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Last summer’s hit Crazy Rich Asians put under the spotlight the extravagant existence and steadfast traditions of the aristocratic class in Southeast Asia, gaining Western onscreen representation for the Asian diaspora, but the portrayal was deemed problematic for painting a picture that did not reflect the ways of life of the majority in the world’s most populous continent. The New York Asian Film Festival is attempting to fill in the blanks with its inaugural Winter Showcase, choosing “Crazy Broke Asians” as its theme to showcase diverse Asian cinema that is revealing as it is entertaining.
The mini-festival, to be held before and after Chinese New Year from Feb. 1-3 and Feb. 8-10 in New York, will screen 15 films from Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia dating from 1968 to 2018. The opening film of the showcase is the North American premiere of South Korean director Lee Ji-won’s exploration of the aftermath of child abuse, Miss Baek, with the film’s lead Han Ji-Min, who won the Blue Dragon award for best actress in her native country for her performance, invited to be the first NYAFF Ambassador. The showcase will close with two action showpieces of Indonesian actor Iko Uwais with helmer Gareth Huw Evans, Merantau (2009) and The Raid (2011).
Also in the selection is Hong Kong comedic classic King of Beggars (1992) of mega-star Stephen Chow, Eric Khoo’s gritty and seminal Mee Pok Man (1995) that put Singapore cinema on the map and offered an alternative view of life in the affluent Southeast Asian country that set the stage for Crazy Rich Asians. Chinese animated drama about a gangster’s driver, Have a Nice Day (2017), Japanese character study 100 Yen Love (2014), Malaysian heist thriller Fly by Night (2008), South Korea’s unrepentant look at the underclass Breathless (2009), which garnered 29 international awards, are also featured. The showcase also includes in its A Touch of Old School sidebar Asian’s biggest cinematic export, kung fu cinema, represented by three films by Taiwan’s Joseph Kuo: The Swordsman of All Swordsmen (1968), The 7 Grandmasters (1978) and The Mystery of Chess Boxing (1979).
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