Home / China / Life

Asian cinema goes to London

By Natasha Stokes | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-31 13:29

Asian cinema goes to London

Clockwise from top left: Scenes from movies The Berlin File (South Korea); Karaoke Girl (Thailand); Cold War (Hong Kong); Postcards from the Zoo (Indonesia). Photos Provided to China Daily

Asian cinema goes to London

Top and above: Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung and actress Anita Mui.

Festival promises film fans feast of movies from the far east

European fans of Asian cinema will get their biggest fix yet as the fifth annual Terracotta Far East Film Festival rolls into London on June 6. This year's festival has been extended by five days to explore the past, present and future of Asian film, with a spotlight on an emerging region in Asian filmmaking, Indonesia, as well as a one-off retrospective on two beloved Hong Kong cinema stars.

"We know there is a great love for world cinema here in the UK and so many great Asian films are just being released in Asia and passing by completely unnoticed here," says Terracotta founder Joey Leung. "Our fifth year is a milestone so we set out to create a program with greater depth over a much larger event."

Current Asian cinema remains the core section of the festival, boasting 13 UK premieres of movies from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Thailand that represent the most notable Asian films of 2012. This year, that's bolstered by five additional days of influential Indonesian films, as well as In Memory Of, which features three films starring Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung in honor of the 10th anniversary of their deaths. And as in previous years, the Terror Cotta night spotlights the spookiest new Asian horror films.

"Indonesian cinema has enjoyed a lot of success on the festival circuit outside of the UK and we would like to shine a spotlight on this rapid growing economy and the stories the Indonesian directors have to tell," Leung says.

The festival kicks off on June 6 with a current blockbuster, Hong Kong action movie Cold War. This crime thriller stars Cantonese triple-threat Aaron Kwok and four-time Hong Kong Film Award-winning actor Tony Leung Ka-fai. The film itself has already scooped nine awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, reinstating Hong Kong's place as the master of the cops 'n' robbers flicks.

Another in the genre was critically received at Rome International Film Festival -- Johnnie To's Drug War makes its UK premiere on June 8 with Louis Koo as a police captain squaring off against a major drug ring thanks to help from a coerced drug lord played by Sun Honglei.

"There's a special emphasis on Hong Kong films this year," Leung says. "All of them are worth checking out!"

South Korea is represented in blockbuster fashion with The Berlin File, a spy thriller set in Germany that pits South Korea against North Korea, with the added complication of Russian arms dealers, Mossad and even the CIA.

Thailand takes on the grimier side of reality with Karaoke Girl, which approaches the topic of Bangkok hostesses with subtlety and honesty.

"I'm looking forward to introducing independent films like these," Leung says. "We have a focus on discovering new or underground films for a Western audience, and every year our programming team sifts through hours and hours of film to find that gem."

One such find, says Leung, was Red Light Revolution, a small indie film helmed by Beijing-based Australian first-time director Sam Voutas that showed at 2012's Terracotta festival and went on to win the audience award.

Back in the day

This year's festival also turns the clock back with the retrospective section In Memory Of: Cheung & Anita Mui, a short, sweet commemoration featuring three films revolving around off-kilter love and relationships.

Days of Being Wild shows on May 29 for a pre-festival peek. First released in 1990, it stars Cheung as a playboy who lures, then jilts, a constant string of lovers, including the gorgeous Maggie Cheung. Andy Lau also stars as a beat cop in this lushly shot movie from Wong Kar-wai, the first in his famed collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

It's in Days that Wong establishes his signature atmospheric style, and that style remains in Happy Together. Years before Ang Lee brought the relationship of two gay Midwestern cowboys to the silver screen, Wong (in another matching with Doyle) had pointed his lens onto the existential dilemma faced by a pair of lovers played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Leslie Cheung, whose move to Buenos Aires doesn't stop the slow disintegration of their relationship.

Finally, both bygone stars join forces in the 1998 romantic drama Rouge, as Mui plays the ghost of 1930s bordello hostess Fleur, wandering modern day Hong Kong searching for her lover (Cheung) who never turns up after a Shakespearan suicide pact that only sees Fleur arrive in the afterlife.

"It's a classic and both Anita Mui and Leslie Chueng deliver unforgettable lead performances," Leung says.

The next big thing

The most noteworthy addition this year has been Spotlight On, set up to focus on cinema out of emerging regions. Indonesia is the chosen region this year, with the final five days of the festival featuring the best of the past few years.

Take homegrown martial arts flick The Raid: Redemption, which recently put the country onto the world circuit after a positive reception at 2012's Toronto Film Festival.

"When The Raid took off in a big way, our programmers were already tracking down Indonesian films and directors," Leung says. "This year's Spotlight section is a good introduction to the diversity of Indonesian cinema."

From June 11-15, six Indonesian films cover topics from Islamic extremism such as The Blindfold from Garin Nugroho, to dreamy, magical romance in Postcards from the Zoo, which tells a sensual tale of an abandoned girl who grows up in a zoo.

"Indonesia has a rich history and the country comprises many islands with many different ethnic groups," says Leung. "Its mixture of democracy and modernity versus the traditions of the past makes fertile ground for many stories, characters and backdrops."

All-night horror

Of course, much of the buzz around Asian cinema in the last few years has been the Hollywood-beating horror movies coming out of South Korea and Japan. There's a marked absence of anything from "it" director Park Chan-wook (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Oldboy) or his countrymen though, in favor of sharp new releases that span Thailand, Indonesia and Japan and get spooky with zombies, monsters, ghosts and of course, that Asian stalwart, the slasher film.

Six Asian horror films are shown back to back in the Terror Cotta Horror All-nighter, which runs from 11pm-7am on June 7. "This has gotten many people excited," laughs Leung.

Rounding off the programming are a series of actor and director talks as well as workshops and Q&As that debate what it means to be a filmmaker in a digital, increasingly globalized age. The details will be published on Terracotta's website in June.

Last year's festival drew 2,500 attendees and Leung expects to far exceed the figure this year, with the addition of two new sections and an extra venue.

As for fans of Asian cinema who happen to live outside London, his latest work in progress is for Terracotta Far East Film Festival to tour England. The UK demand for Asian films is jumping and Leung, for one, wants to jump first.

For China Daily

( China Daily Africa Weekly 05/31/2013 page24)

Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349