Here's what you should be watching at the London East Asia Film Festival
- Emma Simmonds
- 7 December 2020
As lockdown lifts in the capital, we run down the highlights of the festival's fifth edition
Famed for its star-studded premieres, the iconic Odeon Luxe Leicester Square is one of the main settings for this year's London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), running from Thu 10 to Sun 13 Dec. Bucking the trend for taking things online, following the lifting of England's lockdown the festival has opted for an in-person event to show its support for the shared cinematic experience.
Instead, they have reduced the number of films screening to just ten, whilst offering more socially-distanced opportunities to see them. We take a closer look at the five films screening in the festival's Official Selection, which are all available to book tickets for now.
Beasts Clawing at Straws
Kicking things off on opening night is the Special Jury Award winner from this year's Rotterdam International Film Festival, a South Korean crime thriller from debut director Kim Yong-hoon that's been compared to the Coen brothers' Fargo. Based on the Japanese novel from Keisuke Sone and divided into Pulp Fiction-echoing chapters, it revolves around a bag of stolen cash and stars Jung Woo-sung (The Good, the Bad, and the Weird) and a steal-stealing Jeon Do-yeon (the winner of Cannes' Best Actress prize for her work in Secret Sunshine), having fun as a femme fatale.
No 7. Cherry Lane
Bringing the Official Selection to a close is the first feature in a decade from acclaimed Hong Kong director and photographer Yonfan, who is credited with helping launch the film careers of Maggie Cheung, Chow Yun-fat and Daniel Wu and who has been a pioneer for LGBTQ+ themes. No 7. Cherry Lane, his animation debut, was awarded Best Screenplay at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Described by Variety as 'beguilingly kitsch', it's set in late-1960s Hong Kong and finds a university student (Alex Tak-Shun Lam) falling for a wealthy divorcee (Sylvia Chang) and her beautiful daughter (Zhao Wei) against a turbulent political backdrop.
Receiving its UK premiere at the festival is acclaimed Japanese director Naomi Kawase's latest, the Cannes-selected drama True Mothers, which is also the Japanese entry for Best International Feature at the upcoming Oscars. Kawase gainfully employs her background as a photographer and documentarian to bring heart-breaking realism to the story of adoptive parents (Hiromi Nagasaku and Arata Iura) whose peaceful existence is shattered by the arrival of their son's birth-mother (Aju Makita).
Chinese director Derek Tsang is behind this adaptation of Jiu Yuexi's popular YA novel In His Youth, In Her Beauty. Already a box office smash in China (grossing over $200 million there alone) and with numerous international film awards and strong reviews to boot, it's a tale of teenaged star-crossed lovers (played by Dongyu Zhou and Jackson Yee) negotiating school bullies, academic pressures and the attention of the police.
Detention, from debut feature helmer John Hsu, is set in the early 1960s, during Taiwan's 'White Terror' period. An adaptation of the popular video game of the same name, it addresses the era's oppression and atrocities using an inventive mix of supernatural horror, romance and history. The story concerns a secret study group for banned books and finds two students (Gingle Wang and Tseng Ching-hua) trying to escape their school and solve a mystery.
To find out more about the festival, the other films that are screening, and to book tickets visit leaff.org.uk