Preview – London East Asia Film Festival 2019, October 24 – November 3

The London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), the capital’s most celebrated champion of East Asian cinema and culture, opens its fourth year on October 24 at Odeon Leicester Square with the European premiere of Exit, a blockbuster disaster action-comedy from Korean director Lee Sang-geun, and runs until November 3.

This year’s programme includes the cinematic offerings of 11 countries – China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia and focuses on crisis, chaos and survival.

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 at 4 international premieres, 17 European premieres and 22 UK premieres, which will take place at selected venues, including Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon Covent Garden, Bertha Dochouse, London’s Cinema Museum and Deptford Cinema.

The festival runs ten strands, carefully curated and programmed by Festival Director Hyejung Jeon with Festival Advisor Roger Garcia (Hainan International Film Festival) and a team of programmers, including young film curators in partnership with the National Film and Television School (MA programme headed by Sandra Hebron).

Opening Gala selection Exit concerns a deadly gas attack that leaves thousands stranded in skyscrapers across Seoul. The disaster inspires the unemployed Yong-nam (Cho Jeong-seok) to save the day when his entire family, assembled for his mother’s 70th birthday, is trapped in a downtown banquet hall. As the corrosive cloud seeps into the building, he uses his mountain climbing skills with the restaurant’s duty manager, Eui-ju (Yoona) to help the survivors onto the roof. Since the domestic release, this exhilarating film has struck a chord with local audiences and become a box office in Korea.

Official Selection

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, To the Ends of the Earth, Fruit Chan’s powerful depiction of sexuality and desires in Three Husbands, as well as Wong Kar-wai’s latest production, Europe Raiders directed by Jingle Ma.

Straight from wowing audiences at International Film Festivals in Cannes, Venice, and Locarno, LEAFF will screen the year’s most anticipated films, including Midi Z’s Nina Wu; Dian Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake; Pema Tseden’s latest feature, Balloon; Yosep Anggi Noen’s The Science of Fictions, as well as Thailand’s most intense thriller of the year, The Pool by Ping Lumphapleng.

Actor Focus: Aaron Kwok

This year, LEAFF celebrates the works of Aaron Kwok, the acclaimed Hong Kong actor, who has starred in more than 60 films since his debut in 1984. He has been awarded in previous years at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards as well as Hong Kong Film Awards.

Kwok has had box office hits across Asia, most recently with Project Gutenberg by Felix Chong, which was screened at last year’s LEAFF. Actor Focus is a strand dedicated to Aaron Kwok screening films between 2006 and 2019. From crime thriller Port of Call to family drama After this Our Exile, a family drama, four films will be screened showing the range of the actor’s performance.


LEAFF’s competition seeks out East Asia’s most talented emerging directors, with a stellar jury: Mike Goodridge, Director of Macau International Film Festival, Programmer Anke Leweke of Berlin International Film Festival, Programmer Shelly Kraicer of Vancouver International Film Festival. The best filmmaker will be awarded for the best film in Competition and a cash prize of £2,000 in contribution to their next project.

This year sees a diverse range of films from China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong by directors all of whom have made three features or less. It includes Zu Feng’s suspense-filled Summer of Changsha and Lee Cheuk Pan’s mysterious G Affairs. Kim Yoon-seok’s Another Child and Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple are films by actors-turned-directors that have gained great praise from critics.

Huang Zi’s All about ING, which won the jury prize at Xining First Film Festival, will be screened as a UK premiere with Oliver Chan’s drama Still Human, which has gained great attention in the festival circuit. The directors of Deep Evil (Mark Lu), Money (Park Noori) and Wet Season (Anthony Chen) will attend the screenings of their films to meet with a UK audience.

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 four films from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Unlike previous years, we not only look at the latest titles that discuss contemporary issues, but also depict the desires and drama that challenge women.

