The London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), the capital’s most celebrated champion of East Asian cinema and culture, opens its third year on the 25th October at Vue Leicester Square with Dark Figure of Crime, the newest thriller by director Kim Tae- gyun, and runs until the 4th November. It will close with the intelligent and emotionally complex family drama, Ramen Shop, the latest feature by acclaimed Singaporean director, Eric Khoo.
Having expanded to include the cinematic offerings of 13 countries – China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar – LEAFF’s 2018 programme focuses on the “future”. Through the lens and unique perspectives of East Asian filmmakers, LEAFF offers compelling insight into not only the future of those in East Asia but in London, with vital and thought-provoking dialogues being opened up around subjects such as youth, human interaction, development, cultural and social issues.
LEAFF will screen 6 International premieres, 8 European premieres and 23 UK premieres, which will take place at selected venues, including Vue Leicester Square and Piccadilly, Bertha Dochouse and London Film School.
The festival runs nine strands, carefully curated and programmed by Festival Director Hyejung Jeon, with Festival Advisors Roger Garcia (Hong Kong International Film Festival) and Mark Adams (Artistic Director, Edinburgh International Film Festival); Programme Consultant, Damon Wise, and Programmers Jasper Sharp and Ruth Linton.
The LEAFF Official Selection presents some of the best East Asian films of the year. From box office hits to critically acclaimed features, LEAFF celebrates the return of highly influential filmmakers. These include Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest feature, Yocho, Isao Yukisada’s powerful depiction of modern-day youth in River’s Edge, as well as Erik Matti’s action-packed thriller Buybust.
Straight from wowing audiences at International Film Festivals in Cannes, Venice, and Berlin, LEAFF will screen the year’s most anticipated films, including Hsiao Ya-Chuan’s Father to Son; Lee Joon-ik’s Sunset in My Hometown; Kim Ki-duk’s newest feature, Human, Space, Time and Human, as well as Thailand’s hit romantic comedy Brother of the Year by Witthaya Thongyooyong, and the anthologies 10 Years Thailand and 10 Years Japan.
Actor Focus: Kim Yoon-seok
This year, LEAFF celebrates the works of Kim Yoon-seok, the acclaimed Korean action and drama actor, who has starred in 28 films since making his film debut in the family drama, Kiss Me Much (2001). Kim has had box office hits not only in Korea, but across Asia, most recently with 1987: When the Day Comes. This dark, political thriller will be screened as part of the Focus strand, alongside his biggest hits, such as Na Hong- jin’s crime thriller The Chaser, and Choi Dong-hoon’s heist extravaganza, The Thieves.
Cinematic Journey Through Taiwan
To mark the recent surge of domestic and foreign attention around Taiwan’s new wave of cinema, LEAFF will present a specially curated programme called “Cinematic Journey Through Taiwan”.
This strand includes films made before the millennium that capture Taiwanese stories, including the horrifying and formerly taboo subject of the 228 Incident, martial law and white terror. Audiences can view classics, such as A City of Sadness by Hou Hsiao-hsien and A Brighter Summer Day by Edward Yang, to the recently released with 10 Years Taiwan, a film by five talented Taiwanese filmmakers that imagines the country ten years in the future.
Stories of Women
Following the unprecedented success of this strand, the Stories of Women section returns to underline the importance of showing films both made by women, as well as the representation of female voices in cinema.
This year we present six films from South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and North Korea, all of which depict the day-to-day challenges women face and their ability to overcome them. This year’s selection opens with Miss Baek, a strong addition to the Korean film noir genre, plus Yang Mingming’s take on the difficult mother-daughter relationship in Girls Always Happy, Bon An’s moving quest to find happiness in Sen Sen, Nguyen Quang Dung’s depiction of the reunification of friends in Go-Go Sisters, and the unconditional love of a mother for her child in Tai Lee Chan’s Tomorrow is Another Day. In this strand, Comrade Kim Goes Flying will be screened followed by a talk on the stories of women in North Korea.
To round out this strand, LEAFF will hold a panel discussion (moderated by Helen De Witt, Programmer for BFI London Film Festival) with Taiwanese director Bon An (Sen Sen) and Korean director Shin Su-won that centers around intergenerational relationships, ageing, and the values of East Asian women.
