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Five films to catch at the London East Asia Film Festival

A diverse programme of films will be shown at the first ever LEAFF

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Five best films at the London East Asia Film Festival

See Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden at Picturehouse Central on Fri 21 Oct

This October, East Asian film will be celebrated in London at the first London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), which runs from Thu 20–Sun 30 Oct. Bringing together a diverse collection of feature films, the festival includes screenings and premieres as well as guest appearances from filmmakers, actors, critics and academics who will offer their own thoughts and opinions at post-screening Q&A sessions.

LEAFF offers a chance to learn about the East Asian film tradition, while providing an opportunity to find out more about the region itself. This year's eclectic mix of screenings includes films from South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia that will be shown in venues across London, including Odeon Leicester Square and the Ritzy in Brixton.

The five main strands of the festival – the Official Selection, Competition, Retrospective, Stories of Women, and Film Festival Focus strands – have been curated by Festival Director Hye-jung Jeon, along with Roger Garcia of Hong Kong International Film Festival, Ji-seok Kim of Busan International Film Festival and programme consultant Chanel Kong of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Each strand will aim to highlight the strength of East Asian filmmaking, introducing audiences to the very best cinema of the region. With such a wide-ranging programme of events on offer, here's just a few of the screenings that we're most looking forward to at LEAFF.

Opening Gala: The Age of Shadows, Odeon Leicester Square, Thu 20 Oct, 7.30pm
Kim Jee-woon's The Age of Shadows is a spy thriller set in the 1920s. It tells the story of a Korean police captain in the Japanese police force, who is given a special mission. A high-speed train sequence, explosions and lots of intrigue make this film a tense and exciting one to watch. It's received praise from audiences and critics alike so far, The Age of Shadows its Opening Gala screening will include a Q&A with Kim Jee-woon.

The Handmaiden, Picturehouse Central, Fri 21 Oct, 6.30pm
One of the focal points of LEAFF is the retrospective of Director Park Chan-wook's body of work, which includes screenings of classics like his Vengeance Trilogy, I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK and Thirst as well as Q&As and talks. The retrospective will open with his latest work, The Handmaiden, which was adapted from the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. The erotic thriller offers a somewhat rare look at female sexuality through the viewpoint of lesbian romance, with many twists and turns along the way. A Q&A with the director will follow the screening.

Creepy, Curzon Soho, Sun 23 Oct, 8.45pm
If you're a fan of thrillers, Creepy is for you. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation), who won The Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard prize in 2015 for Journey to the Shore, Creepy takes the director away from his usual brand of fantastical horror to something more real and direct. It follows Takakura, an ex-detective who moves to a quiet town but is soon confronted by a psychopathic neighbor. The way the story unravels is clever and suspenseful, thanks in part to an extremely eerie performance from actor Teruyuki Kagawa.

The World of Us, Regent Street Cinema, Oct 26, 6.30pm
Kicking off the Stories of Women strand of the festival, The World of Us is the debut feature from Yoon Ga-eun, who previously won the Crystal Bear for Best Short Film at Berlinale in 2014. The film follows the relationship between two ten year-old girls, who struggle with the pressures of societal expectation and hierarchy. Their story is told with an innocence that pulls viewers into their world, as the girls navigate the complex link between their different backgrounds and their friendship.

Harmonium, Curzon Soho, Mon 24 Oct, 8.30pm
Japanese director Kôji Fukada's latest film Harmonium is an unexpected take on the family drama genre, invoking tension, tragedy and emotion. When a stranger from the father's past arrives to live with the family, their daily routine is disturbed, with catastrophic effects. It's a dark tale but one that reaches its conclusion in a slow manner, adding to the overall sense of unease. LEAFF will be hosting the UK premiere of Harmonium.

The London East Asia Film Festival takes place from Thu 20–Sun 30 Oct.

London East Asia Film Festival

A film festival celebrating the cinematic landscape of East Asia.

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