The London East Asian Film Festival, organised by Hye-jung Jeon, is an annual film festival which brings together the best of East Asian film, including both mainstream and independent cinema. Her vision is to bring together Asian films that will help audiences understand the diversity and richness of East Asian cinemas and cultures. This festival plays a vital part in de-orientalising ‘Asia’ and ‘East Asia’ by making visible local connections, cultural specifity and global flows between East Asia and the West. This is perhaps best epitomised by Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden which is based on Sarah Watter’s bestselling historical thriller, Fingersmith (2002).
The festival is divided into five carefully curated and programmed strands: Official Selection; Competition, Retrospective, Stories of Women, and Film Festival Focus. In the Official strand is a film by one of my favourite Japanese directors, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Creepy, which has been creeping out audiences on its way to us in London. To say that I am excited is an understatement, especially as Kurosawa will be in attendance at the festival and doing a Q&A after the screening of the film.
It is a film that NEEDS to be seen on the big screen and is a chance to get to know one of Japan’s foremost directors whose 2008 film Tokyo Sonata won Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The opening film is The Age of Shadows by KIM Jee-woon who will also be present at the screening. KIM Jee-woon operates with precision with a saturated cinematic palate that affects viewers on an emotional as well as an intellectual level.
Of special importance is the screening of Spirit’s Homecoming about the Comfort Women which will be followed by a Q&A in association with PAWA.
The fact that this film was crowd-funded testifies to its importance and is another film that should not be missed in my opinion. The Comfort Women are women, used as sexual slaves during the Japanese Occupation of Korea, who were subjected to harrowing ordeals at the hands of soldiers. Their stories are captured in the documentary series, made up of The Murmuring (1995), Habitual Sadness (1997) and finally My Own Breathing (1999), directed by Byun Young-joo. This fictional addition to the stories of these women, whose voices had been silenced and whose voices will be silent when the last comfort woman dies, forms a part of the representation / restoration of history that should never be forgotten.
Another special mention goes to the screening of Beautiful 2016, an omnibus film, with shorts by JIA Zhangke (China), Stanley KWAN (Hong Kong), Alec Su (Taiwan) and NAKATA Hideo (Japan & another of my favourite directors), co-produced by the Hong Kong International and Film Festival Society (HKIFFS) and Heyi Picture, encompasses the philosophy behind the inception of LEAFF. The ‘Beautiful’ film series has been running since 2012 and boasts shorts by KUROSAWA Kiyoshi, TSAI Ming-liang, Christopher DOYLE, HUANG Jianxin and many others.
The Retrospective section of the Festival is devoted to PARK Chan-wook, who rose to fame in the West with the second film in his Vengeance Trilogy, OldBoy (2003) and has been making audiences laugh, scream and even cry ever since. His 2009 vampire film, Thirst, is a cinematic tour-de-force, while his 2006 fantasy drama, I’m A Cyborg: But That’s OK is one of the most lyrical and beautiful films produced in contemporary times. I recommend catching the later, as it is one of those films that doesn’t get as much critical or cultural appreciation as his others.
The Full Programme is:
Thursday 20th October
19:30 – AGE OF SHADOWS (ODEON Leicester Sq, sc1) | Q&A | Official Selection
Friday 21st October
18:30 – THE HANDMAIDEN (Picturehouse Central, sc1) | Q&A | PCW Retrospective
Saturday 22nd October
10:00 – GREAT PATRIOTEERS (ICA Cinema, sc1) | Film Festival Focus
13:30 – BAFTA talk w/ PCW & NIGHT FISHING (BFI, sc1) | Q&A | PCW Retrospective
15:30 – GOSANJA (Curzon Soho, sc1) | Q&A | Official Selection
18:00 – SYMPATHY FOR MR VENGEANCE, OLD BOY, LADY VENGEANCE (Picturehouse Central, sc2) | INTRO | PCW Retrospective
Sunday 23rd October
10:00 – CURTAIN CALL (ICA Cinema, sc1) | Film Festival Focus
15:30 – TUNNEL (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Q&A | Official Selection
18:00 – GOODBYE SINGLE (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Q&A | Official Selection
20:30 – CREEPY (Curzon Soho, sc1) | Q&A | Official Selection
Monday 24th October
14:00 – NFTS seminar w/ PCW | PCW Retrospective
18:30 – BEAUTIFUL 2016 (Curzon Soho, sc1) | Official Selection
20:30 – HARMONIUM (Curzon Soho, sc3) | UK PREM | Official Selection
Tuesday 25th October
18:30 – A YELLOW BIRD (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Q&A | Competition
20:30 – MIDNIGHT DINER (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Q&A | Special Spotlight
Wednesday 26th October
18:30 – THE WORLD OF US (Regent Street Cinema) | Q&A | Competition | Stories of Women
18:30 – STOKER + DAY TRIP (Hackney Picturehouse, sc3) | PCW Retrospective
20:30 – BY THE TIME IT GETS DARK (Regent Street Cinema) | Stories of Women
Thursday 27th October
18:30 – HEE (Regent Street Cinema) | Q&A | Stories of Women
20:30 – SPIRIT’S HOMECOMING (Regent Street Cinema) | Q&A in association with PAWA | Stories of Women
Friday 28th October
15:30 – KARAOKE CRAZIES (Curzon Soho, sc1/3) | Q&A | Competition
18:30 – JOINT SECURITY AREA (Ritzy Picturehouse, sc2) | PCW Retrospective
Saturday 29th October
10:00 – BREATHING UNDERWATER (ICA Cinema, sc1) | Film Festival Focus
15:00 – NESSUN DORMA (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Offical Selection
15:30 – SPIRIT’S HOMECOMING (Sheffield Showroom) | Q&A | Stories of Women
18:30 – THIRST + JUDGEMENT (Ritzy Picturehouse, sc2) | PCW Retrospective
Sunday 30th October
10:00 – THE LAUNDRYMAN (ICA Cinema, sc1) | Competition
13:00 – PEKAK (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Offical Selection
15:30 – BANGKOK NITES (Curzon Soho, sc3) | Official Selection
18:30 – I’M A CYBORG + BITTER SWEET SEOUL (Hackney Picturehouse, sc3) | PCW Retrospective
19:00 – THREE (Ham Yard Hotel) | Q&A | Official Selection
*Subject to change (venues, times)
For up-to-date information, please visit the official Facebook site:http://www.leaff.org.uk/
On Twitter: @LEAFilmFest
You will find me on twitter, talking all things East Asian especially with relation to horror cinema and videogames, although I have been known to ramble about K-Pop and K-drama @ColetteBalmain
Mark your diaries and book your tickets. I hope to see some of you there.