The inaugural edition of the New York Asian Film Festival Winter Showcase has a very timely theme. Everyone’s talking about “Crazy Rich Asians”, but what about the other side of the tracks?
The showcase offers an alternate perspective on the continent with films that range from pure entertainment to profound introspection, stories about the 99% and the extraordinary lives of ordinary people, which might be from halfway across the world but are more relevant than ever in our troubled times. A deeply moving epic of despair, raw tales of the streets, crime thrillers, redemptive boxing dramas, a comic period piece, darkly humorous animation, action extravaganzas; all make up the salient motif dubbed “Crazy Broke Asians”. Weaving a rich fabric of Asian cinema, the films from years past deserve fresh eyes, while the premieres hint at much more to come this summer in NYAFF 2019.
NYAFF is proud to name Han Ji-Min as its first ever Ambassador, a title that appropriately refers to a high-profile envoy that represents a polity and a specific set of values: in this case, dedication and commitment to great cinema, values that she shares with the festival. Rather than giving out yet another award, the festival is conferring this new title as a way of highlighting a certain spirit, and Ms Han represents best the curatorial view and vision of Asian film that the organization champions and showcases year after year.
In her latest film Miss Baek, the actress portrays a tough convict. With this challenging role, which contrasts with her previous starring turns in lighthearted romantic films since her 2003 debut All In, Han has turned a corner in her career. Already a household name, her star rose to new heights when her breakthrough performance in Miss Baek won her the coveted Blue Dragon award (South Korea’s equivalent to the Oscars) for best actress.
Screenings of recent festival sensations also include Zahir Omar’s crime thriller Fly By Night, Liu Jian’s satirical animation Have a Nice Day, and Masaharu Take’s boxing drama 100 Yen Love. There will also be retrospective screenings of Patrick Tam’s heart-wrenching masterpiece After This Our Exile, Erik Khoo’s groundbreaking indie Pee Pok Man, Ryoo Seung-Wan’s bruising classic Crying Fist, and Yang Ik-June’s powerful drama Breathless.
The final day of the showcase includes the “Iko Uwais Double Punch” of Merantau (a NYAFF alumnus) and The Raid: Redemption, the first two groundbreaking martial arts films starring the silat champion, who was discovered by director Gareth Evans and is now taking Hollywood by storm.
As an added treat, NYAFF is continuing its tradition of showing great martial arts films of yore with a sidebar titled “A Touch of Old School”. Here, three beat ‘em up and chop ‘em down features by Taiwan kung fu movie maestro Joseph Kuo will be presented, resurrecting two grindhouse favorites. And to top it all off, there will be a wild “Secret Screening”!
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