This year’s selection is co-curated with Valerie Li from the National Film and Television School. The programme headed by Sandra Hebron (MA Film Programming) at NFTS partners with LEAFF to support young film programmers and curators. The strand opens with Hou Hsiao-hsie’s classic, Millennium Mambo.

Bai Xue’s The Crossing, Yan Yan Mak’s Butterfly and Tsui Hark’s Green Snake will be screened within the theme, desires and dilemma. Director Pei-ju Hsieh doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of self-discovery in Heavy Craving. The female director’s feature debut will receive its UK premiere in this strand.

K-Cinema 100

2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Korean cinema. To celebrate, LEAFF has organised a series of monthly screenings, looking back at films from the past 100 years at special venues that fit with the narrative. This October, LEAFF will present a specially curated programme looking at the next 100 years and filmmakers that will shape the future of Korean cinema.

This strand showcases strong and unique works by young filmmakers. The six films in the strand show the range of genres that new, emerging filmmakers are showcasing in Korea. Yoon Ga-eun’s Our House is the second title by the female director who won best film in Competition at LEAFF 2016. Kim Bora’s The House of Hummingbird and Hong Seung-wan’s Juror 8 are intense dramas, Lee Won-tae’s The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil shows the best of Korean noir action, Yuk Sang-hyo’s Inseparable Bros is a hilarious family comedy that was a box office hit in Korea and Won Shin-yeon’s The Battle: Roar to Victory is a period drama set in Korea in 1920. Actress Park Ji-hu from The House of Hummingbird, who caused a sensation in Korea with her performance, will attend the screening and Q&A.

Special Spotlight

The first Korean film to be screened was in Seoul on 27th October 1919. As we dedicate a strand to a range of South Korean films, we wished to highlight the vibrant filmmaking from North Korea. LEAFF brings the rare opportunity to catch two films produced and directed in North Korea: Ri Yun-ho’s The Story of Our Home and Kyun Soon Jo’s A Broad Bellflower. The films are from 2006 and 1987 but both have strong female leads that are considered as national stars in North Korea.

Film & Art

Film takes form in many ways. LEAFF champions all types of film and filmmaking and introduces a new strand dedicated to artistic films and media art pieces to be screened at the Tate Modern’s Starr Cinema.

Lee Lee Nam is an artist and filmmaker that is considered to be the second Nam June Paik. A series of his works, Rise of Roots, inspired by the Korean landscapes will be screened. Tatsumi Orimoto, Kim Young-mi and Tsuneko Taniuchi are artists that produce photographs, paintings and films about aging, working closely with their family. Documentaries about their work and performance videos will be screened, followed by a discussion.

Director Jang Min-seung has produced a series of videos with great interest in nature and Jeju Island in particular. He collaborates with the film music composer, Jung Jae-il who is known for scoring such Bong Joon-ho films as Okja and Parasite.


Following the success of last year, LEAFF continues the Documentaries strand in partnership with Bertha Dochouse. The strand will open with Song Won-geun’s My Name is Kim Bok-Dong, a documentary based on the issue of “comfort women” taken as sex slaves to Japan from Korea during the war. Kim Bok-dong was the first woman to announce that she was a victim of this terrible time. The film focuses on her life and struggles in fighting to get the Japanese government to take legal responsibility.

Kim Byeongki’s Rivercide: The Secret Six will also be screened which focuses on the former Korean president and the issue around ‘Pan Korea Grand Waterway’ project.

Horror Special

With Asian horror on par with Hollywood’s scariest, LEAFF screens Goh Jung-wook’s The Culprit and David Chuang’s The Tag-Along: The Devil in time for Halloween on 31st October 2019. This year sees a return of directors Hideo Nakata and Mari Asato. Their films Woman who Keeps a Murderer and Under Your Bed will be screened as UK premieres.

Samurai Season

In partnership with Deptford Cinema, LEAFF introduces a new strand, Samurai Season. The films demonstrate the variety found in the samurai genre from the 1960s today. This strand also supports a young film curator, Peter Blunden.

For further details and ticket booking facility, visit the LEAFF website.