Arguably the world’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, New York City is the place to be this month if you love Asian films. Following an entirely virtual festival in 2020 and a hybrid edition in 2021, the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) is back with in-person events this July 15–31 — right in time for its 20th anniversary.
The festival is presented by the New York Asian Film Foundation, North America’s leading nonprofit dedicated to the exhibition and appreciation of Asian cinema and film culture. The New York Asian Film Festival proudly showcases the work of today’s diverse Asian titles, “ranging from explosive blockbusters to eccentric arthouse gems.”
Mark your calendar and get your passes to catch the following titles from the Chinese mainland at New York’s Walter Reade Theater:
One and Four is a metaphysical thriller that takes place in the late 1990s in a remote Tibetan forest. Alone in his wooden cabin, a severely hungover ranger is suddenly visited by three unannounced strangers — triggering the ranger’s increasing paranoia. Things finally come to a head when a fourth visitor appears. The film will be screened on July 16.
Fire on the Plain tells the story of Detective Shu, who investigates a serial murder cold case where cab drivers are targeted. The detective reunites with a long-lost childhood friend during the investigation, pulling the both of them into their darkly layered past. Painting a powerful portrait of China’s industrial Northeast in the 1990s, this film will be screened on July 17.
Manchurian Tiger follows a young couple torn between empathy and hatred for one another as they embark on separate roads of revenge. NYAFF will screen this deadpan, dark comedy on July 17.
Ripples of Life is a comedy that follows a film crew arriving in a small town in southern China for pre-production on a movie. Divided into three chapters and told from three separate perspectives, the film provides a glimpse into contemporary Chinese independent filmmaking. The film will be screened on July 18.
Virgin Blue recounts the story of a girl who returns to her hometown to spend time with her dementia-afflicted grandmother during her last college summer vacation. As she becomes increasingly engrossed with her grandmother’s folk tales of supernatural apparitions, the young woman encounters pond monsters who reveal the whereabouts of her deceased grandfather in a parallel world. As she wanders between two worlds filled with fragments of forgotten childhood memories, a connection between the past and the present gradually emerges. At the same time, the boundaries between dreams and reality are blurred. The film will be screened at the film fest on July 25.
Premiering on July 28, the Bright Futures Narrative Shorts Showcase, which concludes the festival, will feature two Chinese short films: Double Happiness and Wax and Wane.
Double Happiness is a hilarious satire of Chinese weddings and “employs a novel role-reversal device to turn dysfunctional traditions on their proverbial ear.”
Wax and Wane revolves around a Chinese immigrant woman who must come to terms with her past while undergoing emergency surgery to remove an IUD implanted during China’s One-Child Policy.
Cover image via Mani Stone Pictures h/t Tokyo International Film Festival 2021