Asia House Pan-Asia Film Festival 2014
This Festival took place from Wednesday 26 February to Sunday 9 March 2014
A dynamic selection of premieres and screenings showcasing the breadth and variety of Asian cinema – featuring names from across the globe including Zhang Ziyi and Martin Sheen.
The Asia House Pan-Asia Film Festival 2014 included seven UK premieres and two London premieres. Highlights included a Japanese remake of a revered Clint Eastwood Western; a Chinese adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons starring Zhang Ziyi; a dramatisation of India’s Bhopal tragedy starring Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton and Kal Penn; a thriller about honour killing in the British-Asian community starring Paddy Considine; an archive gala screening to mark the centenary of renowned Japanese director Noboru Nakamura; and acclaimed new films from Thailand, Cambodia and Iran – a positive celluloid explosion that reflects what’s happening in Asian cinema today.
The festival’s sixth edition was once again sponsored by Prudential plc. It was also the second year that it had been overseen by the East End Film Festival team. London venues included the ICA, Ciné Lumière, Riverside Studios, Asia House and the Genesis Cinema. Satellite screenings took place at Glasgow Film Festival and Leeds’s Hyde Park Picture House.
The Asia House Film Festival opened on 26 February with the UK Premiere of Unforgiven (dir. Sang-il Lee, Japan). Set in post-Meiji restoration 1880s Japan, this Japanese adaption of the revered Eastwood western stars A-list actor Ken Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima) as an ageing warrior persuaded out of retirement by an old friend. Having gained attention from international press, the film possesses real crossover appeal for Western audiences and will be released by Warner Bros in the UK on 28 February.
The festival closed with the gala UK Premiere of Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain (dir. Ravi Kumar, India/UK). Starring Martin Sheen, Mischa Barton and Kal Penn, and inspired by the biggest industrial disaster in human history, this dramatisation followed multiple characters in the months leading to the Union Carbide gas tragedy in Bhopal, India in 1984.
Another highlight was the gala UK Premiere of the glossy Chinese adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons (dir. Jin-ho Hur, China). This sumptuous and tempestuous version is set in 1930s Shanghai and stars BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated actress Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers, Memoirs of a Geisha) alongside fellow Chinese actress Cecilia Cheung and South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun.
A 1960s Japanese cinema classic, The Shape of Night (dir. Noboru Nakamura, Japan) had been restored to mark the centenary of the birth of its Oscar-nominated director. Known for his lavish visual style, it stars Miyuki Kuwano as a factory worker who moonlights as a bar hostess, and wowed audiences at Venice 2013. This was a UK Premiere restoration screening.
Following in the footsteps of the great Japanese masters, we were also excited to present to London audiences for the first time a fresh new voice from Japan in the shape of The Tale of Iya (dir. Tetsuichiro Tsuta, Japan). Praised by the Independent‘s Kaleen Aftab and the Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, this beautiful, poetic drama about the relationship between man and nature was presented in collaboration with screening partners, the Glasgow Film Festival.
Winner of Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2013, and nominated for an Academy Award, The Missing Picture (dir. Rithy Panh, Cambodia) was a stunning documentary that uses a variety of visual mediums to explore the topic of genocide and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This was followed by a panel discussion addressing the issue of atrocities generally, including discussing another film, The Act Of Killing, which examines the Indonesian killings of 1965-66.
An urban thriller starring Paddy Considine and rising star Aiysha Hart, Honour (dir. Shan Khan, UK) focused on a young British Muslim girl who plans to run away with her Punjabi boyfriend – prompting her family to enlist a bounty hunter in a desperate bid to save face. Showing in conjunction with East End Film Festival’s Cutting East youth festival, this London Premiere included a panel discussion about honour killings within British-Asian communities. Consisting of thirty-six shots, 36 (dir. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand) was a delicate contemplation on the nature of memories in the digital age, when a woman loses the images of a significant year of her live after her computer crashes.
Inspired by 410 real tweets from an anonymous girl, Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (dir. Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Thailand) was Nawapol’s brilliant second film. Capturing the funny and strange world of a contemporary Asian teenager, its inventive narrative is led by the artistic concept of adapting a real Twitter stream into a fictional film. This was the UK Premiere.
Portraying the life and relationships of the wealthy youngsters of Tehran, Kami’s Party (dir. Ali Ahmadzade, Iran) was a road movie showing the secret world of upper-class Iranians – a side to the country not many in the West will have seen. This was also a UK Premiere.
With a focus on the most powerful new films from both established and new directors, reflecting the challenging nature of Asia in a globalised world, the Asia House Film Festival has built a reputation for screening the most dynamic and challenging cinema from all over Asia. With films from Iran to Japan presented in the UK for the first time, the Festival allows audiences to explore and comprehend Asian cultures via films, Q&As and events.
Asia House Film Festival Best Film Award
After last year’s inaugural award, the Asia House Film Festival Best Film Award was awarded to one title from the Asia House Film Festival 2014 programme. Selected from a shortlist of six films, the award is presented to the film that judges feel offers the most compelling and relevant example of new Asian cinema in 2014. The Tale of Iya won the 2014 Best Film Award.