The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema present the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), which will take place from June 22 to July 5 at the Film Society and July 6 to 9 at the SVA Theatre. With 51 feature films from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, in-person appearances by international filmmakers and guests, and a diverse range of genres to explore, the NYAFF is North America’s leading festival of popular Asian cinema. Here are our recommendations for 10 must-see movies at the NYAFF.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy
Based on the award-winning novel by Yutaka Maekawa, Japanese horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy finds a retired detective back on the job after becoming embroiled in cold case that terrifyingly unites the past and present. Kurosawa is known for his palpable sense of dread and Lynchian air of atmospheric unquiet.
Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard
The Bodyguard marks Hong Kong action cinema icon Sammo Hung’s return to the director’s chair after nearly 20 years. He plays a retired Central Security Bureau member suffering from the onset of Alzheimer’s. His quiet life is interrupted when a young girl goes missing. It’s great to see one of the elder statesmen of martial arts cinema still breaking bones after all these years, but The Bodyguard also pushes Hung’s dramatic chops.
Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man
A 1989 Japanese cyberpunk cult classic returns to the screen, combining more sex, metal, and noise than 100 David Cronenbergs.
‘A Bride for Rip Van Winkle’
Everything directed by Shunji Iwai
Receiving this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award is filmmaker and video artist Shunji Iwai. “Iwai has proven himself one of Asia’s most influential filmmakers since his mid-1990s Undo, Picnic, and Love Letter,” writes the NYAFF in a press release. “He is recognized for capturing the spirit of the times, and stretching the cinematic language of Asian cinema. Despite his early successes, he has continued to reinvent himself, recently directing his first animated feature.” The director is the first Japanese recipient of the award and will present his three cinematic epics — Swallowtail Butterfly (1996), All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001), and A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (2016).
E J-yong, The Bacchus Lady
Director E J-yong looks at the senior prostitution and suicide epidemic plaguing South Korea in a story about one woman (Youn Yuh-jung in a fantastic performance) who solicits old men for sex by hawking energy drinks (an actual thing). The film is a moving portrait of shame, isolation, and the shifting definition of family in contemporary Korean society.
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Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid
From Film Linc about Stephen Chow’s bizarre blockbuster:
Stephen Chow is the King of Comedy! And his crown is confirmed with this slapstick deconstruction of The Little Mermaid featuring auto-cannibalism, mermaids launched from giant slingshots, assassination by sea urchin, China’s worst museum, jetpacks, and a rousing sing-off. It’s also the most subversive comedy to slip past Chinese censors, and, to top it all off, it’s the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time.
Adam Tsuei’s The Tenants Downstairs
This year’s closing night film (making its international premiere) is Adam Tsuei’s claustrophobic The Tenants Downstairs, based on Giddens Ko’s novel of the same name. Simon Yam gets his creep on as a voyeuristic landlord who spies on his tenants to satisfy his pervy desire to observe the darkest parts of human nature. And the tenants are no picnic, either.
Kazuya Shiraishi’s Twisted Justice
The opening night gala of the NYAFF marks the world premiere of Kazuya Shiraishi’s crime epic Twisted Justice, based on Yoshiaki Inaba’s autobiography and starring one of Japan’s biggest young stars, Go Ayano, as a corrupt cop. The hard-boiled portrait spans three decades, starting in the 1970s, and shows the detective’s descent from ambitious rookie to corrupt cop. Jitsuroku eiga fans, don’t sleep on this one.
Ralston Jover’s Hamog
“The centerpiece gala is the North American premiere of Ralston Jover’s Hamog (Haze), an empowering, thrilling and impassioned tale of a gang of street kids, headlined by (Rising Star honoree) Teri Malvar,” writes the NYAFF in a press release.
Pang Ho-cheung’s Love in the Buff
Hong Kong comedy star Miriam Ye and Internal Affairs 2 star Shawn Yue headline the sequel to Pang Ho-cheung’s 2010 film Love in a Puff. The second film shows what happens when a new relationship enters rocky terrain and asks if true love can really conquer all.