It is pretty ambitious to try to sneak in an extra London film festival in between the well established BFI London Film Festival, anchored in the first weeks of October, and the early November London Korean Film Festival. But that’s what is happening with the London East Asian Film Festival. And when you consider that this year’s experimental “0th” edition has only been in planning for about 10 months it is particularly impressive that the festival has managed to secure such appealing films and prestigious venues.
The timing is driven in part by when the latest interesting films become available for the international festival circuit. A film might want to premier at Busan (early October), and might then be looking for exposure in a European festival. LEAFF is positioning itself to take advantage of that time slot, slipping in before Berlin which comes in February.
It should come as no surprise that this year’s trial run contains a strong Korean representation – the festival’s director is Ms Jeon Hye-jung, who recently moved on from the Korean Cultural Centre after 9 years of running the Korean Film Festival. The festival certainly struck lucky with securing Ryu Seung-wan’s Veteran as the opening movie: only released in August, it is now Korea’s all time highest grossing film. And Hong Won-chan’s Office was Official Midnight Screening Selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
But looking at the full line-up LKL is also very tempted to go to all the other films in the programme, thus breaking our normal rule of keeping weekends free of all Asia-related events and spending time doing other things instead.
Below is the festival press release and full programme. We’ve included the synopses of the two Korean movies, and you can find synopses of the other ones on the festival website, www.leaff.org.uk, where you can also find booking information.
NEW LONDON EAST ASIA FILM FESTIVAL LAUNCHING EDITION TO BE HELD 23 to 25 October 2015
Taking place from 23 to 25 October 2015 at Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon Covent Garden and Odeon Panton Street, this initial pre-launch edition of the new London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) will offer a small, selective showcase of major titles from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, China, and Southeast Asia.
The 0th edition of the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) will open with Korean box-office breaker VETERAN on Friday 23 October at Odeon Leicester Square; this Opening Night Gala will welcome top Korean director Ryoo Seungwan and producer Kang Hye-jung to present the film.
The festival will close with Soi Cheang’s organ transplant actioner SPL 2 – A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES, a Chinese-Hong Kong collaboration featuring muay thai superstar Tony Jaa.
LEAFF’s festival director, Hye-jung Jeon (former director of the London Korean Film Festival) worked closely with Chris Fujiwara, former artistic director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, to carefully curate the very best of East Asia’s latest cinema for London’s film scene.
The years 2016 and beyond will see bigger programmes with a wide range of quality cinema: films for general audiences, the latest in stylish hits from horror and action genres, and a carefully curated selection of titles drawn from the region. Presenting these films as UK, international and European premieres, LEAFF gives audiences the chance to become acquainted with national cinemas that currently get little exposure in the west.
An annual festival, LEAFF will showcase East Asian filmmaking from both emerging and established directors and will give audiences the chance to interact with directors and stars.
Two film festival advisors, Kim Ji-seok from Busan International Film festival and Roger Garcia from Hong Kong International Film Festival, advised LEAFF as to its vision and long-term approach. LEAFF also collaborates with London-based film distributors specialising in Asian cinema, including Third Window Films and Terracotta Distribution.
Mrs Hye-jung Jeon, Director of The London East Asia Film Festival commented “The London East Asia Film Festival aims to introduce Asian films that directs the audience to really understand the culture. It will focus on the filmmakers’ perspective through conversations and not simply show Asian cinema that is a variation from European films. Also, this festival can achieve greater communication with the audience than festivals dedicated to a single country. I hope the people of London discover the distinction and individuality between different countries within East Asia.”
Mr Chris Fujiwara, Chief programmer said: “Around the world, Asian film festivals attract audiences in ever greater numbers, proving the excitement and enthusiasm that surround the films, the heritage, and the contemporary cultures of East and Southeast Asia. I look forward to welcoming the UK public on what promises to be a continuously unfolding and unpredictable cinematic adventure.”
LEAFF full line-up and timings:
VETERAN (베테랑): RYOO Seung-wan
Action Crime | South Korean | 124min | 2015, European Premiere, Q&A with director RYOO Seung-wan and producer KANG Hye-jung
Opening Gala, Friday 23rd Oct, 7pm, Odeon Leicester Square.
