is expected to be recipient to this year’s award ceremonies along with Japanese film star Ryohei Suzuki whose appearance in Daishi Matsunaga’s Egoist is also listed in the first wave.
I could go on more about what I love about this line-up here, but…I have a day to attend to. The 22nd New York Asian Film Festival, following last years virtual NYAFF, kicks off next month and there will be more titles to announce. Read on, and check out this year’s poster inspired by last year’s Japanese thriller, #Manhole!
On July 14, 2023, the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center will kick off the 22nd edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), with 60+ new and classic titles, a greatly expanded selection of short films, and an exciting slate of celebrated guests from Asia and the diaspora. The festival runs from July 14–30, 2023 at Film at Lincoln Center (FLC), with a special weekend of screenings (July 21–23) at a new venue, the historic Barrymore Film Center in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the birthplace of the motion picture industry in America.
“As filmmakers from Asia continue to earn the lion’s share of top awards (and attention) on the international film festival circuit, this year’s selection shows that those are still trees hiding a forest of talent,” said Samuel Jamier, executive director of NYAFF and president of the New York Asian Film Foundation. “We are thrilled to offer a platform that is ever more culturally relevant with new films from all corners of Asia. It is a year of massive expansion for us at a time when a growing number of American filmmakers of Asian descent are conquering screens and hearts. We look forward to bringing passionate stories to passionate audiences in a city that remains a global center of film culture and business!”
The NYAFF Opening Film is the North American premiere of the unique Korean genre mashup Killing Romance, directed by Lee Won-suk. The director will be joined at Film at Lincoln Center on opening night by his lead actor, Lee Sun-kyun (Parasite, A Hard Day), who turns in an unforgettable performance as the indescribably overbearing husband of a disgraced supermodel-movie star, fully armed with his history of versatile roles in everything from art-house collaborations with Hong Sang-soo to rom-coms to his SAG Award-winning turn in Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. Director Lee Won-suk has a rich history with NYAFF—his first film, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips, premiered at NYAFF 2013, and Lee won the Audience Award at NYAFF 2015 with his second feature, the big-budget period drama The Royal Tailor. It’s a thrill to welcome him back with his third feature.
This year’s Hong Kong Panorama, point of origin and DNA of the festival’s programming (NYAFF started off as a Hong Kong movie showcase), is an explosive cocktail of genre nostalgia and humanistic drama, drawing the contours of a road map for the future of the island’s cinema. A new 4K restoration of Patrick Tam’s 1982 Hong Kong New Wave watershed Nomad (Director’s Cut) enhances the film’s outré mix of romance and violence, and one of Leslie Cheung’s early great roles. Cutting-edge noir auteur Soi Cheang’s Mad Fate harkens back to the region’s time-honored legacy of crime films with a new sense of urgency and manic energy; Amos Why’s Everyphone Everywhere captures pandemic-era life in Hong Kong via the city’s reliance on cell phones like no other film, and has more to say on recent social shifts than hours of CNN commentary; The Sunny Side of the Street sees the incomparable Anthony Wong lending salty sympathy to new immigrants; and A Light Never Goes Out highlights the city’s iconic neon craftwork and all its storied achievements, offering a unique love letter to the island’s culture.
As previously announced, actor and producer Louis Koo, one of Hong Kong’s biggest stars, is to be honored with NYAFF’s Extraordinary Star Asia Award. Koo has more than 100 credits to his name, including sci-fi action thriller Warriors of Future, the highest-grossing Asian film of all time in the territory following its release last August. The award highlights his work as a producer and philanthropist, recognizing his many exceptional contributions to the Asian film industry, including the One Cool Group, now an industry powerhouse, and his support of award-winning work both in and outside Asia. Of the many Koo-starring films featured at NYAFF over the years, recent highlights include the White Storm trilogy, Paradox, A Witness Out of the Blue, All U Need Is Love, and his new lifesaving drama Vital Signs, which he will be on hand to introduce. NYAFF will also present the latest One Cool production, In Broad Daylight, a shocking exposé of abuse at a care home based on real events.
