The Terracotta Festival returns with the biggest programme yet, and just maybe strongest line-up too…
With new dates in June and an extra venue with the ICA London joining regular home Prince Charles Cinema, this looks like it’s going to be a big year for the Terracotta Far East Festival. This year features four strands with a strong Hong Kong theme: current Asian cinema; In memory of Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui; the Terror Cotta Horror All-Nighter and a special spotlight on Indonesia.
The first three strands take place from 6 to 9 June at the Prince Charles Cinema. Current Asian Cinema leads with some real Hong Kong heavy hitters, right from the festival opening film Cold War, directed by Sunny Luk and Longman Leung and starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Aaron Kwok. A taut, intricate thriller it was last year’s biggest box office hit in Hong Kong and also walked away with 9 awards in the 2013 Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
Also screening from Hong Kong: Law Chi-leung’s (Double Tap, Inner Senses, Koma, Viva Erotica) The Bullet Vanishes, starring Lau Ching Wan and Nicholas Tse in a Sherlock Holmes-styled mystery thriller; Johnnie To’s hotly anticipated Drug War starring Louis Koo, Sun Honglei and Lam Suet; and Gilitte Leung indie comedy Love Me Not.
Hong Kong’s Lamma Island-born Chow Yun-fat stars in Chinese production The Assassins, directed by Zhao Yiyang, Chow plays Cao Cao in another film inspired by the Three Kingdoms period (Red Cliff, The Lost Bladesman, Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon). From Taiwan comes Hou Chi-Jan’s When A Wolf Falls In Love With A Sheep, reuniting with rising star Chien Man-shu, who appeared in his segment for festival favourite 10 + 10, for what’s been described as a surreal vision of Taipei’s Nanyang Street with vivid colours, lush set pieces and stop motion animation.
From Thailand, Visra Vichit Vadakan’s Karaoke Girl tackles familiar themes of a country girl working in Bangkok as an escort girl in an unsalacious manor (my gut instinct tells me this could easily be one of the highlights of the festival).
The festival continues to keep strong links with Third Window Films, with the film they co-produced, Sion Sono’s Land Of Hope. It’s been described as a step back from the director’s usual over-the-top visual style of Love Exposure and Himizu for a more restrained drama about a family’s struggles in the aftermath of a Fukushima-style nuclear power plant explosion in their town.
There’ll also be a chance to see more future releases from Third Window, with See You Tomorrow, Everyone, from the director/actor team behind Fish Story and The Foreign Duck, the Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker, Yoshihiro Nakamura and Gaku Hamada, a multi-layered look into a Japanese council estate where Satoru (Hamada) lives and believes is so perfect he never wants to leave; and The Story Of Yonosuke, from The Woodsman & The Rain director Shuichi Okita; set in 1987, 18-year-old Yonosuke has moved to Tokyo joins a Samba club to feel more instep with his more worldly counterparts at university.
The Korean films screened this year are no less impressive, with Ryoo Seung-wan’s (Crying Fist, City Of Violence) eagerly awaited The Berlin File, starring Ha Jung-woo and Gianna Jun, it’s a fast moving espionage thriller pitting North and South Korean agents against each other in Germany’s capital city.
A Werewolf Boy, from End Of Animal director Jo Sung-hee, took the Korean box office by storm last year, weaving a tale of fantasy romance against 60s Korea. Filling the quirky quota, Young Gun In The Time comes from Invasion Of The Alien Bikini director Oh Young-doo, this time bringing us al low budget time travel romp that is billed as being ‘filled with sex shops, machine gun hands and Hawaiian shirts’
This years Terror Cotta Horror All-Nighter is due to be literally that, as five films are due to run from 11pm to, well, when the tubes start back up! The films will be: Nattawut Poonpiriya’s Countdown (Thailand), where a New Year’s Eve celebration goes horribly wrong when a drug dealer overstays his welcome; Upi’s Belenggu (Indonesia), where a Tormented 3D style giant rabbit throws knives; Hajime Ohata’s Henge (Japan), about a wife who finds out just what happens when the person you love most in the world turns into a monster; Murakami Kenji’s Zomvideo, about employees who find a video showing how to survive a zombie apocalypse using office supplies, just as it happens for real. Featuring special effects from the team behind special effects team behind Tormented 3D, Tokyo Gore Police and Hell Driver, this could be a riot! Also screening is the classic 1959 film Ghost Story Of Yotsuya (Japan) by Nakagawa Nobuo. A brave and commendable inclusion, I do wonder how an atmospheric and reasonably placid gothic tale might play against very modern, and excessive horror?
The In memory of Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui strand runs with just three films, Wong Kar-wai’s classics Days Of Being Wild – which will actually screen on 29 May as part of their monthly Terracotta Film Club – and Happy Together, and Stanley Kwan’s exceptionally intelligent ghost story Rouge.
It’s going to be fantastic seeing all three on the big screen (particularly Rouge!), however I’m a bit disappointed the season is so short. Three further collaborations would have been interesting to see: Shaw Bothers production Behind The Yellow Line, a romantic comedy drama from 1984 with an iconic cast; Who’s The Man, Who’s The Woman, Peter Chan’s own follow-up to the classic He’s a Woman, She’s a Man; and finally Yan fei yan mie (From Ashes to Ashes), a short film directed by Leslie Cheung and also featuring Karen Mok and Edison Chen.
Apart the pair had such an exhausting list to choose from it would have been great to see more titles from that too: Farewell My Concubine, Miracles, The Heroic Trio, A Better Tomorrow, Saviour of the Soul, The Bride With White Hair… and so on. Gosh, that’s a long list and I’m just getting started…
From 10 to 15 June, the Terracotta Far East Film Festival moves to the ICA for their spotlight on Indonesia, providing a real insight into an Asian country hardly on anyone’s radar save for Welsh-born director Gareth Evans action films The Raid and Merantau. It is about a love story between Srintil and Rasus, Ifa Isfansyah’s The Dancer was Indonesia’s official entry at 85th Academy Awards.
Lovely Man by Teddy Soeriaamadja is a powerful film that tells of 19-year-old Muslim raised girl who searches for her long lost father, only to find he is now a transvestite sex worker. In Garin Nugroho’s The Blindfold, three young people are lured into a radical Islamic organisation. Postcards From The Zoo by director Edwin weaves a magical tale around a girl who was raised in a zoo by a giraffe trainer after she’s ben abandoned.
Mouly Surya’s What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love is a touching story about teenagers in a special needs boarding school. Finally Opera Jawa by directors Garin Nugroho, Arturo Gp and Arswendi is a traditional Indonesian tragedy is reworked into a visually stunning musical.
Which all stacks up to be one hell of a festival! And that’s without mention of the guests and masterclasses that are always a big part of the festival (that will be announced next week) and the Short Film competition that will give one lucky winner a trip to Hong Kong.