The Eighth Asia House film festival opened on the 22nd February. Running for two weeks, this film festival features the best of cinema from right across the Asian continent. Screenings from Japan, China, India and Korea will be presented as well as films from countries whose cinematic output may not yet have reached wider audiences – Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Armnenia and Laos. As such the festival promises to offer a massively diverse selection of viewing.
The festival opened with Yermek Tursunov’s Oscar nominated Kazakhstan film Stranger (2015), set in the 1930s, which follows a man’s quest for freedom during turbulent times for his country. Another Tursunov film Little Brother (2015) will also be showing. This is a thriller about a professional hitman who is commissioned to undertake ruthless executions by his elder sibling; however family ties inevitably lead to complications and eventually he becomes a target himself. Tursunov will participate in a Q&A after the screening of this film.
Other features of particular note include Seoul Searching (2015), a rom-com featuring a group of Korean teenagers discovering themselves at summer camp. Shunji Iwai’s anime The Case of Hana and Alice (2015) is about two girls trying to discover whether a former student at their school was murdered by his classmates. This is Iwai’s first animated film and is a standalone prequel to his 2004 live-action film Hana & Alice. Chinese director Zhang Wei’s drama Factory Boss (2014) has a lot to say about the country’s manufacturing culture – how cheap goods are made for Western consumers – whilst commenting on how the workers and executives react to the pressures that such business demands. The Laotian film Banana Pancakes and the Children of Sticky Rice (2015) is a documentary about the residents of a northern village who move away from their traditional jobs working on the land to open up their homes to tourism. It explores the cultural differences between the local people and the transient tourists, who visit for just a short time but want a more traditional and authentic Asian experience, and looks at their impact on the village culture.
Many of the screening sessions feature double bills, comprising short films/documentaries to accompany the main feature. The Chinese film Drama (2014) from director Tian Guan features a young couple who are distracted from giving each other their full intimate attention and the Saudi film With Time (2014) is about the fantasy world of two girls locked in a room who find it difficult to come to terms with reality. Also of interest is Panchagavya (2015), a short documentary about the unique status of Indian cows.
The Festival will close on 5th March with a retrospective of Singaporean films from the 1960s and 1970s. Each film aims to offer an insight into the world’s perception of Singapore both before and after the colonial era, commenting on how much its culture has developed and evolved over the years.
The festival offers a fantastic opportunity to view films from countries whose cinemas you may not have had the opportunity to discover. It’s a diverse and well curated selection of films that promises exciting and interesting viewing.
Films are showing at venues across London. Visit the festival website to check out the programme and buy tickets: