N.Y. Asian Film Fest begins with Iwamatsu's 'Then Summer Came'

Festival runs through July 6

NEW YORK -- The seventh annual New York Asian Film Festival opened Thursday with the world premiere of "Then Summer Came" by Ryo Iwamatsu of Japan. The film is the first of 43 features and eight shorts that will run through July 6.

For the second year in a row, Subway Cinema is collaborating with the Japan Society and the IFC Center to present the works of Asian filmmakers.

Iwamatsu will introduce his film, about a complex relationship between father (Yoshio Harada) and son (Joe Odagiri), and take questions after the screening at the IFC.

Another celebrated director set for the festival is Koji Wakamatsu, whose new film "United Red Army" examines the conflicts inside an infamous 1970s Japanese terrorist group.

Barred from entering the U.S. because he was once affiliated with left-wing Japanese militants, Wakamatsu will conduct his interview with attendees via satellite.

NYAFF co-director and programmer Goran Topalovic said audiences might be surprised by Wakamatsu's objectivity.

"He presents both the good and bad aspects of the group," Topalovic said. "He shows how people on top are only concerned with maintaining control and how that can ultimately destroy any good there may have been initially."

This year, the festival has added a Centerpiece Presentation on July 3, screening "Public Enemy Returns," the third installment in Korean director Kang Woo-Suk's series.

Topalovic said that the centerpiece is one way he and fellow directors Daniel Craft, Grady Hendrix, Brian Naas and Marc Walkow can grow the festival.

"We need to develop more distinctions and different categories to give the right placement to all the films," he said.

Another first is the introduction of a jury that this year includes New York Post critic Vincent Musetto, director Benson Lee and author Maitland McDonald. The panel will present an award to their favorite film.

Though not intended as a major market, Topalovic said the festival has been known to contribute to the commercial success of Asian films distributed in the U.S. In 2004, festival directors worked with Miramax to host the New York premiere of Zhang Yimou's "Hero" before its theatrical release.

At least 12 titles that have premiered at the festival have gone on to secure U.S. distribution, including Feng Xiaogang's "The Banquet."