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There are so many film festivals in London that it’s sometimes easy to forget about one, until they remind you with a programme release that they are still there and still screening lots of delightful stuff that you better not miss.

Next month, from February 26 to March 9, it’s the Pan-Asia Film Festival that rolls around for the umpteenth time (sorry, I lost count), with 7 UK premieres and 2 London ones featuring. Pan Asia showcases a wider range of Asian countries, from Iran to Thailand, from South Korea to India, although not every country is represented each year. While organised by Asia House, it’s actually the East End Film Festival team that has been overseeing the film selection in recent years (which is great news, as the East End Film Festival often selects some of the more hard-to-come-by gems for their own festival in the summer). The Pan Asia Film Festival will have screenings all over London (ICA, Ciné Lumière, Riverside Studios, Asia House, Genesis Cinema), as well as some satellite screenings at the Glasgow Film Festival and Leeds’ Hyde Park Picture House. Yeah for festivals that don’t just stick to London – it really shouldn’t all be happening here.

On the programme this year (synopses are super-short, sorry!):

Opening Gala: 「許されざる者」 (Yurusarezarumono/The Unforgiven, Japan, 2013)

Dir. by Sang-il Lee.

It’s a Korean-directed, Japanese-made remake of a Clint Eastwood western, which, if you can’t make the screening, will have a general release in UK cinemas on February 28, 2014.

Closing Gala: A Prayer for Rain (India/UK, 2013)

Dir. by Ravi Kumar.

It’s the story of the infamous 1984 pesticide plant disaster in Bhopal, India, brought to the screen. I’m sure this will be heart wrenching to watch.

《危險關係》(Dangerous Liaisons, China, 2012)

Dir. by Jin-ho Hur.

Originally a French novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses has been adapted to the screen multiple times in different countries and times already. This is the latest, Chinese-made version, which is set in the Shanghai of the 1930s, and is all about temptation and seduction as several love lines cross. Stars big names like Zhang Ziyi, Cecilia Cheung and Jang Dong-gun.

「夜の片鱗」(Yoru no Henrin/The Shape of Night, 1964)

[No trailer available]

Dir. by Nakamura Noboru. 

An oldie – restored to mark the centenary of its director’s birth – that looks fantastic. It’s about a “factory work who moonlights as a bar hostess” (quote from Pan Asia Festival catalogue) and had a screening at the Venice Film Festival in 2013 (and if I’m not wrong, it’s on the calendar for the Berlinale as well). Very much hoping I’ll be able to make this screening.

「祖谷(イヤ)物語 -おくのひと-」(Iya Monogatari – Oku no Hito/The Tale of Iya, Japan, 2013)

Dir. by Tetsuichiro Tsuta.

This is the sort of the film that the East End Film Festival people typically pick up: a very indie indie that even in its homeland will often screen at tiny festivals and become the secret gem noticed by only a handful of critics. Iya Monogatari – Oku no Hito did actually make it to a bigger event – the Tokyo International Film Festival – and the reviews I have seen only convince me that this is a must-watch. Kaleeb Aftab (The Independent) writes the following:

Strangely, the film that would have lit up the competition – the stunning Japanese discovery of the festival, Tetsuichiro Tsuta’s The Tale of Iya – was tucked away in the Asian Future section. The wordless opening scene in which a man finds a baby in the snow by a freezing lake in the mountains of Tokushima is mesmerising. When the action jumps to the present day, the baby has grown into caring woman Haruna (Rina Takeda), who is now looking after the elderly gentleman (Min Tanaka) who discovered her. It maintains a glacial high standard throughout the near three-hour runtime.

The story looks at the changing face of modern Japan. The town can no longer rely on agriculture to sustain the community and as a result many of the local population have left for the big city. They’ve been replaced by a group of construction workers building a tunnel through Iya and a group of foreigners protesting the defacing of the Japanese countryside. Then there is an amazing turn of events that audiences should discover for themselves. Mark 29-year-old director Tetsuichiro Tsuta on your movie dance card.

The film will also screen at the Glasgow Film Festival.

 L’image manquante (The Missing Picture, France/Cambodia, 2013) + Panel Discussion

Dir. by Rithy Panh.

Winner of Un Certain Regard in Cannes 2013 and one of the nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, L’image manquante is “a stunning documentary that uses a variety of visual mediums to explore the topic of genocide and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia” (PAFF catalogue).

Honour  (UK, 2014) + Panel Discussion

[No trailer currently available.]

Dir. Shan Khan.

A UK-made film about a  British Muslim girl that plots to run away with her Punjabi boyfriend. When her family learns of the plan, they are devastated and worried about losing face, so they set a bounty hunter on her. The panel discussion that follows the screening will be about honour killings within British-Asian communities.

36 (Thailand, 2012)

Dir. by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.

The festival has two films from Thai director Nawapol on the programme this year. The catalogue describes it as “a delicate contemplation on the nature of memories in the digital age, when a woman loses the images of a significant year of her live after her computer crashes”.

Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (Thailand, 2013)

Dir. by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit.

Nawapol’s second film (“brilliant” says the catalogue) is also about our modern, digital times, in this case “[c]apturing the funny and strange world of a contemporary Asian teenager”, with a narrative that adapts “a real Twitter stream into a fictional film”.

مهمونی کامی (Mhmwny̰ ḵạmy̰/Kami’s Party, Iran, 2013)

Dir. by Ali Ahmadzade.

The final offering from the festival programme comes from Iran, bringing us a road movie about “the secret world of upper-class Iranians – a side to the country not many in the West will have seen” (PAFF catalogue).

Bonus Bits:

  • PAFF14 details on the Asia House website (note: the separate festival website from the past is no longer in use).
  • Official hashtag for the festival is #PAFF14.

Related Posts:

Reviews of Past Pan Asia Festival Films (in no particular order):