LEAFF’s Competition seeks out East Asia’s most talented emerging directors, with a stellar jury including Programmer Ansgar Vogt from Berlin International Film Festival, Elena Pollacchi from Venice International Film Festival. The best filmmaker will be awarded the Phillips-Lee Award and a cash prize of £2,000 in contribution for their next project.
This year sees a diverse range of films from China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong by directors who have made three features or less. It includes Yang Ya-che suspense-filled The Bold, The Corrupt, And The Beautiful and Mag Hsu and Chih-Yen Hsu mysterious Dear Ex.
Chris Yeo’s A Land Imagined, which won Best Film at Locarno Festival, will be screened as a UK premiere with Cai Chengjie’s award-winning The Widowed Witch from Rotterdam. The directors of Distinction (Jevons Au), Glass Garden (.Shin Su-won), Dark Figure of Crime (Kim Tae-gyun), and February (Kim Joong-hyun) will attend the screenings of their films to meet with a UK audience for the first time.
Festival Focus: Nara International Film Festival
Each year, LEAFF focuses on one East Asian film festival to further bridge the cultural gap between the East and West. This year, LEAFF is delighted to announce their partnership with Nara International Film Festival (NIFF). Founded by Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase in 2010, NIFF aids young filmmakers from around the world by enabling them to showcase their feature works.
Programmer Jasper Sharp of LEAFF and Ruth Linton of NIFF have chosen four short films by Japanese filmmakers: Misaki Matsui’s The Wind from Persia, Ayane Nakasu’s Kofukuna, Akira Yamamoto’s Good Afternoon, and Saki Michimoto’s The Girlfriend.
Festival Director Naomi Kawase’s early 8mm works, Embracing and Katatsumori will be shown in restored versions at London Film School, which will be the first ever UK showing of these rare and beautiful works.
This year, LEAFF will introduce its Documentaries strand, opening with Kim Ji-young’s Intention, based on the tragic events of 2014’s Sewol Ferry incident in South Korea, in which 288 people, mostly school-children, died.
In partnership with Bertha Dochouse, Midi Z’s 14 Apples and Angie Chen’s I’ve Got The Blues will show another side of Taiwan, Myanmar and Hong Kong. Zhang Ximing’s I’ve Got A Little Problem discusses art and depression, looking at the life of Ren Hang, the celebrated and controversial erotic Chinese photographer who passed away in 2017.
With Asian horror on par with Hollywood’s scariest, LEAFF screens Indonesia’s Satan’s Slaves by Joko Anwar, a tense and hugely popular remake of the 1982 occult thriller, as a Halloween Special on October. 31st.
Receiving its UK premiere is Park Hoon-jung’s The Witch. Fast-paced, stylishly violent and with supernatural elements, this is a revenge thriller following a schoolgirl who escaped a government hospital facility as a child and is tracked down years later. Rising star Kim Da-mi, who caused a sensation in Korea for her performance, will attend the screening and Q&A.
The First Look
As the strand’s title suggests, this will be the UK’s first opportunity to watch powerful short films by new East Asian filmmakers, and the careful selection process has included the strongest titles and directorial debuts from Korea and China including Actor Lee Heejun’s Mad Rush. Additionally, in partnership with Film London, LEAFF, who continues to emerge as a platform for aspiring filmmakers, has organized the Future Talent Talk panel to discuss support and opportunity for new UK talent.
LEAFF on Tour
With support from the BFI Lottery Fund, the festival will travel to Oxford, Cambridge, Sheffield and St Andrews to engage and thrill regional audiences, with a focus on presenting diverse films and culture to younger demographics.
Events & Talks
LEAFF will present a range of fascinating talks, organized with partners, cultural institutions, and industry professionals. Using various topics within the films screened as starting points, discussions will include female representation in East Asian cinema, the achievements of distinguished Korean actor Kim Yoon-seok, opportunities for young filmmakers in the Future Talent Talk, and the unique opportunity to hear about North Korea. In addition, there will be networking events and receptions dedicated to celebrating Taiwanese culture and Hong Kong cinema.
For more details and ticket booking facility, visit the festival website.