2012 was an excellent year for Asian cinema, with a number of stand-outs amid a packed selection of auteur projects, festival discoveries, and genre pictures. My favourite film of the past twelve months would have to be Shuichi Okita’s delightful comedy-drama The Woodsman and the Rain (Japan), in which a 60-year-old lumberjack (Koji Yakusho) assists the crew of a zombie movie that arrives in his remote mountain village to shoot a low-budget gore-fest. It’s a delicately paced and deeply rewarding film that celebrates the magic of moviemaking as a rookie director (Shun Oguri) endures various production difficulties, but pulls through with assistance from the local community. End of the Night (Japan) and Headshot (Thailand), a pair of neo-noirs concerning conflicted killers, also captured my attention. The former is the directorial debut of Kiyoshi Kurosawa protégé Daisuke Miyazaki, who delivers a deadpan thriller about a young assassin (Kuniaki Nakamura) who tries to leave the business. The latter blends stylised shoot-outs with Buddhist philosophy as director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang follows the misfortunes of an ex-cop (Nopachai Chaiyanam) whose impression of the world is literally turned upside down when he narrowly survives a bullet to the brain. Wang Xiaoshuai’s poignant 11 Flowers (China) is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama set during the Cultural Revolution in which a schoolboy tries to help the fugitive who is hiding in the area around his village, while Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s more abstract P-047 (Thailand) creates a metaphysical puzzle from the activities of two house-breakers.
In terms of events, it was a pleasure to introduce five screenings at the ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ retrospective at Japan Society in New York, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to present my work on Guo Xiaolu’s meta-film How is Your Fish Today (China/UK, 2006) at the Imagining Chinese Cinemas conference at Exeter University, UK.