Focusing on crisis, chaos and survival, this year’s London East Asia Film Festival is showcasing disaster comedies, psychological #MeToo thrillers and some of the most over-the-top exciting action the world loves from East Asian cinema. This year also welcomes back a special collection focusing on women’s stories, showcasing many faceted tales across Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.
With such a huge programme to choose from, here is a highlight of 10 films from this year’s festival that you might want to go and see.
Exit - Lee Sang Geun
Yong-Nam is having a terrible time in life. He’s not managed to get any jobs after graduation, he’s reliant on his parents to get by, and he’s exceedingly unlucky in love. Then, to top it all off, a mysterious white gas starts killing people all over Seoul while he’s trying to impress his crush at his Grandmother’s birthday party. If you’re scared of heights this movie might be more horror than comedy, as Yong-Nam and Eui-Ju leap, climb and plummet from buildings in spectacular and hilarious style.
Why you should watch it: A comedy movie based around an unlucky-in-love rock climber who has to escape killer gas with his crush, what’s not to love?
I’m Livin’ It - Hing Fan Wong
A movie about diverging paths, the human condition and the disparity between the rich and poor; our lead Bowen (played by Aaron Kwok) spends his nights in a 24-hour fast-food restaurant with nowhere else to go. There he meets fellow impoverished “roommates” who find themselves in similar predicaments when it comes to finding a home and securing their futures. Only together can they lift themselves up from rock bottom and figure out how to survive in a society seemingly against them.
Why you should watch it: This is Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok’s latest major title and it will be the first chance to catch it in the UK.
The Pool - Ping Lumphapleng
Everyone loves a monster movie, right? From Bong Joon-ho’s The Host to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws we’re drawn to the terrifying storylines where humans are no longer the planet’s apex predator. The Pool is no exception, when an art director falls asleep relaxing in an exceptionally deep pool and he wakes up to find the water draining away. When it quickly becomes clear he can’t climb out he starts shouting for help. Then, a crocodile shows up.
Why you should watch it: The tag line alone is reason enough to give this claustrophobic monster movie a try: “6 metres deep. 2 humans. 1 beast. 0 ways out”.
Europe Raiders - Jingle Ma
Tony Chiu-Wai Leung Yan Tang’s bounty hunters go head-to-head trying to track down a shadowy surveillance programme known as the “Hand of God” created by the world’s top hacker.
Why you should watch it: Over the top, bombastic, pick your jaw up off the floor action and set pieces that would make the Fast and the Furious movies say “tone it down a little bit”. A roller coaster of fun that should be experienced on a big screen.
Rainbow’s Sunset - Joel Lamangan
Ramon, a retired politician with a big, loving family, comes out as gay in his senior years to take care of the love of his life Fredo. As his family come to terms with this entirely new dynamic, Ramon must learn how to deal with losing Fredo to cancer, his new relationships with his family and how to live as an openly gay man.
Why should you watch it: An eye-opening window into topics LGBT+ films often struggle to cover and a much praised performance by the late Eddie Garcia.
Money - Park Noo-ri
A high-octane tale of stocks, betrayal and crime, Money follows rookie stockbroker Il-Hyun as he bites off more than he can chew to follow his dream of becoming filthy rich. After being approached by a mysterious equity genius named Ticket, Il-Hyun goes from nobody, to millionaire, to person of interest in no time at all.
Nina Wu - Midi Z
Taiwanese psychological drama Nina Wu revolves around a bit-part actor’s rise to stardom and the trauma she experiences along the way. Shot with eye-watering, over saturated and stunningly framed shots, Nina Wu looks captivating, disorientating and uncomfortable to watch all at the same time.
Why you should watch it: The star of the movie, Wu Ke-Xi, is also the screenwriter – her #MeToo tale shines a spotlight on the industry and the damage it does to women with stark honesty.
The Crossing - Bai Xue
A coming of age drama wrapped around a crime thriller, Peipei has dreams of seeing snow in Japan with her best friend. Turning to crime to raise the money she needs to travel, Peipei uses her student identity to start smuggling iPhones between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. As her relationships start to fall apart she must figure out whether it’s all worth it.
Why you should watch it: Stunningly shot and fast paced, The Crossing offers not just a window into Hong Kong and mainland China, but also into life as a teenager growing up in both worlds.
Long Live The King - Kang Yun-sung
Jang Se-chool is the boss of one of the biggest gangs in Mokpo, South Korea. After falling for Kang So-Hyun, a people’s lawyer at a protest against his mob, Se-Chool turns his life around by doing good deeds and trying to be a better person. With his new mindset, and a little luck, he ends up running for office in the National Assembly, but his political rival ends up joining forces with the leader of his former rival gang to try and take Se-chool down.
Why you should watch it: It features a tagline: “Elections. More powerful than fists”.
For the first time LEAFF is screening a collection of samurai classics. This, you could argue, would take this list of 10 films to 14… But, when are you going to get another chance to see Toshiro Mifune’s legendary fight in The Sword of Doom or Tatsuya Nakadai in Harakiri on the big screen?
Why you should see them: They really don’t make samurai movies like this anymore – step back in time and marvel at the Lone Wolf and Cub movies and see a more modern take on the tale of the 13 Assassins.
London East Asia Film Festival 2019 runs from 24 October to 3 November. You can find the full programme of films, documentaries and shorts and purchase tickets and passes here.