While May has turned to June, and the Blissfully Thai film series continues at Asia Society, the minds of Asian film lovers in the New York metro area are increasingly focused on July. Why? Because the annual New York Asian Film Festival will provide a jam-packed two weeks of incredible screenings, personal appearances and special events from July 1st to 14th. These will take place at two venues, the Film Society of Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Japan Society (for some co-presentations) on the East Side. NYAFF is one of the foremost festivals for Asian films, both historic and contemporary, not only in New York, or even the United States, but in the world. At least that’s my opinion, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. Furthermore, it’s just gotten better and better since I began covering it in 2006.
The NYAFF has been presented by Subway Cinema, a collective of fans who decided to do something to keep Asian films alive in Manhattan after the last of the Chinatown movie theaters closed. The first festival was held in 2002 and for the first several years it took place at Anthology Film Archives, a small theater on Second Avenue, just southeast of NY University. In 2007 the main venue became the IFC Center, the former site of the Waverly Theater in Greenwich Village. That year also marked the beginning of some co-presentations with Japan Society, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding with its first-ever really large scale film festival, entitled Japan Cuts. The two festivals dove-tailed, with NYAFF kicking things off, a few days of co-presentations with Japan Society at the end of NYAFF, and then the continuation of Japan Cuts on its own. That arrangement has continued each year since and has proved a boon for all.
Last year, NYAFF went “big time” when its prime venue became the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. There it draws not only on its own loyal fans, but also the Film Society’s own cinephiles. Many shows sell out well in advance.
There’s way too much info about the festival to include all here, but you can get complete, current info about NYAFF 2011 at my blog, Asian Cinefest, linked below. Meanwhile here are some of the highlights:
– Milocrorze: A Love Story (2011, pictured left) will be the Opening Night Presentation, Shaolin (2011) and Ninja Kids!!! (2011) are Centerpiece Presentations and The Yellow Sea (2010) is the Closing Night Selection
– World Premieres include: Takashi Miike’s Ninja Kids!!! and Eiji Uchida’s The Last Days of the World (2010) with Punished (2011) and Ringing in Their Ears (2011) making their International Premieres
– There will be three “Special Focus” series: Wu Xia: Hong Kong’s Flying Swordsmen, Sea of Revenge: New Korean Thrillers, and Su Chao-Pin: Taiwan’s King of Entertainment
– Other highlights will include the presentation of the 2011 Star Asia Lifetime Achievement Award to Hong Kong legend Tsui Hark, and the 2011 Star Asia Rising Star Award to Japanese actor Takayuki Yamada as well as special guest appearances by Benny Chan, Tak Sakaguchi, Su Chao-pin, Na Hong-Jin, Ryoo Seung-Wan and others.
For further information and updates, check out Subway Cinema News (and add your name to their emailing list if you haven’t already), the Film Society of Lincoln Center website, and Japan Society’s Japan Cuts webpage.