Asia House Film Festival 2016
22 February to 5 March
2016 is a significant year for Asia House, as it marks its 20th anniversary. It is also an auspicious juncture for the Asia House Film Festival, now in its eighth year, with ‘eight’ symbolising luck, prosperity and success in Chinese culture. Thanks to the generous support of Prudential plc, this year’s programme was the strongest yet, with a total of 14 feature-length films and five shorts providing an exhilarating snapshot of life across Asia, coming out of countries ranging from Georgia to Japan.
We were particularly excited to be back at the Ham Yard Hotel for the 2016 Opening Night Gala, showcasing two films that benefit well from the venue’s state-of-the-art facilities.
An ultra high-definition 4K projection of French filmmaker Marc Johnson’s YúYú (2014) preceded Kazakhstan’s official submission for the Best Foreign-Language Film category at the 2016 year Oscars, Stranger (Zhat) (2015), which showcases the very latest revolution in cinema sound technology, Dolby Atmos.
“The film’s director, Yermek Tursunov, represents, for me, one of my most exciting discoveries of the past few years,” says Artistic Director and Programmer of the Festival Jasper Sharp. “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to welcome him to also introduce his stunningly shot wilderness epic and his second film, the gripping action thriller Little Brother (Kenzhe) (2015), which presents an altogether very different experience,” he adds.
“Kazakh cinema isn’t particularly well represented on British screens, but these two works are a revelation,” he adds.
The main venue for this year’s Festival is another cause for excitement. The newly refurbished Regent Street Cinema was the birthplace of cinema in the UK and most certainly would have been the site where British audiences witnessed their very first moving-image depictions of Asia at the turn of the 20th century.
As such, this year’s broad theme for the festival, ‘Breaking Boundaries’, seems particularly apt, Sharp says. The programme celebrates how cinema, music and even new media such as computer games have transcended their countries of origin over the past 100 years or so, while exploring the interconnectedness of the modern world.
New developments in international co-production arrangements and cinema distribution make it easier than it has ever been to experience and enjoy other cultures without leaving one’s homeland.
Films such as The Monk (2011), Mina Walking (2015) and 40 Days of Silence (2014) reveal the intimacies of contemporary life in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Tajikistan respectively.
The Dutch documentary Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice (2015) takes a canny look at how East and West present a mirror of one another as a remote village in Laos opens itself up to the backpacker trade.
The gripping Chinese drama Factory Boss looks at the social and economic aspects of globalisation from a multitude of perspectives, anchored by an award-winning performance by Yao Anlian.
Meanwhile, Seoul Searching (2015), in which a group of Korean teens from across the world assemble for a summer camp in Seoul to learn about their cultural heritage, explores the complex links between language, identity and one’s place of birth in a ribald, raucous and hilarious fashion.
Rounding things off, we returned to the Cinema Museum with Singaporeana Day, a retrospective of British and American films that take Singapore as their backdrop, reinforcing the notion that the past is the most foreign country of them all.
Jasper Sharp – Artistic Director and Programmer
To see all the films that were screened at the Asia House Film Festival 2016 click here.