Starring: Hwang Jung-min, Yoo Ah-in, Yoo Hae-jin, Oh Dal-su
A tough cop takes aim at the criminal heir of a corporate conglomerate in this brilliantly entertaining new thriller from South Korea’s top action director.
Acclaimed for previous hits such as City of Violence, The Unjust, and The Berlin File, director Ryoo Seung-wan returns with one of his most stylish and exhilarating offerings yet. Veteran builds a multi-layered story of a determined policeman trying to bring down a powerful criminal and infuses it with humour and social consciousness. Everything culminates in the thrilling, elaborate, and hilariously over-the-top action sequences that have become Ryoo’s trademark.
Hwang Jung-min (The Unjust, Ode to My Father) stars as brash, impulsive major crimes detective Seo Do-cheol, renowned as much for his ready fists as for his cleverness and determination. When a truck driver winds up comatose after an apparent suicide attempt, Do-cheol comes to suspect Cho Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), the sociopathic, cocaine-addicted heir apparent to the multi-billion-dollar Sunjin Group, for which the driver had worked. But Tae-oh will stop at nothing to protect his position above the law.
Aided by the dynamic choreography of long-time collaborator Jung Doo-hong, director Ryoo takes the audience on a wild ride in Veteran. As played by Hwang, the scrappy Do-cheol is one of the most engaging detective heroes in recent cinema. He meets his match in the arrogant young Tae-oh, who carries to a delirious extreme all the worst qualities that could be imagined in the business elites who run the South Korean economy. With its rage for social justice, its cast of popular actors, and its state-of-the-art action scenes, Veteran has struck a chord with the public. Released in Korean cinemas in August, the film has already become one of the most popular films of all time in its country.
- KAILI BLUES: Bi Gan | drama | China | 110min |2015, UK Premiere
Saturday 24th Oct, 3pm, Odeon Panton Street.
- JOURNEY TO THE SHORE: Kiyoshi Kurosawa | drama | Japan| 128min| 2015, UK premiere
Saturday 24th Oct, 6pm, Odeon Covent Garden.
- VIOLATOR: Dodo Dayao | Horror |Philippines | 101min | 2014, UK Premiere
Saturday 24th Oct, 9pm, Odeon Covent Garden, co-presented with Terracotta Distribution.
OFFICE (오피스): Hong Won-chan
Thriller | South Korean | 111min | 2015, UK Premiere
Sunday 25th Oct 1pm, Odeon Panton Street.
Starring: Ko A-sung, Park Sung-woong, Bae Seong-woo, Kim Eui-sung
When a corporate middle manager vanishes after killing his family, a seemingly ordinary open-plan workplace in a modern high-rise becomes the setting of every office worker’s worst nightmares.
One evening, Kim (Bae Seong-woo), seemingly a model member of a corporate sales team, murders his entire family without provocation and disappears into thin air. Homicide detective Choi (Park Sung-woong) starts his investigation at Kim’s office, where he comes to suspect that all the killer’s colleagues have something to hide, including even the shy, hard-working intern (Ko A-sung) whom Kim befriended. Kim’s colleagues, already under stress from the relentless pressure poured on by their sociopathic department head (Kim Eui-sung), increasingly fear that Kim’s insane act of slaughter may spell doom for all of them. Meanwhile, Choi finds CCTV footage showing Kim entering the office parking lot soon after the killing. But no footage can be found that shows him leaving…
This ingenious exercise in spine-tingling suspense is also a sharp portrayal of poisonous workplace politics and the anguish felt by office workers in a society where fierce competition is the norm. Highly regarded scriptwriter Hong Won-chan (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea) makes his assured directorial debut with this outstanding contemporary thriller. Hong makes effective use of the tension, uncertainty, and psychological isolation of the corporate world, making them parts of a nightmare that feels all too real.
- CHASUKE’S JOURNEY: Sabu |comedy | Japan | 106min|2015, UK Premiere
Sunday 25th Oct, 3.30pm Odeon Panton Street.
- SPL 2 – A TIME FOR CONSEQUENCES: Soi Cheang | Martial Arts Action | Hong Kong China | 118min| 2015, UK premiere
Sunday 25th October 7pm, Odeon Leicester Square.
(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.