This article is sponsored by LEAFF.
Our must-see films at the London East Asia Film Festival 2021
- Emma Simmonds
- 22 October 2021
The festival's sixth edition boasts 33 titles over 11 days, all screening exclusively in cinemas
Thrillingly transporting us halfway across the globe, this year's London East Asia Film Festival makes a welcome return to the capital's big screens for its sixth edition, featuring films from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. This showcase of diverse, culturally impactful cinematic entertainment will be taking place exclusively in person this year, from Thursday 21 to Sunday 31 October, with the comfort and safety of audiences paramount.
Although this year's festival acts as an ode to East Asia's quiet and independent voices, there's something for all tastes in its programme of 33 carefully selected films from right across the region, which includes 19 UK premieres and features a range of new and established talent.
There's a special focus on Hong Kong cinema, with proceedings kicking off with the action-packed gala premiere of the final film from the late, great Benny Chan (New Police Story), the explosive cop thriller Raging Fire, starring martial arts legend Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Mulan). A box office smash in China, it will be screening at the glitzy and iconic ODEON Luxe Leicester Square.
In addition to the exciting opener, here are the five films we're most looking forward to checking out.
This Chinese crime gem is playing in the Competition strand and it's certainly worth a shot. Director LV Huizhou delivers a spare, crisply lensed thriller about a hard-up Beijing couple whose simple but loving existence is shattered, leading one of them to fall foul of a local gang boss.
The Silent Forest
Screening as part of the Official Selection, this powerful Taiwanese drama from Ko Chien-Nien is inspired by real-life events that took place at the National Tainan Special School. Starring Liu Tzu-Chuan as a hearing-impaired teen who stumbles on the institution's secrets, it's an unsettling yet sensitively handled picture of systemic abuse.
Stars Await Us
This Competition title is an atmospheric film from sophomore director Zhang Dalei about lost love that's set in the 1990s in a small border town between China and Russia. It sees Liang Jingdong's former smuggler released from prison on New Year's Eve and desperately seeking his former lover, only to find his past coming back to haunt him.
A highlight of the festival's Documentary selection is filmmaker Lim Chung-Man's Keep Rolling, which tells the story of trailblazing Hong Kong director Ann Hui (A Simple Life), who trained in London. This documentary portrait is an engrossing journey through Hui's life and varied career.
As part of the festival's Retrospective strand and in celebration of the 21st year of Taiwanese auteur Edward Yang's Best Director win at Cannes, LEAFF are screening Yang's 1985 New Wave classic Taipei Story. Set in the titular city, it stars singer Tsai Chin, Yang's future wife, and filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien (who co-wrote the screenplay) as a couple whose carefully laid plans begin to unravel.
Other films to watch out for include the South Korean body-swap horror Spiritwalker – which premieres aptly on Halloween and brings events to a close – and Chen Yu-Hsun's award-winning Taiwanese fantasy rom-com My Missing Valentine, screening as part of the Official Selection.
The festival is fully committed to supporting the theatrical experience, passionately believing that the shared community of cinema is more important now than ever. Alongside the ODEON Luxe Leicester Square, films will screen at its newly opened sister venue ODEON Luxe West End, as well as ODEON Covent Garden, The Cinema at Selfridges and The Chiswick Cinema.
With so much high-quality escapism on offer and a special 'Taste of Asia' menu courtesy of Joo Won, who served as head chef at the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows, in the words of the LEAFF's director, Hyejung Jeon, the festival has come back 'stronger than ever', ensuring this year's event will be one to remember.
To browse the full programme, find out more, and book tickets head to leaff.org.uk.