NYAFF’s China lineup showcases novel work and a filmmaker-in-focus program/tribute to entrepreneur turned director and producer Zhang Wei, who has built a unique body of cinematic work, making the naturalistic portrayals of the marginalized in China’s rapidly changing society his signature. In the context of U.S.-China tension, and the frequent demonization of the country’s regime, showcasing his hard-hitting films The Empty Nest, Factory Boss, and The Rib (Director’s Cut) takes on a particularly acute significance; all stories focus unblinkingly on hot-button issues through unassuming characters and straightforward storylines that turn the spotlight on societal fault lines and fractures with impact far beyond the country’s borders. Making their North American premieres are Wang Chao’s A Woman, a tale both simple and sweeping in scope that chronicles the sexual and political day-to-day existence of a female factory worker during the years of the Cultural Revolution, and Liu Jian’s Art College 1994, a fond satire of student life told in his charmingly stark and sardonic animation style, made famous by his previous film, Have a Nice Day (2017).
NYAFF’s bold and diverse South Korean lineup, presented with the support of the Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY), includes Lee Hae-young’s Phantom, an action-packed spy drama set in 1933 that is one of this year’s biggest hits in the country; the boisterous family comedy Bear Man, from Park Sung-kwang, featuring Park Sung-woong in two indelible roles; Hail to Hell, the impressive feature debut of female helmer Lim Oh-jeong, about two oddballs who track down the bully who pushed them to the brink of suicide; the rousing underdog dramedy Rebound from Chang Hang-jun, in which a group of misfits come together to play nonstop basketball for eight days straight in the KBA National Tournament; and A Tour Guide from Kwak Eun-mi, the touching and timely story of a young North Korean defector who excels at leading Chinese-language tours of Seoul but lives a maladjusted, precarious life as a stranger in a strange land.
NYAFF’s Japanese lineup, supported by the Japan Foundation, is led by the North American Premiere of veteran auteur Junji Sakamoto’s audacious, aesthetically brilliant new jidaigeki, Okiku and the World, which he will be on hand to introduce. Also a must-see is the New York Premiere of Daishi Matsunaga’s heralded LGBTQ+ love story Egoist. The director will be joined on stage by leading actor Ryohei Suzuki (HK: Forbidden Super Hero, 2013 NYAFF Audience Award winner; Last of the Wolves, 2021), a superstar in his native Japan, and the 2023 NYAFF Screen International Rising Star Asia honoree. A superstar of another sort, musician-actor Satoru Iguchi (King Gnu) will also be on hand at FLC for the North American Premiere of In Her Room, an otherworldly erotic tale by veteran female screenwriter Chihiro Ito (Crying Out Love in the Center of the World; Spring Snow), who makes her long-awaited directorial debut with this enigmatic love story.
Tokyo-based Indian director Anshul Chauhan and actor Shogen will appear with their film December, a riveting courtroom drama. Erstwhile New York City resident Takeshi Fukunaga will return with his third feature, the haunting allegory Mountain Woman, a mythic tale of female oppression and liberation with Toko Miura (Drive My Car). Also showcased in the Japan lineup are A Hundred Flowers, the award-winning directorial debut by Genki Kawamura (superproducer of Monster, Your Name, Belle, and Rage); Ryūichi Hiroki’s tragic study of the maternal instinct in the form of a Rashomon-like procedural, Motherhood; the thrillingly dark genre gem #Manhole by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri; and Shinichi Fujita’s superheroine (or supervillain?) ode to the literal and figurative empowerment of young women, Mayhem Girls.
NYAFF’s Taiwan lineup features some of the most striking and daring new films from the “beautiful island.” Movie star Kai Ko makes his directorial debut with Bad Education, a controversially dark coming-of-age comedy-thriller; the LGBTQ+ action-comedy Marry My Dead Body foments a gender-fluid revolution with its premise of a macho cop who unwittingly marries a gay ghost; and Gaga, by Taiwan’s first indigenous female director, Laha Mebow, who will be in attendance, chronicles a tangled web of drama across three generations of an Atayal tribe family.
