Pivoting to a hybrid format that will see almost half of its 60-film virtual lineup screen at Lincoln Center for those lucky enough to attend in person, the New York Asian Film Festival is about to explode with 21 world premieres, 29 North American premieres, coast-to-coast online access for select titles, and some very special treats for the hometown crowd. (That includes a free outdoor screening of Raymond Lee’s wuxia classic “Dragon Inn AKA New Dragon Gate Inn” on August 11.) Now in its 20th year, NYAFF has long been America’s biggest and best-curated showcase of contemporary Asian cinema, and its latest incarnation — taking place amid the ongoing pandemic and the rising swell of anti-Asian violence that came with it — is another fantastic display of the undaunted fearlessness that has always characterized the festival’s programming.
The slate runs the gamut from DIY indies to WB-funded blockbusters, with a PSA thrown into the mix this year for good measure: the goofy-as-hell “All U Need Is Love,” in which Jackie Chan and oodles of other Chinese screen legends are forced to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously when they’re quarantined together in a Hong Kong hotel. While many of the higher-profile titles are only screening for vaccinated attendees in-person in Manhattan — as our overview of the festival reflects — dozens of exciting films will be available to viewers nationwide on Film at Lincoln Center’s virtual cinema platform.
Here are five must-see highlights from NYAFF 2021. Be sure to click here for more details about the festival, as well as an overview of the full programming lineup.