Fans of Asian cinema are in for a very big treat when The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema roll out their annual New York Asian Film Festival, known as North America’s leading festival of popular Asian cinema, later this month. This year’s edition will showcase 57 feature films, including 3 International Premieres, 21 North American Premieres, 4 U.S. Premieres, and 15 films making their New York City debuts, including titles like “Bad Genius,” “Birdshot,” “A Double Life,” “The Gangster’s Daughter,” “Kfc,” “Jane,” and “With Prisoners.”
“We were seeking a range of original films from young, first-time directors, films that represent the diversity of filmmaking from Asia, stories that say something both very local and specific to their countries of origin and something very universal: we hope we achieved at least some of this with our inaugural competition selection, which includes films from seven countries/cities in the region in a broad variety of genres,” NYAFF executive director Samuel Jamier said. “It’s important for us to champion new filmmaking from Asia, and the diversity of film made there at a time when other festivals in North America seem to be reducing the size of their Asian lineups.”
But cinephiles looking for something fresh and new need look no further than the festival’s Closing Gala pick: Jung Byung-gil’s “The Villainess,” fresh from its Midnight screening in Cannes, which is gunning for the kind of glory other hits like last year’s “Train to Busan” have enjoyed in recent years. Bolstered by a full-out performance from leading lady Kim Ok-vin, the revenge tale is crammed with ambitious action set pieces that make it stand out amongst even the rest of the NYAFF slate.
“We’re aggressive about tracking and pursuing films from all over the world that we think will cross over past just a core audience — films like ‘Ip Man’ or ‘Train to Busan,’ things that really stick around in the culture after the release is over,” Dylan Marchetti, SVP, Acquisitions and Theatrical Distribution at Well Go USA, which will release the film said. “So ‘The Villainess’ was something that came up very early, well before the film got into Cannes, though we were not surprised when we found out it had.”
Of the film, Marchetti explained, “Sook-yee, our title character played by Kim Ok-vin, is an all-timer — not just one of the best female heroines of all time, but one of the best action heroes of all time. No disputing it. She’s incredible in this movie- relentless, skilled, unstoppable, but also human. After all, just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you can’t kill 45 people in 5 minutes. Kim Ok-vin trained obsessively for the film, and it pays off — everything she does, you believe she is doing — the CGI is minimal, the wire work is minimal, it feels real.”
One thing that will set the film apart are its jaw-dropping action scenes, which director Jung Byung-gil attacked with a three-pronged plan that aimed for maximum impact and believability. Marchetti believes that pays off for the audience — big time.
“The action scenes in this one are amazing — you can imagine how many action films we watch over here, but this one has scene after scene of things we’ve never seen done on screen before,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next. Couple that with a fantastic revenge story, and you’ve got two hours in a dark theater this summer that the audience is not going to regret.”
Well Go USA will roll out the film later this summer in hopes of snagging audiences eager for something fresh and new. Before that, however, New York cinephiles can catch it — and more — at NYAFF.
Check out the rest of our weekly Film Festival Roundup after the break.