NYAFF reaches further across the continent for even more incredible cinematic discoveries. Philippines: I Love You, Beksman is the fabulously campy tale of a “straight guy with a queer eye” who must overcome his gay family’s apprehensions when he meets the superfly girl of his dreams; based on a shocking real-life story, Where Is the Lie? boasts out-of-the-box storytelling and an extraordinarily luminous performance by trans actor EJ Jallorina as the tragically lovelorn target of a sexy but vicious cyberbully; the timely drama 12 Weeks chronicles a fiercely independent 40-year-old woman’s attempts to arrange a safe abortion in a devoutly anti-choice nation where it is illegal. Singapore: Geylang is a wild pop-art genre joyride seething with the tropically hot melting pot flavors of the city-state put through a riotously macabre Moebius strip of neon-noir influences. Thailand: Kitty the Killer is an anarchic action-comedy about a team of top-notch female assassins who must transform a ridiculously goofy young man from zero to hero in order to wreak bloody vengeance on the agency that betrayed them; You & Me & Me is the directorial debut of real-life identical twin sisters, and art may be imitating life in this glorious teenage coming-of-age fever dream where two look-alike siblings fall for the same boy and must confront their true feelings and who they really are, as they experience the pangs of first love. Vietnam: Glorious Ashes, the first film in over a decade from cinematic poet Bui Thac Chuyên, spins a poignant and dizzying tale of love, loneliness, and pyromania in a devastating omnibus-like tangle of interconnected romance gone wrong in yesteryear’s Mekong Delta.
Once again this year, the festival will be co-hosting, with Korean Cultural Center New York and Film at Lincoln Center, a free outdoor screening in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. Set for July 21 is Bong Joon Ho’s 2006 masterpiece The Host, arguably one of the greatest monster movies ever made. Highlighting the type of hilarious, ragtag family dynamics that would win him an Oscar for Parasite years later, Bong’s David-versus-Goliath story stars Song Kang-ho and Bae Doona.
A second wave of announcements will be made shortly, containing NYAFF’s Centerpiece and Closing films, the Uncaged Competition lineup and jury, special guests and award honorees, master classes and panels, and other exciting events. NYAFF is also thrilled to host the Opening Night Market on July 14 and the Monday Matsuri to Midnight on July 24, both with live music and Asian food stalls, as well as other parties and receptions.
From the deadly serious to the gleefully absurd, from the disquieting to the freaky, NYAFF continues to celebrate the most vibrant and provocative cinema out of Asia today.
The New York Asian Film Festival is co-presented by the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center, and takes place from July 14–30, 2023 at FLC’s Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, New York, NY), and on July 21–23 at the Barrymore Film Center (153 Main Street, Fort Lee, NJ). It is curated by executive director Samuel Jamier, associate director Claire Marty, China region expert and consultant Hiroshi Fukazawa, and programmers David Wilentz, Karen Severns, Koichi Mori, and Jenny Lin.
FIRST WAVE OF LINEUP (43 feature films, 20 short films) — more titles to be announced
(Please note the program is still subject to change.)
Art College 1994 | dir. Liu Jian, China, 2023 | North American Premiere
The Cord of Life | dir. Qiao Sixue, China, 2023 | New York Premiere
The Empty Nest | dir. Zhang Wei, China, 2020 | North American Premiere
Factory Boss | dir. Zhang Wei, China, 2014 | Special Screening
The Rib (Director’s Cut) | dir. Zhang Wei, China, 2018
A Woman | dir. Wang Chao, China, 2022 | North American Premiere
A Light Never Goes Out | dir.Anastasia Tsang, Hong Kong, 2022 | U.S. Premiere
Everyphone Everywhere | dir. Amos Why, Hong Kong, 2023 | North American Premiere
In Broad Daylight | dir. Lawrence Kan, Hong Kong, 2023 | North American Premiere
Mad Fate | dir. Soi Cheang, Hong Kong, 2023 | North American Premiere
