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New York Asian Film Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary


The Festival will screen over 60 films, both virtually and in person, to audiences in New York and across the country from August 6 – 22, 2021.

New York Asian Film Festival Celebrates 20th Anniversary

On August 6, 2021, the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center will kick off the 20th edition of the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), a hybrid event with NYAFF's largest film lineup to date. The Festival will screen over 60 films, both virtually and in person, to audiences in New York and across the country from August 6 - 22, 2021.

NYAFF's 2021 lineup will include two world premieres, six international premieres, 29 North American premieres, eight U.S. premieres, and nine New York premieres, showcasing the most exciting action, comedy, drama, thriller, romance, horror, and art-house films from East Asia.

Following an unprecedented year in which COVID-19 and increased violence against the Asian community in the United States presented enormous challenges, NYAFF is more committed than ever to increasing exposure of Asian representation on screen, and to providing opportunities for audiences of all communities to experience the diversity and brilliance of Asian cinema.

Following a fully virtual 19th edition, NYAFF is delighted to present almost half of this year's 60+ titles in person. To celebrate, as well as to mark its 20th year, the Festival will be co-hosting, with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York and Film at Lincoln Center, a free outdoor screening in Damrosch Park of Raymond Lee's wuxia classic Dragon Inn AKA New Dragon Gate Inn on August 11. The all-star remake of KING Hu's iconic Dragon Inn is one of the wildest and most epic films ever produced by Tsui Hark.

"It's been tough all over, but after last year's unprecedented all-virtual edition, we're thrilled to be back in person," said Samuel Jamier, Executive Director of NYAFF and President of the New York Asian Film Foundation. "We're especially excited about all the stars aligning so we can host the outdoor screening of the Hong Kong uber-classic, Dragon Inn AKA New Dragon Gate Inn. This marks the 10th anniversary of the film's restoration by NYAFF, and the 29th anniversary of the film, which stars two of Asia's greatest actresses of all time, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin, as well as Donnie Yen in supervillain mode. What better way is there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival?"

NYAFF is also thrilled to host the world premiere of Yu Irie's Ninja Girl, a pointed political satire that is as sneakily subversive as its old-school superspy namesake. Japanese director Irie (8000 Miles, NYAFF 2010) has crafted a breezy, brave condemnation of racism and willful ignorance that also happens to be hilarious, action-packed, and surprisingly moving.

Among the many other festival highlights is the North American premiere of Tough Out, by veteran social-issues documentarian Xu Hui-jing, who brings a Hoops Dreams-level depth and an admirable lack of sentimentality to this film about underprivileged youngsters in a baseball camp near Beijing. The coaches' unwavering commitment to the children is a resounding humanist outcry that demands to be heard. NYAFF will also host the North American premiere of Maung San's Money Has Four Legs, a satire about indie filmmaking set in Myanmar. With the ongoing political crisis in the country, and the film's producer Ma Aeint currently detained by the military, Money Has Four Legs deserves to be seen now more than ever.

From South Korea comes The Book of Fish, a gorgeously lensed homage to classical black-and-white cinema by Lee Joon-ik (The KING and the Clown). Inspired by real events and infused with poetic humanism, it stars Sol Kyung-gu and Byun Yo-han and is set on beautiful Heuksando Island during the Joseon era. In the sweet, sexy, sassy Here and There from the Philippines, Janine Gutierrez (star of NYAFF 2020 Opening Film The Girl and the Gun) and JC Santos are perfectly paired in a meditation on the COVID-19 pandemic, a wonderful blend of romantic escapism and heavier topics of family, health, and distance that have impacted us all.

Also in store for in-person audiences are three premieres from Japan that run the gamut of styles and genres: the indescribable stop-motion masterwork Junk Head, a dystopian sci-fi tale that took seven years to complete and has become one of Guillermo del Toro's personal favorites; a no-holds-barred send-up of the patriarchy, jigoku-no-hanazono: Office Royale, featuring brawling, bruising "office ladies" who take aim at workplace emancipation with their own fists and flying feet; and Last of the Wolves, Kazuya Shiraishi's ferocious sequel to The Blood of Wolves (NYAFF 2018). A rousing homage to Kinji Fukasaku's meanest pictures, it takes no prisoners and knows no bounds.

This year's Hong Kong Panorama-presented with the support of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York, the Festival's longest-standing partner and sponsor organization-includes 12 diverse and exciting titles, many of them by emerging directors, sending a positive message of hope for the future of cinema in Hong Kong. Among the remarkable debuts are: Shadows, Time, Zero to Hero (produced by and starring Sandra Ng, a NYAFF guest in 2014), and the documentary Keep Rolling. THE LINEUP also includes exceptional new work by masters, such as Soi Cheang's electrifying Limbo, a brutal thriller about THE HUNT for a serial killer starring Gordon Lam Ka Tung. And on a lighter note, there are Breakout Brothers, a prison escape dramedy, and All U Need is Love, an infectious (pun intended) response to the pandemic initiated by prolific superstar Louis Koo.

Along with the Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film competition, the Festival has established exciting new sections for its 20th edition. Films will now be grouped thematically, in the following sections: Beyond Borders, Crowd Pleasers, Frontlines, Genre Masters, Next/Now, Standouts, and Vanguards (see descriptions below).

While the festival is showcasing an unusually high number of feature debuts with this edition, it is also highlighting improved gender parity in the film industry. Commented NYAFF Associate Director Claire Marty, "After our special focus on women in front of and behind the camera at the 2020 NYAFF, we're honored to continue championing female-forward films this year. The festival has some great films by women directors, including Taiwan's The Silent Forest, based on harrowing true events, and Japan's Hold Me Back, a vibrant female-driven dramedy." Another of the highlights is Barbarian Invasion, by Tan Chui Mui, a pioneer of the Malaysian New Wave, who returns after a decade's break to star in and direct a self-described cross between Korean art-house auteur Hong Sangsoo and the Jason Bourne action franchise.

Following our successful virtual screenings last year, NYAFF screenings will again be available nationwide in 2021, giving Asian cinema fans who aren't living in New York the opportunity to watch films that DON'T come to their local multiplex. From the deadly serious to the gleefully absurd, from the disquieting to the freaky, NYAFF continues to celebrate the most vibrant and provocative cinema out of Asia today.

The New York Asian Film Festival is co-presented by the New York Asian Film Foundation and Film at Lincoln Center, and takes place from August 6 - 22, 2021 at FLC's Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street) and in the FLC Virtual Cinema, and from August 9 - 22 at SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street). It is curated by Executive Director Samuel Jamier, Associate Director Claire Marty, and programmers David Wilentz, Karen Severns, and Koichi Mori.

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