Nomad (Director’s Cut) | dir. Patrick Tam, Hong Kong, 1982, Restored 2023 | East Coast Premiere
The Sunny Side of the Street | dir. Lau Kok-rui, Hong Kong/Malaysia, 2022 | New York Premiere
Vital Signs | dir. Cheuk Wan-chi, Hong Kong, 2023 | North American Premiere
JAPAN (presented with the support of the Japan Foundation)
#Manhole | dir. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Japan, 2023 | East Coast Premiere
December | dir. Anshul Chauhan, Japan, 2022 | North American Premiere
Egoist | dir. Daishi Matsunaga, Japan, 2023 | New York Premiere
A Hundred Flowers | dir. Genki Kawamura, Japan, 2022 | New York Premiere
In Her Room | dir. Chihiro Ito, Japan, 2022 | North American Premiere
Mayhem Girls | dir. Shinichi Fujita, Japan, 2022 | International Premiere
Motherhood | dir. Ryūichi Hiroki, Japan, 2022 | U.S. Premiere
Mountain Woman | dir. Takeshi Fukunaga, Japan/USA, 2022 | North American Premiere
Okiku and the World | dir. Junji Sakamoto, Japan, 2023 | North American Premiere
I Love You, Beksman | dir. Percival Intalan, Philippines, 2022 | North American Premiere
12 Weeks | dir. Anna Isabelle Matutina, Philippines 2022 | International Premiere
Where Is the Lie? | dir. Quark Henares, Philippines, 2023 | New York Premiere
Geylang | dir. Boi Kwong, Singapore, 2022 | North American Premiere
SOUTH KOREA (co-presented with Korean Cultural Center New York)
Bear Man | dir. Park Sung-kwang, South Korea, 2023 | North American Premiere
Hail to Hell | dir. Lim Oh-jeong, South Korea, 2022 | North American Premiere
The Host | dir. Bong Joon Ho, South Korea, 2006 | Special Screening
Killing Romance | dir. Lee Won-suk, South Korea, 2023 | North American Premiere
Phantom | dir. Lee Hae-young, South Korea, 2023 | North American Premiere
Rebound | dir. Chang Hang-jun, South Korea, 2023 | New York Premiere
A Tour Guide | dir. Kwak Eun-mi, South Korea, 2023 | North American Premiere
TAIWAN (presented with the support of Taipei Cultural Center in New York)
Bad Education | dir. Kai Ko, Taiwan, 2022 | North American Premiere
Eye of the Storm | dir. Lin Chun-yang, Taiwan, 2023 | International Premiere
Gaga | dir. Laha Mebow, Taiwan, 2022 | East Coast Premiere
Marry My Dead Body | dir. Cheng Wei-hao, Taiwan, 2022 | East Coast Premiere
Miss Shampoo | dir. Giddens Ko, Taiwan, 2023 | North American Premiere
Kitty the Killer | dir. Lee Thongkham, Thailand, 2023 | International Premiere
You & Me & Me | dir. Weawwan Hongvivatana and Wanweaw Hongvivatana, Thailand, 2023 | North American Premiere
Glorious Ashes | dir. Bui Thac Chuyên, Vietnam/France/Singapore, 2022 | North American Premiere
A-Town Boyz | dir. Eunice Lau, USA, 2023 | World Premiere
The Effects of Lying | dir. Isher Sahota, U.K., 2023 | North American Premiere
NARRATIVE SHORTS SHOWCASE
Borderline | dir. Kong Son-hee, South Korea, 2022 | World Premiere
Confusion of the Afternoon | dir. Yung-Chieh Lee, Taiwan, 2023 | East Coast Premiere
Goose Mountain | dir. Hu Rui and Chen Liaoyu, China, 2023
Handwritten | dir. Jaime Sunwoo, USA, 2022 | New York Premiere
Hidari | dir. Masashi Kawamura, Japan, 2023
Impurrfection | dir. Chiang Yao, Taiwan, 2022 | New York Premiere
Little Pig Demon (Nobody) | dir. Yu Shui and Chen Liaoyu, China, 2023
The Kidnapping (Old Man Yang) | dir. Gu Yang, Liu Kuang, Chen Liaoyu, China, 2023
Ship Down the Well | dir. Chen Xi, Zhou Xiaolin, Chen Liaoyu, China, 2023
What We Leave Behind | dir. Kang Nam-jin, South Korea, 2022 | International Premiere
All Your Fault, PD | dir. Kim Sun-yeun, South Korea, 2022 | North American Premiere
Fix Anything | dir. Le Lam Vien, Vietnam, 2022 | North American Premiere
Hunchback | dir. Tahmineh Bahram, Iran, 2023 | World Premiere
Infant (Perzent) | dir. Karash Zhanyshov, Kyrgyzstan, 2022 | U.S. Premiere
Kumbang (Bugs) | dir. Gwai Lou, Malaysia, 2023 | World Premiere
Neo Portraits | dir. Gazebo, Japan, 2023 | International Premiere
Resellers | dir. Lee Seung-ju, South Korea, 2022 | International Premiere
A Roadside Banquet | dir. Peiqi Peng, USA/China, 2023 | East Coast Premiere
Sweet Refuge | dir. Maryam Mir, USA, 2023 | East Coast Premiere
Will You Look at Me | dir. Shuli Huang, China, 2022
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.